Nov 292013

Good morning from the Itoigawa Global Geopark!

Yesterday, the “Itoigawa, I Like This!” Fair was held at the Jade Kingdom Center, a tourism and local produce center located right next to Itoigawa Station. The fair was designed to provide local individuals and organizations an opportunity to showcase the variety of products that are produced right here in Itoigawa City.


The event had an excellent turnout of both people and exhibitors, including Midori Kobo, a  wasabi farm located in Tsukimizu-no-ike Geosite…

DSC_0823…a number of local fishing co-ops and organizations…
DSC_0821…and even companies like Yamasen, a local provider of heating and snow removal solutions.

The event also provided an opportunity to introduce visitors to local events, like the Itoigawa Monkfish Festival, which is just around the corner.

DSC_0822The Itoigawa Aranami Monkfish Festival is held every winter in three locations in Itoigawa. “Aranami” is a Japanese word which means “raging waves” or “stormy seas” and perfectly describes the character of the Sea of Japan during winter. These cold, stormy seas provide a bounty of monkfish, a species of anglerfish which lives on the seabed, spending most of its life partially buried in sand. While the fish itself is quite grotesque in appearance, its flesh is exceptionally delicious. The soft, collagen-rich tail meat is often compared to lobster and the highly prized liver is called the foie gras of the sea.

In order to maintain healthy, sustainable stocks, the monkfish is only caught during a few months in winter. Itoigawa is particularly well-known for monkfish and celebrates the return of monkfish season each year with this festival. It is held in three locations: In front of Itoigawa Station, at Marine Dream Nou, and at Oyashirazu Pier Park. Visitors to the festival are treated to a butsugiri exhibition, in which they can see the unusual way in which monkfish is cleaned and sliced. Then visitors can sample monkfish stew, which is without a doubt the best way to enjoy this succulent fish during the icy cold of winter.

DSC_0826The fair was definitely a success and we look forward to putting on more events like this so that more and more people can see everything that Itoigawa and the Itoigawa Global Geopark have to offer.

Hope to see you at the next one!




Nov 272013

Itoigawa Station Sign

With the opening of the new Itoigawa Station this Sunday, Japan Rail and the City of Itoigawa are working together to hold an event to commemorate the occasion. The event runs from 10:00am until 3:00pm on December 1st and features a number of activities for adults and children alike.

Station Staff Experience

Ten children were chosen in a citywide lottery to work for an hour as station employees, to better understand what the staff at the station do everyday to serve our community. They will get to tour places like the ticket office and signalling equipment, as well as see everything the station attendants do to ensure the safety of passengers.

Oito Line Commemorative Photograph and TourVisitors to the event will also be invited from 1:30pm until 2:20pm to take a close look at the Oito Line train. One of the “Itoigawa Geopark Trains” will be parked at the platform and will be open for visitors to look inside. You can also have your picture taken with the train wearing a station attendant’s cap!

Other EventsA number of other events are planned, including a Workshop Corner where visitors can make paper crafts, badges, and coloring activities. There will also be an N-gage-sized model train set on display, with dioramas of some of Itoigawa’s train stations.

Be sure to come visit us on Dec 1st and take part in the festivities! Don’t miss Itoigawa’s Benten Taiko’s taiko drum performance, which will start from 11:00am !

See you there!




Nov 262013

This Sunday, after months of construction, the new Itoigawa Station is going to be (mostly) complete!

The North Entrance to the newly built Itoigawa Station

The North Entrance to the newly built Itoigawa Station

The local rail terminal and North Entrance to Itoigawa Station is for the most part complete. A gangi, or Japanese-style roof over a footpath, is still to be built on the walkway in front of the station. This part of the station will be open for use starting December 1st. To the left of the picture is part of the old Itoiagawa Station which had been converted into a small temporary station during the construction process. From December 1st this building will be reconverted back into station offices.

The JR Itoigawa Station South Entrance and Shinkansen Building

The JR Itoigawa Station South Entrance and Shinkansen Building

On the other side of Itoigawa Station, work continues on the South Entrance and the platform for the Hokuriku Shinkansen which is scheduled to open in early 2015. Until this construction is complete, only the North Entrance of the station will be usable.

The entrance to Itoigawa Station, still closed off until Sunday

The entrance to Itoigawa Station, still closed off until Sunday

Join us Sunday morning when the gates are opened and the first passengers enter the station! The City of Itoigawa and Japan Rail will be hosting a celebratory event from 10am. Check back here tomorrow for more information!


Nov 222013

On November 20th, students from 11 local elementary, junior high, and high schools in Itoigawa gathered at Itoigawa’s Kirara Ōmi Culture Hall to present what they have learned during about Itoigawa and its Global Geopark.

Students give a presentation about Itoigawa Geopark

Students give a presentation about Itoigawa Geopark

One of the ways the Itoigawa Global Geopark interacts with the community is by working with the local Board of Education to devise a Unified Education Policy for children ages 0 through 18. This policy uses the Geopark as a teaching tool, not only for earth sciences, but also history, cultural appreciation, and community involvement.

The program includes a yearly exchange conference in which the students gather to present on what they’ve learned. This year’s conference had the theme of “Let’s Talk about Our Hometown Itoigawa.” The students presented using a variety of methods including audio/visual presentations, plays, and even musical performances.

Students present a play which describes rocks found in their local school district

Students present a play which describes rocks found in their local school district

One group of students sang the Itoigawa Geopark Ondō, a song about the Geopark written by acclaimed tsugaru-jamisen player Takahashi Chikuzan II, who now lives in Itoigawa. The students’ presentation seem to be getting better every year.

Students present a play about a well-known local legend

Students present a play about a well-known local legend

The students had an opportunity to provide feedback to other school groups during the assembly. Many were impressed with the effort other schools put into finding and presenting information about local treasures. These sort of citywide exchanges are a great introduction to community involvement for children.

Through the medium of Geopark Studies, we are attempting to reach out to these children. The children can share what they have learned about Itoigawa and the Geopark with their parents, who then share it with their communities. Through this we can succeed in the Itoigawa Geopark’s goals of creating a sustainable regional society and instilling a sense of pride in local communities. Hopefully these exchange activities will continue to be a success for years to come.


Nov 142013

Good morning from Itoigawa Global Geopark! Just a short post today, but after the recent bad weather I wanted to give proof that the weather isn’t constantly stormy and grey here in Itoigawa!

2013-11-14 09.46.12Today the skies are clear, offering a fantastic view of the Northern Alps  from the city office. Just outside the window, work continues on the renovation of Itoigawa’s Civic Center. On the other side we are offered this view:

2013-11-14 09.43.41Here we have a fantastic view of the new Hokuriku Shinkansen Itoigawa Station, which is still under construction. Beyond that, the Sea of Japan stretches as far as the eye can see.

I hope the weather is as beautiful where you are! If you are in Itoigawa, take the opportunity to explore everything the Geopark has to offer before the weather becomes too cold!




Nov 132013

Good morning, everyone, from the Itoigawa Global Geopark! It seems like only last month when Itoigawa was shattering records for hottest temperatures in Japan…

…probably because it was only last month.

That time seems ages away now as Itoigawa experiences its first stormy winter weather of the season.

Winter weather and mountainsFor the past few days the skies have been gray and every day has brought sleet and soft hail. It’s all part of a yearly cycle in which weather systems begins to roll in from the mainland across the Sea of Japan. While these weather systems do bring a number of unpleasant days like these, it also bring the large amounts of beautiful white snow which completely transform the Itoigawa landscape every year. It’s time to dig out your ski equipment, we’ll be heading to the slopes soon!



Nov 112013

From last Thursday until Saturday, 29 students and 6 staff of the Kau Yan School in Hong Kong visited the Itoigawa Global Geopark. They were accompanied with one staff member of the Hong Kong Geopark. This marks the first student exchange from Hong Kong Geopark to Japan.

Students from Kau Yan School in the Fossa Magna Museum

Geopark staff greet the Hong Kong students at Itoigawa StationStaff of the Itoigawa Global Geopark greeted students as they arrived at Itoigawa Station. Under heavy construction while preparing for the new Hokuriku Shinkansen, the station was quite cramped so we had to move the students quickly. A heavy storm had rolled in, bringing concerns of train delays and cancellations, but the students arrived safely and on time.

Marutanbo - Oyashirazu Community LodgeAfter rounding the students up onto buses, we brought them to where they would be staying during their visit to Itoigawa. Located within the Oyashirazu Geosite, Marutanbo is a beautiful lodge and community center operated by a local fishing family. With a beautiful view of the Sea of Japan and the cliffs of Oyashirazu, it offers a tranquil alternative to the hotels and inns of central Itoigawa. The meals provided include a bounty of local ingredients, including fish freshly caught by the owners.

Exchange with Itoigawa StudentsTheir visit to Itoigawa began with a trip to Itoigawa Elementary School, where they had an opportunity to interact with local students their age. Despite the language barrier, the two groups of students were able to enjoy their time together, playing a variety of games.

HK students visit Fossa Magna MuseumNext, the students visited Fossa Magna Museum to learn more about Itoigawa Global Geopark and its connection to Hong Kong as a Sister Geopark. The children were particularly delighted by the large collection of jade and other precious and captivating stones on display at the museum.

P1920143Next, we took the children to Nou River, where they tried salmon catching for the first time. We were worried how children from Hong Kong would react to this experience, but we were happy to see how much they enjoyed it.

P1920157While some were a bit startled by how quickly salmon can move, they soon became pros at sneaking up behind to grab them by the tail.

2013-11-08 17.09.04There final visit of the program was to Itoigawa’s Kaiyo High School, located in the Nou District, to observe a training session of the local world champion sumo team. The students seemed to be very impressed with the performance, and one student even accepted the challenge of the local grand champion:

P1920213We were all very sad to see them go, but we hope they enjoyed their time here in Itoigawa and look forward to more student exchanges in the future.



Let’s hope for many more years of close friendship between Hong Kong and Itoigawa.