Travelogue: Exploring Japan on the Hokuriku Arch Pass – TOYAMA

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Earlier this month, I went on a press trip to Japan and for the first time, I didn’t quite have an idea of what I was going to do, nor what to expect. This was because I wasn’t going to the popular touristy regions of Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, but was going to explore the quieter, central part of Japan on the Hokuriku Arch Pass!

The Hokuriku Arch Pass is a 7 day unlimited pass that takes the route of Tokyo - Hokuriku (through Toyama, Fukui and Kanazawa) - Osaka. The ticket is priced at 24,000 Yen for non-Japan residents. We only had 4 days to explore the entire area but I'd think that 7 day is indeed a much better option with ample time to sufficiently travel the whole region! With the Arch Pass, there are also exclusive offers to attractions whenever you present the pass, which I think is such a great idea to promote tourism in the area!

Our first stop of the trip was Toyama, a 3 hour train ride on the Shinkansen from Tokyo station. Prior to this trip, my only knowledge about the place was the famed Alpine Snow Wall and the whole Tateyama region. So I didn’t know what were the other things we could do in Toyama outside of that period until this trip, and here’s a few of the places I recommend you guys to do/visit if you’re ever planning to head to Toyama at any time of the year.

Starbucks at Kansui Park

Located within the Fugan Unga Kansui Park overlooking the Fugan Canal, this pet friendly Starbucks attracts customers from all over the world. What I particularly LOVE about this Starbucks is how all the seats were arranged to be window facing, so that each and everyone can have a nice view over coffee, and of course some personal space ;) 

We visited during a Summer evening and were told that the views during Spring and Winter is super breathtaking with all the blooms! 

In addition, The Toyama Kansui Park Starbucks also won the best store design award in 2008! Located just 15 min walk away from Toyama station, I would recommend an evening stroll here at the park before/after grabbing your cuppa for the day ;)

Starbucks at Toyama Kansui Park
5 Minatoirifunecho, Toyama, Toyama Prefecture 930-0805, Japan
8am to 1030pm daily

The Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art is also just a 10 minute walk away, and we visited it before we headed over to Kansui Park. The Museum has a great architure and interior, with several art installations and even dynamic, interactive ones worth checking out!

Have a bowl of Shiroebi don (White glass shrimp don)

The "red and white" bowl, which is a mix of crab and shiroebi, at Shin-Minato Market.

Shiroebi, which translates with "white glass shrimp" is in fact a specialty to the Toyama prefecture! Even before we tried it, I had a few followers leaving messages that I MUST try the Shiroebi don when I'm in Toyama because it's super good.

Freaking good, it was. In fact I think this was my favourite dish the entire trip!!! The shrimp is translucent when alive, and turns to white when served on the table. We heard that cleaning these shrimps is a tough chore on its own. The shiroebi is sweet and refreshing when eaten, and I'm about to salivate right now as I'm typing this already!!!

Try Nodoguro Sashimi/Sushi

Nodoguro (the one with the red fish skin) and shiroebi sushi (wrapped in seaweed)

Besides shiroebi, another of Toyama's seafood specialty is Nodoguro, also known as a "blackthroat seaperch" (akin to rosy seabass). Nodoguro is in fact a high grade and highly priced fish in the Tokyo region because this species of fish can only be caught along the coast of the Sea of Japan, near where Toyama is located!

Everyone was very excited to try this, including our tour guide because this is expensive in Tokyo and she was saying this is gonna be her best takeaway this work trip HAHAHA. Indeed, the fish was very fresh (duh, it's Japan!!!) and totally melts in your mouth OMG. The fish was poached before serving so even for those who doesn't dare to consume sashimi, you can still try this and I highly recommend!

Visit one of the oldest pharmacy in Japan -- Ikeda Yasukei Shoten 池田屋安兵衛商店

Perhaps, the most interesting takeaway from our 2 day trip to Toyama is learning that Toyama is actually one of the key pharmaceutical city during the Edo period.

Focusing on traditional medicine, we actually got hands on and got to make our own medicine!!! Not the mention, the packaging of all their medicines is just super cute and makes you want to buy every of them, even if I have no illness at all HAHAHA. On the second floor, there is actually a restaurant where healthy food with medicinal herbs are used as ingredients and it's always almost fully booked too. 

Ikeda Yasukei Shoten 池田屋安兵衛商店
1-3-5 Tsutsumichodori,Toyama City Toyama,Japan
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Yakuto 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

I also heard that there is a 21st century museum in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture which is really popular, but sadly we didn’t have the time to visit. Overall, I think Toyama is a really nice town for a retreat vacation and I'd highly recommend a travel to these places in complement to the Tateyama Alpine Route during the Spring- early Summer season!

Stay tuned for part 2, as I’ll be sharing on my favourite part of the trip, in Fukui prefecture and also a little on Kanazawa, the capital city of Ishikawa!

Till then, 

Xin Lin.

Note: This post is in collaboration with Japan Tourism Board, all opinions are my own.

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