Here in Itoigawa, we are lucky to have four very distinct seasons. Winter is marked by pristine snowy scenery, delicious fish, the sake brewing season, and colourful festivals.
Niigata Prefecture is in the heart of the Snow Country, and you can find snow on Itoigawa’s mountains from around December until May – indeed, you can ski here until that time. However, because the centre of the city is on the coast, it rarely gets deep snow, meaning that transport links continue uninterrupted throughout the year.
This year, we are looking forward to welcoming our first guests for a snowshoe walk to the beautiful Shiroike pond. The deep snow in the mountains allows you to walk on paths that are covered by bushes at other seasons. And after a day in the snow, what better way to relax than in an open-air hot spring?
Winter is also a great season for gourmets to visit. Itoigawa boasts delicious seafood throughout the year, but those in the know consider that fish are at their best in winter because they put on more fat to combat the cold, giving them a richer flavour. One of the best examples of winter seafood is monkfish, a deep-sea fish that is available at just a few fishing ports in Japan, including Itoigawa, thanks to the deep waters near to our coast. If you are here in late January, you may be able to watch a monkfish being expertly prepared at the town’s monkfish festival; but don’t worry if you miss this, as you can find monkfish in the local restaurants until around March. New rice and freshly-brewed sake are also available at this season.
This coldest season of the year is also enlivened by a variety of New Year’s festivals. Each area has its own distinctive celebrations, so you can have a unique experience at any one of them.
Even if you are a Japan expert, come to visit us next winter and discover another side to the country!