Itoigawa’s topography of coastline and valleys gives each of its regions a distinctive character and charm. Nou, the easternmost part of Itoigawa, includes both a lively fishing port and a dramatic mountain valley with hot springs and a challenging ski slope. In one day, or even one afternoon, visitors can experience the best of both the sea and the mountains.
Every afternoon, the Nou fishing fleet sells the day’s catch in a large and raucous auction. Only those with permits (priced at several million yen…) have the right to buy fish there, but you can enjoy the atmosphere, and gaze at varieties of fish that you have never seen before. Just along the coast, meanwhile, fresh crab and many other fish are sold directly to the public.
Nou is also home to a small senbei workshop, which makes rice crackers from rice grown in the nearby fields. You can draw your own pictures on rice crackers and have them baked while you enjoy lunch at the soba noodle restaurant right next door. It is run by a group of local women, and also offers delicious home-made tempura and sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves, an Itoigawa specialty, as well as a selection of local crafts. You can also try your hand at rolling and cutting your own noodles.
At the top of the valley, you will find a hot spring and a group of traditional thatched farmhouses.
On the way home, it’s time for perhaps the most memorable visit of the day: to see the local sumo club practicing! Members of this club have won the national junior and senior high school championships several times. Watching these aspiring wrestlers square off in the ring, you can feel the energy crackling in the air. Discipline is strict, but once the training session is over, there are smiles all round, and the opportunity for a group photograph. If you like, you can even try on the sumo wrestlers’ loincloth!
And as the sun sets over the Japan Sea, take your photograph at Benten-iwa, one of the most picturesque spots on the coast. Nou is one place in Japan that you will never forget.