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Kotakigawa Jade Gorge

Named for the crystal clear Kotaki River which runs through it, the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge is a stunningly beautiful jade gorge at the base of Mt. Myojo (1188 m). It is one of Itoigawa's two jade gorges, alongside the Omigawa Jade Gorge. Discovered in 1938, the massive jade boulders strewn throughout this canyon astounded researchers as they were the first, and to this day the largest, discovery of natural jade in Japan. Today, the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge is protected as a National Natural Monument and its beauty is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.  Enjoy outstanding views of Mt. Myojo's limestone face and deep gorge below from the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge Observation Deck or take a closer look along the riverbank at the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge Revetment Park. In addition to walking and hiking trails, visitors can enjoy the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge Fishing Park, Takanami-no-Ike Pond Highland Center, campgrounds and more. The Kotakigawa Jade Gorge is a National Natural Monument of Japan The collection, damage or abuse of minerals, plants or animals is strictly prohibited. Please help us as we preserve our natural heritage.

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  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Summer

Hisuien Gardens & Jade Art Museum

A secluded Japanese garden decorated with jade A 70 ton boulder of cobalt jade greets you as you enter the gate to this beautifully-landscaped Japanese garden. Designed by acclaimed landscaper Kinsaku Nakane, the beauty of this garden changes with the season. Stroll the multiple paths around the garden to enjoy the showy flowers of spring, rich greens of summer, or vibrant leaves of autumn. No matter what season you visit, you will be absolutely stunned by the amount of beauty packed into this small space. Be sure to visit the Museum of Jade Art, located near the exit of the garden, to appreciate its large exhibit of jade sculptures, featuring both local and imported jade. Admission Adults: 500 yen Under 18: 300 yen Joint Admission with Tanimura Art Museum & Gyokusuien Garden Adults: 800 yen Under 18: 500 yen

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  • Spring
  • Summer

Tsukimizu-no-Ike Pond

Sacred Pond Famous for Wisteria Blossoms The forest surrounding Tsukimizu-no-Ike is filled with wild wisteria plants. When they bloom it is said that they are so dazzling that they block out the reflection of the moon on the water, giving this pond its name which means "The Pond Which Cannot See the Moon." A small shrine located in the middle of the pond, dedicated to the Goddess Benten. It is said to bless women with safe childbirth. A number of hiking trails around the pond take visitors on a tour of the many unusual boulders which are strewn about this mystical forest.

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  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Summer

Takanami-no-Ike Campgrounds

Camp in the Hakuba Foothills Near the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge These campgrounds are located beside the beautiful Takanami-no-Ike Pond, offering stunning views of Mt. Myojo and access to hiking trails, the Kotakigawa Jade Gorge and more! The campgrounds are well-equipped with an on-site restaurant, shop, hot showers, flushing toilets and other amenities! It's a great place to escape to nature without going too far off the grid. Campsite Information Tent Sites: 53 Site Usage Fee: 1000 yen (free with tent rental) Amenities: 3 cooking stations 2 fire circles 2 restrooms (flushing toilets) 4 showers (heated) Picnic tables and chairs On-site restaurant & shop Hand carts available for use Free WiFi available Rentals: Tent: 2,000 yen (fits 6) Boat: 1,000 yen / 30 min Fishing Rod: 300 yen Frisbee: 200 yen Ground Golf: 300 yen / game Firewood: Firewood: 520 yen / bundle Charcoal: 520 yen / bag Notice: No cellphone reception  No electrical outlets 50 m walk from parking lot to campsites

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  • Spring

Aramachi Wisteria Festival

Wisteria flowers blooming in a historic community The community of Aramachi has long had a fascination with wisteria flowers. The nearby Tsukimizu-no-Ike Pond has been famous for its wild wisteria for centuries. What started as a private practice of growing ornamental wisteria flowers blossomed over time into a full-fledged festival, with dozens of wisteria flowers blooming on either side of Aramachi's Main Street. Each plant is cared for by local residents who use the festival to showcase their work. The flowers are judged and awarded medals, which the residents proudly display. The festival starts in early May and runs for about two weeks. While the exact timing of the blooms varies from year to year, the time around the 10th of May is usually the best time to enjoy them.

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  • Spring

Nou Hakusan Shrine Spring Grand Festival

Centuries Old Dances in the Light of the Setting Sun  The Nou Hakusan Shrine Spring Grand Festival (Nou Festival) is held every April 24th at Nou Hakusan Shrine in Itoigawa City's Nou Region. It began in the 15th century and centers around 11 bugaku, a type of ceremonial Japanese court dance.  The festival starts with the Shishimai or Lion's Dance. Two men dressed as mythological lion dance around in front of the festival procession as it makes its ways into and around the shrine grounds.  Starting around noon, the festival explodes with energy as the Running of the Shrines begins. Three mikoshi portable shrines are carried on the backs of teams of young men who run them in circles around the shrine grounds to ceremonial music.  As the atmosphere calms following the Running of the Shrines, the first bugaku dancers take the stage. 11 different bugaku court dances are performed by adults and children, some as young as 4. These dances culminate in the dramatic 'Ryo'o-no-Mai' dance performed in the light of the setting sun.

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  • Spring

Itoigawa Fighting Festival

Fighting Shrines Officially known as the Amatsu Shrine Spring Grand Festival, this festival can be seen every April 10 & 11 at Amatsu Shrine, a short walk from Itoigawa Station. Centuries old, the festival is held to pray for a bountiful harvest and good catch of fish in the year ahead. The festival's popular name, the Itoigawa Fighting Festival, comes from the stirring omikoshi fight held in the morning of April 10 between two teams representing the local districts of Teramachi and Oshiage. Carrying 600 kilogram omikoshi shrines, the teams chase each other around the shrine grounds, clashing their shrines together in a dramatic display of strength. The shrines are often damaged in the fray as nearby spectators run for cover. After roughly an hour of fighting, the shrines are brought before the priest who is said to consult with the local gods to determine the winning team. It is said that the two shrines represent male and female gods, and so the fighting of the shrines is not really fighting, but a display of fertility which blesses the participants with large, prosperous families. It is also said that the winning district predicts the season ahead: if Oshiage wins, it will be a good catch of fish, if Teramachi wins it will be a bountiful harvest. Bugaku Court Dances As the dust settles and the crowds calm, the attention moves to the large stage in the middle of the shrine grounds. On this stage, local children and adults perform 10 ancient bugaku dances. Bugaku are special, elegant dances which were traditionally held at events hosted by the Imperial Court or at important temples and shrines. The unique bugaku dances performed during the Amatsu Shrine Spring Grand Festival have been handed down over the centuries by local families and today are recognized as a Nationally Important Cultural Folk Property. Don't miss an opportunity to experience the powerful elegance of this ancient tradition. April 10 April 11 10:30 a.m. Arrival of the Gods 1:00 p.m. Bugaku Court Dances 11:00 a.m. Running of the Shrines 5:30 p.m. Festival End 11:30 a.m. Fighting of the Shrines     12:30 p.m. Running of the Shrines     1:00 p.m. Bugaku Court Dances     5:30 p.m. Festival End    

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  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Summer

The Salt Trail (Matsumoto Road)

Beautifully Preserved Section of the Ancient Matsumoto Road The Matsumoto Road, also known as the Salt Trail, was used in ancient times to transport salt and maritime products from Itoigawa to what is now Nagano Prefecture and Matsumoto City. Salt was vitally important in those days for preserving food to survive the harsh winters, especially for the people of Nagano, so this trade route was kept open for porters who carried their loads by foot or by oxen, even at the height of war between the two provinces. The section of the Salt Trail in Itoigawa's Ōno district is exceptionally well-preserved, showing the unique U-shaped road as it appeared when it was in use. It's a perfect place to slip back in time while enjoying a relaxing hike. Eagle-eyed travelers along this ancient trail will be able to spot a number of ancient sculptures, temples and other remnants of the old road.

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  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Summer

Shiraike Pond Forest Park

Gorgeous Autumn Colors and Hiking Trails Shiraike Pond, located just above the community of Kijiya alongside the road to Renge Hot Springs, offers beautiful views of the mountains and trees reflected in its surface. Swamp lanterns growing around the trails are a sight to behold in early spring while in autumn the colors of the leaves cannot be beat!

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  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Summer

Salt Trail Museum

Museum dedicated to the Historic Salt Trail Located in a repurposed farm house deep in the heart of the Nechi Valley, this museum features a collection of over 2,100 items are on display here and include tools used by the 'bokka' porters who carried goods along the Salt Trail. These bokka were mostly peasant farmers of the Nechi Valley who made a living during the winter months by carrying large heavy packs loaded with salt and other goods bound for markets in Matsumoto. The collection of tools and other artifacts found here are registered as a Nationally Important Cultural Property of Japan.

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