25 Things To Around Toyama & Where To Stay
The port city of Toyama somewhat lives in the shadow of nearby Kanazawa and is often over-looked, used as a transit point enroute to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route and other regional highlights. While it is true that the city does not have the attractions of Kanazawa, Toyama is a pleasant city with enough to entertain visitors for a day. On this page you will find the following information:
Located nearby Toyama Bay, the region is known throughout Japan for its fantastic seafood. One of the great pleasures of visiting the city is trying its famous seafood, best experienced at the seafood markets on the coast.
But if you don’t have time to explore and are just passing through, it’s worth noting that there are excellent seafood restaurants inside Toyama Station or in the nearby precinct, which also includes Toyama Castle Park and Toyama Glass Art Museum. Let’s start with the obvious question:
WHERE IS TOYAMA?
Toyama is located on Japan’s north coast, around 400KM / 6-hours to the north-west of Tokyo. Despite being located at quite some distance from the capital, as a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Toyama Station is easy to reach – taking around 2.5 hours using the train. Located only a short distance from Kanazawa, Toyama is also within easy reach of more distant cities including Kyoto and Osaka thanks to the Limited Express Thunderbird service which runs to Kanazawa Station, from where its an easy and quick onward journey to Toyama. Best-known for its outstanding seafood – considered some of the best in Japan – Toyama is a great destination for foodies while also a convenient launching point from where to head to the nearby Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, the historic old town of Takayama and explore the many attractions of Japan’s highest moutain range, the North Alps.
25 THINGS TO DO AROUND TOYAMA
Located nearby Toyama Bay, the city and region are known throughout Japan for its fantastic seafood – best enjoyed at a coastal market or at one of the city’s many restaurants. The city itself is modern and energetic and an ideal launching point from where to access the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, Takayama and the North Alps. Here’s our suggestion of what to do while in Toyama:
1 / TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE / April to November
Heralded as one of Japan’s best experiences, traversing the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route takes approximately 6 hours without allowing for time to stop and enjoy all of its stunning sights. In reality, undertaking a visit to the Alpine Route is therefore a full-day activity. Visitors can start from Toyama via Tateyama Station or Nagano via Ogizawa Station, and choose to finish on the other side or return to their point of origin. A series of mountain transports including trolley buses, cable cars, a ropeway, and coaches transport visitors to and from Murodo Station – which at 2540 meters is the highest station in Japan.
Open from mid-April to mid-November, the Alpine Route is most famous for its immense snow walls which, at their peak, ascend 20 meters above the road below. The walls are at their best from the opening day in April until late-June, after which outstanding hiking is available through summer and autumn, climaxing with stunning autumn colours in October until the route closes again in November.
2 / SNOW WALLS OF THE ALPINE ROUTE / best: April to June
A journey to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route includes many highlights such as the Kurobe Dam, dramatic alpine vistas, and the sacred mountain peak of Mt Tate. But of all of its many wonders, it is the Snow Walls of Tateyama-Kurobe that are its most distinct and unique feature. At their best from mid-April until late-June, the Snow Walls tower to 20 meters at their peak. Accessible on foot from Murodo Station, the walls are a sight to behold.
3 / HIKING AT MOUNT TATEYAMA / July to November
The Alpine Route traverses the northern end of the Hida Mountains, also known as the North Japan Alps. As Japan’s highest mountain range, many of its peaks rise to over 3000 meters in height including Mt Tate (3015m). As one of Japan’s three sacred mountains – along with Mt Fuji and Mt Haku – hiking Mt Tate is an awe-inspiring experience suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness. Best experienced from July until October, visitors have the option of hiking from and back to Murodo Station or undertaking longer, multi-day hikes. Mt Tate (also referred to as Tateyama) is a popular hiking destination and best experience on weekdays when it will still be busy, but the number of domestic visitors will be lower. Avoid weekends and public holidays. For more information, see our ‘Japan Adventure Travel: Hiking, Trekking, Mountaineering, Caving & Climbing’ page.
4 / SHOMYO FALLS / best: May to November
Often missed by visitors to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, you will pass the Shomyo Falls between Bijodaira and Midogahara, as you ascend from Tateyama Station. At 350 meters in height, Shomyo Falls is Japan’s tallest waterfall. The four stage falls are a spectacular sight which in spring becomes even more remarkable, when a twin waterfall – Hannoki Falls – begins to fall as the snow melts on the Midagahara plateau. The waterfall can be reached on foot on the walking trails.
5 / KUROBE DAM / April to November
Located on the Nagano-side of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, the Kurobe Dam will only be accessible for visitors coming up and/or going down that side of the mountain range. When coming from Toyama, this means it will be on your way down toward Nagano, once you’ve enjoyed time at the summit. The Kurobe Dam is Japan’s highest and tallest – with its massive concave walls rising 186 metres. Constructed between 1956 and 1963, the dam is a source of national pride and grand engineering feat.
6 / RIDE THE KUROBE GORGE RAILWAY / best: May to November
Accessible from Toyama Station via Unazuki Onsen, Kurobe Gorge is quickly emerging as a popular destination for international visitors. Regarded as one of the three most beautiful gorges in Japan, Kurobe is best experienced riding the Kurobe Gorge Railway which covers a meandering and winding 20km span in approximately 80 minutes. The open-air carriages allow visitors an intimate experience of the surrounding landscape with stations along the route allowing access to walk trails, onsen, restaurants and accommodation. The rail line includes several spectacular bridges and truly beautiful hot springs including Kuronagi Onsen and the riverside Kanetsuri Kawara Onsen. Highly recommended.
7 / STAY AT UNAZUKI ONSEN / all year round
Situated at the entrance of the beautiful Kurobe Gorge, Unazuki Onsen is the largest hot spring town in Toyama Prefecture. Home to many guesthouses including traditional ‘ryokan’ and large hotels, the hot springs of Unazuki Onsen are known for the clarity of their water, known to aid healthy and vibrant skin. Located close the coast, the guesthouses of Unazuki Onsen are also known for the quality of their seafood and with a local craft beer brewery nearby, this is a great place to stay when wanting to enjoy the best of Toyama.
8 / TOYAMA BAY SEAFOOD / all year round
Toyama Prefecture is known throughout Japan for its delicious seafood sourced from the plentiful waters of Toyama Bay. The topography of the bay creates a natural fish tank, as the sea floor drops away sharply, creating a submerged canyon which forms a natural boundary for sea life. Nutrients wash down from the North Japan Alps creating bountiful fishing grounds which feed the nearby coastal markets. Many catchment areas are only 20-minutes from the coastal markets, meaning that the day’s catch is still exceedingly fresh when it arrives at vendors and restaurants – both on the coast and in Toyama City. Venturing to any of those markets is one of the great joys of visiting Toyama. Shinminato Kito Kito Market – open daily from 09:00 to 17:00 – is a great place to start! Don’t have time to head to the coast? No problem at all! You’ll find plenty of restaurants in Takaoka and Toyama City selling the day’s fresth catch including the highly-sought after ‘Toyama Bay Sushi’.
9 / TOYAMA STATION PRECINCT / all year round
If you headed to Toyama, chances are that at some stage you’ll be passing through Toyama Station. The station is centrally positioned and within walking distance of nearby attractions including the Toyama Glass Art Museum – see below for details.While visiting the seaside markets of Toyama to sample its famous Toyama Bay Sushi and other seafood – see below for details – is a fantastic option, however if you don’t have time for that but do have time in the station while waiting for your train, there are excellent seafood restaurants inside the station and plenty shops from which to buy a souvenir – including packed and sealed seafood. Hotels and other accommodation options in Toyama can be viewed through our ‘Toyama Area’ hotel page.
10 / ATTRACTIONS OF TOYAMA CITY / all year round
While Toyama itself doesn’t have the attractions and charm of nearby Kanazawa, the city offers enough to keep visitors entertained for a day. Originating from Toyama Station, the city is home to an enjoyable tram network which can be used to access nearby attractions including Toyama Castle Ruin Park. The park covers the former grounds of Toyama Castle and features a reconstructed keep (main tower), art museum and Japanese garden set amongst pleasant grounds.
A little further on from the gardens, the Toyama Glass Art Museum was designed by architect Kengo Kuma – designer of the new Tokyo Olympic Stadium – and exhibits beautiful glassworks from around the world. Also nearby the station, the Toyama City Hall Observatory is one of the best spots for viewing the dramatic Tateyama Mountains. Located just across the river from Toyama Castle Ruin Park, it is one of top three spots to view the mountains.
Nearby Kurehayama Park Observatory and the Amaharashi Coast – see below for details – are equally great spots from where to view Toyama’s famous mountain vista.
Located only a short distance from Toyama Station, Ikeda Yasubei Shoten is a renowned traditional chemist selling a Japanese and Chinese medicine. Toyama has a strong connect with tradition medicine, and there is no better place to consult with a pharmacist and have remedies prepared especially for you – including to the chance to press your own traditional pills.
11 / MATSUKAWA PARK / best: late-March to April
Located in central Toyama City, Matsukawa Park is on the banks of the Matsukawa River and is most famous for its beautiful cherry blossom trees in spring – stretching an impressive 3km along the sides of the river. Illuminated in the evening, the blossoms can also be enjoyed on boat cruises that operate daily from 09:30 to 17:00 on weekdays and from 09:00 to 17:30 on weekends.
12 / ENJOY THE BLOSSOMS OF SPRING / late-March to April
Blooming every April, the cherry blossoms of Central Japan transform the atmosphere and character of the region and banish all thoughts of winter. Known as ‘sakura’ in Japan, the blossoms are viewed as symbolic of the fleeting beauty and fragility of life itself and Japanese look forward to ‘hanami’ (flower-viewing) each spring. Given Central Japan’s higher altitude and cooler climate, the blossoms bloom later than in Tokyo with many varieties of wild cherry trees spread throughout the mountains. Our ‘Cherry Blossoms’ page introduces everything you need to know about the importance of the flowers and where to find them in Nagano.
13 / OWARA KAZE NO BON FESTIVAL / September
Taking place over the first three days of September, the ‘Owara Kaze no Bon Festival’ sees dancers fill the streets of Yatsuo – in the south of Toyama City – as a prayer for a good harvest. The festival runs each day from around noon to past night, as dancers, drums, traditional instruments and happy locals fill the night with colour, noise and joy. Free shuttle buses run to and from Toyama Station. If needed, just ask the station attendants for assistance.
14 / EXPLORE NEARBY TAKAOKA / all year round
Approximately 50 to 55 minutes from Toyama Station using the Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line, Takaoka is the second largest city in Toyama and home to some notable historic attractions. The Takaoka Daibutsu is one of Japan’s great Buddha statues – along with the large Buddha in Todaiji Temple, Nara and the Kamakura Daibutsu. Nearby Zuiryuji Temple belongs to the Soto Zen Buddhist sect and is a registered National Treasure.
The two important Buddhist sites can easily be visited together along with the historic districts of Kanayamachi and Yamachosuji – an atmospheric precinct of traditional workshops.
15 / AMAHARASHI COAST / all year round
While a little out of the way, the Amaharashi Coast is a famous sight for many Japanese – known for its pristine beauty and Onnaiwa (Woman’s Rock) set against the background of the North Japan Alps including Mt Tate. Having inspired artists and poets of countless years, the coast can be reached using the JR Himi Line from Takaoka Station. Get-off at Amaharashi and walk 5 minutes to the coast – one of the best spots to witness Toyama’s famous mountain vista.
16 / SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA / all year round
Easily accessible by bus from Toyama Station, the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1995. Actually consisting of three villages, they are known for this distinctive ‘gassho-style’ thatch-roofed houses set in a beautiful alpine setting of rice fields and high mountains above. World Heritage-listing has ensured that the villages are hugely popular with both domestic and international tourists but don’t let that put you off. The villages are well-worth visiting and walking away for the central area of the main village of Ogimachi, will quickly have you unencumbered by other visitors. If you really want to avoid the crowds, consider heading to the other villages of Suganuma and Ainokura. Much smaller than Ogimachi they are also far less visited and offer a peaceful experience of these important rural hamlets.
17 / TAKAYAMA / all year round
Around one hour from Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, the historic old town of Takayama is another popular destination. Famous for the excellent preservation of its Edo Period (1603-1868) historic centre, Takayama draws large crowds. Much like Shirakawa-go, be prepared to share the streets with many other visitors. Try to avoid the middle of the day – between 11:00 and 15:00 – when large tour buses arrive and crowd the small historic area with tourists.
18 / KANAZAWA / all year round
As the northern terminus on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, Kanazawa is a convenient and popular stop enroute from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka (or the reverse itinerary). One of the most historic and enjoyable cities in Japan, Kanazawa is well-suited to a multi-day visit combining the many attractions of the city with nearby regional highlights. From it’s historic attractions and districts to its excellent galleries, museums, shopping and dining, visitors tend to fall in love with Kanazawa and wish they’d allowed more time in their schedule to explore all it has to offer.
19 / FUKUI / all year round
Fukui Prefecture hugs the north coast of Japan, far from the sprawling metropolises of Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. This is a tranquil corner of Japan where you can enjoy open spaces, small towns, great seafood and a couple of the country’s best destinations. Largely undiscovered by international visitors, the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum is one of the best museums in Japan while the sprawling temple complex Daihonzan Eihei-ji is as beautiful and inspiring as it is historically important. Throw-in a couple of other intriguing attractions and some of the best crab in Japan, Fukui is quietly confident in its ability to impress!
20 / ENJOY THE RESORTS OF NAGANO / December to April
As host of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Nagano is proud of its Olympic heritage. Events were spread across different resorts across the region and at several venues in Nagano City. Nagano is home to around 80 resorts however only a few were lucky enough to host events including Hakuba Happo One. Several events took place in and around Happo One, establishing Hakuba’s global profile. To this day, the resorts of Hakuba Valley can lay claim to being Nagano’s most international and popular. Plenty to keep you entertained on your winter adventure!
The Nagano Winter Olympics were the first to include snowboarding as a medaled sport, with all snowboarding events taking place in Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest and highest ski resort. Boasting Nagano’s longest season and most reliable snow conditions – given its higher altitude and prevailing weather conditions – Shiga is another resort quickly coming to the attention of international visitors. Offering over 600 hectares of terrain, Shiga is likely to become much more poplar over the coming years so get there now while it’s still relatively quiet.
Less than an hours drive from Shiga, Nozawa Onsen is one of Nagano’s most popular resorts – offering skiers and boarders around 300 hectares of train between 565 and 1650 metres. Also known for its great powder and setup for snowboarders, Nozawa is a lively resort serviced by a large village full of accommodation, restaurants and bars and ‘onsen’ (hot springs), Nozawa’s reputation is as much based on what happens off the mountain.
21 / JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK / all year round
Accessible via Nagano Station, on the Hokuriku Shinakansen, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is one of Central Japan’s most well-known destinations. At its most popular through the snow of winter, the park is in fact open all year round. The monkeys – known for their hot spring-bathing antics – come to the park all year round with each season offering its own reasons to visit. Known fondly as ‘snow monkeys’, they are in fact there all year round with spring, summer and autumn each providing their own reasons to visit to the park.
22 / ENJOY THE REGION’S MANY HOT SPRINGS / all year round
Home to countless natural hot springs, enjoying an ‘onsen’ while in Central Japan really is a must-do activity! In the cold months of winter and cooler months of autumn, dipping into a thermal bath feels fantastic whereas in the warmer months of spring and summer, the initial heat of onsen leads your body to cool itself – a truly pleasurable feeling. Spread throughout the region, the historic onsen towns – including nearby Nozawa Onsen, Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen – have numerous ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) with their own in-house onsen. Our ‘Onsen In & Around Nagano’ page introduces everything you need to know about using an onsen, the benefits and where to find them. So take inspiration from the monkeys and get bathing!
23 / ZENKO-JI TEMPLE / all year round
Located in Nagano City, Zenko-ji Temple is the spiritual heart of Nagano itself. With a near-1400 year history, Zenko-ji’s story is entwined with that of Nagano and to this day, the temple retains its central importance to life in the region. One of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Japan, Zenko-ji is also the third largest and home to the first known Buddhist statue ever brought to Japan. Open all year round, the temple performs a morning ceremony every day of the year. Taking place just after sunrise, the time of the ceremony varies throughout the year and is too early to attend unless staying in Nagano City. But it is worth-noting as it underlines Zenko-ji’s reputation as one of the most open and welcoming temples in the country. While there, visitors are welcome to experience traditional practices including guided meditation, goma prayer and calligraphy.
For visitors wanting to experience these activities or simply learn more about the temple, doing so on a private tour is a great way to discover more about the importance of Zenko-ji and role of Buddhism in Japan.
24 / KAMIKOCHI / April to November
Situated in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi is a pristine and beautiful alpine valley open to the public from mid-April until mid-November each year. The valley follows the Azusa River while some of Japan’s tallest mountain peaks rise to over 3000 meters above. From the Kamikochi Bus Terminal, walking trails span-out along the valley – suitable to anyone of reasonable fitness – before more advanced hiking and mountaineering trails lead into the mountains. Considered the jewel of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, visiting Kamikochi is one of Nagano’s most memorable experiences – a truly special place of natural and spiritual importance.
25 / MATSUMOTO CASTLE / all year round
Standing guard over Matsumoto City for more than 400 years, Matsumoto Castle is a registered National Treasure and for Japanese, an instantly recognizable structure. Visiting the castle is an easy and enjoyable day-trip via Nagano Station or over the mountains, from Takayama or Kamikochi. While there, enjoy the historic character of the city along with its many good cafes, restaurants, museums and shopping.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING TOYAMA
Visitors to Toyama have a good range of accommodation to choose from in the city with some other options located easy reach of Toyama Station. Let’s start with the most convenient option:
TOYAMA CITY AREA
Centred around Toyama Station and to the south around Toyama Castle Park, the city has lots of good accommodation options including large to mid-sized Western hotels. Visitors can choose from many mid-range to budget options and enjoy prices that are often notably cheaper than other cities in Japan. With this in mind, staying in Toyama can be an attractive option when visiting Kanazawa – which is only 20-minutes away by train – which can be enjoyed as a day-trip or over multiple days from Toyama. Visitors looking for more traditional guesthouses should consider staying outside of the city, in a location such as Unazuki Onsen – see below for details. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Toyama City Area’ hotel page.
Under 20-minutes by train from Toyama Station, Takaoka is a small city best known for its great Buddha and Zuiryuji Temple. While it’s close enough to be enjoyed as a daytrip from Toyama, Takaoka also offers a good range of accommodation including multiple mid-range business hotels, hostels and small guesthouses. Prices are affordable and you will find most accommodation located to the north of the station and nearby the Great Buddha and Takaoka Castle Park. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Takaoka Area’ hotel page.
UNAZUKI ONSEN / KUROBE GORGE AREA
Visitors headed to the Kurobe Gorge can consider staying in the area in the hot spring town of Unazuki Onsen. Accommodation varies in quality and prices can be high on weekends and holidays, however most hotels and guesthouses in this area have their own hot springs, serve traditional cuisine and offer both Japanese and Western-style rooms making it an attractive option for travelers wanting to get out of the city. Thanks to the beautiful leaves, autumn is a particularly enjoyable time of year to visit and ride the Kurobe Gorge Railway. It is also the most popular time of year so make sure to book ahead. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Unazuki Onsen / Kurobe Gorge Area’ hotel page.
HOW TO GET TO TOYAMA
As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Toyama is easy to reach from the capital and beyond. Our ‘How To Get To Toyama’ page has directions for many popular starting points including from the capital and its airports, Nagano, the monkey park, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and more.
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Central Japan offers many, many reasons to visit. Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator, offering a range of services including group tours, private tours and charters. We can arrange transport including a private vehicle and driver, to transport you to, from and between any regional destination including Toyama and beyond.
Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of your adventure in Central Japan and help you discover even more!
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