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What to do in Toyama Prefecture
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What to do in Toyama Prefecture

Jun 18, 2024

Nestled along the Sea of Japan, Toyama Prefecture is a hidden gem that offers a blend of stunning natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in Japan, Toyama is an excellent option, especially if you combine it with nearby Kanazawa.

If you are interested in exploring Toyama with a knowledgeable local guide, Omakase Tour can provide a Toyama tour customized to your interests, using public transport or private car.


Here are the top 12 things to do in Toyama Prefecture.


PXL_20240401_022508773.jpgToyama Glass Art Museum

Located in the centre of Toyama City, the Toyama Glass Art Museum is a testament to the city's rich history in glass manufacturing. The museum, designed by the renowned architect Kengo Kuma, features an impressive collection of contemporary glass art from around the world. The museum consists of a small room on the lower floor with glass art displays, and a larger exhibit on an upper floor with zany, colourful sculptures that children and adults alike will enjoy.

The museum won't take more than 30 minutes or so to explore, but it is housed within the Toyama City Library, which is a fantastic wooden feat of architecture by Kengo Kuma and a nice place to relax and look at books. If you have children, they have many kid's books which you can freely read.


1981236_m.jpgTateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and the Kurobe Dam

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a spectacular journey through the Northern Japan Alps, offering breathtaking views of the alps and the majestic 186m high Kurobe Dam.

The Kurobe Alpine Route is one of the most scenic and adventurous journeys in the country, spanning approximately 90km, through the Northern Japan Alps. It showcases some of Japan's most breathtaking natural landscapes, including towering mountains, deep gorges, colourful foliage in autumn.

The journey along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is unique in that it involves various modes of transportation, each offering its own set of spectacular views and experiences. Starting from Toyama City, travellers typically take the Toyama Chiho Railway to Tateyama Station. From there, the adventure begins with a cable car ride up to Bijodaira, a lush forested area known for its ancient cedar trees and diverse wildlife.

Next, a bus ride takes you to Murodo, the highest point on the route at 2,450m above sea level. From Murodo, a series of other transportation modes--such as a trolleybus, a ropeway, and another cable car--continue the journey, each offering panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The final highlight of the route is the Kurobe Dam, Japan's tallest dam. There is a small museum at the site of the dam which showcases the making of the dam, and it was extremely interesting to see the backbreaking labour that went into its construction.

We visited the Kurobe Dam in autumn which is the most popular time of year to visit due to the stunning autumn scenery, but summer and spring are also good times to visit.


4530999_m.jpgMikuriga-ike Pond

Situated at an elevation of 2,405m high in the Tateyama Mountain Range, Mikuriga-ike Pond is one of the most beautiful high-altitude ponds in Japan. The clear blue waters of the pond reflect the surrounding peaks, creating a mirror-like surface that is particularly stunning on a clear day. The area around the pond offers several hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the alpine flora and fauna. In autumn the alpine grasses turn all kinds of orange and red and are incredibly beautiful.


1318016_m.jpgRide the Kurobe Gorge Railway

For those seeking a scenic train experience, the Kurobe Gorge Railway offers a picturesque journey through one of Japan's most beautiful gorges. This open-air railway takes you on a 20km trip through dense forests, over towering bridges and along sheer cliffsides, providing breathtaking views of the Kurobe River below. The journey includes several stops where you can disembark to explore hot springs, walking trails, and observation decks.


29963212_s.jpgYuki no Otani

Yuki no Otani, or the Great Snow Wall, is a must-see phenomenon along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Each spring, visitors flock to see the towering snow corridors carved out of the deep snow that accumulates over winter. The walls can reach up to 20m in height, creating a surreal and awe-inspiring landscape. Walking through these snow corridors is a unique experience, giving you a true sense of the region's dramatic winter climate as you can see just how much snow falls each year.


PXL_20240402_070147965.jpgGokayama

A visit to Gokayama transports you back in time to a world of traditional Japanese architecture and rural charm. This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses, characterized by their steep thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snowfall. The villages of Ainokura and Suganuma are particularly well-preserved, offering a glimpse into the region's agricultural heritage and traditional lifestyle. Even better, these villages are much less visited than nearby Shirakawa-go, making them arguably more charming and authentic. You can freely walk around the village, although remember that people still live here so act respectfully to their property.


23197901_s.jpgAmaharashi Coast

The Amaharashi Coast is a scenic stretch along the Sea of Japan, renowned for its stunning views of the Tateyama Mountain Range across Toyama Bay. The contrast between the rugged coastline and the towering mountains creates a breathtaking panorama that is especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset. There is a little countryside train that goes past on occasion which makes for a nice photo (and a very excited toddler in my case). There is a little roadside station near the beach which sells some souvenirs and food. This is only really a must-see point on clear days though, as when we visited it was overcast and we could not see the mountains in the background.


28202021_s.jpgShomyo Falls

The Shomyo Falls plunge 350m into a deep gorge, making them the highest falls in Japan. The surrounding area offers several viewing platforms and hiking trails, allowing visitors to experience the falls from different perspectives. The roar of the water and the mist created by the falls add to the awe-inspiring atmosphere.

The Shomyo Falls are best to visit in spring and summer when the water flows the strongest. The falls are a little hard to access as you have to take the Shomyo-daki Tansho Bus 15 minutes from Tateyama Station then walk 30 minutes from there. If you rent a car it will be much easier.


PXL_20240403_003206108.jpgTakaoka City

Takaoka City is worth a visit when you are in Toyama Prefecture. The city is known for its traditional metal casting industry, which dates back to the 17th century.

Takaoka is home to the Takaoka Daibutsu, one of Japan's three great Buddha statues, as well as Zuiryu-ji Temple which is a national treasure with it beautifully designed cloisters and temple grounds.

The city also boasts some historic streets and the port town of Uchikawa, known as the "Venice of Japan". Uchikawa is a quiet riverside area lined with warehouses that belonged to merchants who sailed the Sea of Japan.


26688633_s.jpgAsahi Funagawa Spring Quartet View

The Asahi Funagawa Spring Quartet is a viewing spot where you can see cherry blossoms, tulips, snow-capped mountains, and the Funagawa River all in one view. This is seasonal of course, you must come during spring. Sadly when we visited, the cherry blossoms were not yet blooming, so you really need to time this perfectly.


26338217_s.jpgFirefly Squid Museum

The Firefly Squid Museum teaches you all about one of Toyama Bay's most famous natural phenomena. The museum is dedicated to the firefly squid, a bioluminescent species that illuminates the bay with a blue glow during their spawning season in spring. Visitors can learn about the life cycle and behaviour of these unique creatures through interactive exhibits and displays. What was really interesting when we visited in spring was their dark room display of real firefly squids. It was fascinating seeing them all glowing in the pitch black room.


PXL_20240401_024736294.MP.jpgIkeda Yasubei Shoten Co., Ltd. (Traditional Japanese Chemist)

Ikeda Yasubei Shoten is a old-fashioned pharmacy that has been operating since the Edo period. They sell various medicinal herbs and teas that are supposed to treat all kinds of ailments such as bloating and pain. Their specialty is the stomach-ache medicine known as Etchu-hangontan. If you are interested in all-natural traditional medicine then you will love this shop. While there you can also try your hand at their historical pill making equipment, and dine in their restaurant which offers dishes made with medicinal herbs (not accessible to prams and wheelchairs).

If you are interested in exploring Toyama with a knowledgeable local guide, Omakase Tour can provide a Toyama tour customized to your interests, using public transport or private car.

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