Explore the Central Japan Region with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

6:18 PM

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I updated this space with a travel itinerary. As we know, international travel is a little impossible right now but I still thought of updating this space with a one, so that by the time international travel resumes, all of you will be ready!

Truth be told, I had tickets bought to Japan last year before we were all made to stay at home :( I’ve actually partnered up with Central Japan to put up this post together for you all, and I’ve personally visited some areas covered by the Hokuriku Arch Pass a few years back (you can read my post HERE!) and the Takayama region was actually on my itinerary last year. I’m really looking forward to visit Japan one day again! 

This itinerary is put together by Central Japan.

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The Central Japan Region is a year-round destination that offers an abundance of nature and delicious food every season. Plan your next winter holiday in Central Japan by using the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass to enjoy five days of unlimited rides on designated JR local and limited express trains, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, and buses within the Central Region.

You can check some of their highlight spots here.


Here is a sample itinerary that can help you get the most value out of your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass:


DAY 1

Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel  

Start your trip with a pleasant stay at the Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel. Directly connected with the JR Nagoya station, this luxury hotel provides top-notched service, with everyone being very customer oriented, and equipped with comfortable and modern hotel rooms.  Local dishes such as Kishimen, Miso Katsu or Roasted Ham of the pork from Mikawa, Aichi Prefecture, which is a rare find, are freshly made and served directly.

*Some tips : Before starting your day, leave your luggage at hotel and pick them up before moving to Takayama.

Nagoya-meshi (Kishimen) 

Tasting various cuisines in different areas of Japan is one of the most anticipated activities of any tourist visiting the country. Kishimen, one of Nagoya’s specialty cuisines, is a must try! Kishimen is a noodle dish known for its hirauchi (flattened). Its noodles made from wheat flour, water, and salt. However, don’t be fooled as not all flattened noodle dishes are considered kishimen. By Japanese standards, noodles with a width wider than 4.5mm and thickness of less than 2.0mm can be called kishimen. 

For those who are not a fan of miso, kishimen can also be enjoyed with pasta sauce, hot soup, or cooled, just like regular udon. 


Nagoya TV Tower and Hisaya Odori Park 

From Nagoya Station, take a 10-minute subway ride to see the Nagoya TV Tower, which is only a few minutes’ walk from Oasis 21. The tower was originally built to mark the reconstruction of the city after the second World War and to promote tourism and TV broadcasting in Nagoya at the time. In 2005, it was recognized as one of Japan’s tangible cultural property, a recognition given to tangible cultural products that possess high historic, artistic, and academic value to Japan.

After completing renovation in September 2020, the vast area near Nagoya TV Tower, Hisaya Odori Park, became the most fashionable and artistic spot in Nagoya City. There are plenty things to do within 4 areas - one can do café tour with popular name such as ESPRESSO D WORKS, FabCafe to Korean famous café de Paris, do some shopping or just enjoy the greenery with the Nagoya TV Tower on the background.



Café Gentiane (Piyorin)  

Located in JR Nagoya Station, Cafe Gentiane is home of the adorable and delicious chick shaped Piyorin cake with pudding inside. Each cake is handmade using Nagoya Cochin eggs under the skillful hands of the artisans. At this store, one can choose to dine in at their café or bring back home to enjoy. One cake costs around ¥380.

This is the valentine version with chocolate filling, which is really cute!



 Shopping (Uniqlo, Bic Camera) 

Located on the 9th and 10th floor of the JR Gate Tower is Bic Camera. Bic Camera has a wide selection of electronics, game software, and even alcoholic beverages available for purchase. If you're in the mood for shopping, just go up one floor to get to Uniqlo, and its slightly cheaper-priced sister company, GU, to start rocking that Japanese-style fashion!


Hodakaso Yamano Hotel 

After half a day in Nagoya, let’s move to Takayama for the next part of the trip by taking the Hida Wide Limited Express train to Takayama station. For the night, Yamano Hotel, a ryokan in the middle of the mountainous area is recommended.  You can get to the ryokan by catching a direct bus from Nohi Bus Center, located right next to the station.

The highlight of the place is the outdoor bath located outside of the hotel. Take the cable car and go to the ground, there is a wide hot spring bath in the woods where you can enjoy the nature. You shouldn’t miss the dinner with Hida beef too!

DAY 2

Shinhotaka Ropeway 

Shinhotaka Ropeway is the only double-decker ropeway in Japan. If you visit Central Japan in winter, you surely would not want to miss out on viewing the magnificent Japanese Alps Mountain Range. At the rooftop observatory deck located in the upper station (Nishihotakaguchi Station), at an altitude of around 2,156 meters, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys covered by the white snow.

There is also a bakery located on the 2nd floor of Shirakabadaira Station where you can eat crispy croissant and enjoy a cup of hot drink.

Takayama Ramen

You can head back to Takayama for lunch before moving on with your trip. Here, you can try chuka soba or locally known as “Takayama ramen”. The soba has base broth made with bones, vegetables, and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and is enriched with soy sauce and miso. Both the soba and base broth are handmade with different style representing each restaurant. You can choose between a bowl of char siu toppings or have it with raw eggs. 

Takayama Historical District 

In the afternoon, take a walk around the Takayama Historical District. Located near the Miyagawa River, the old town of preserved and restored buildings from the Edo period lets you soak in a historic atmosphere. 

Add up to your stroll with a piece of Hida Beef Nigiri or Hida beef skewers.





Local special amulet Sarubobo in various colors can be found here. They are great choice for souvenirs. 

Eats in Gifu 

Hida beef refers to the Kuroge Wagyu breed of cattle raised in Gifu Prefecture known for its high quality, with beautiful marbling, colour, texture and taste. It is said to be one of the best beef brands in Japan so it is definitely a must try delicacy.

“But I can’t afford such a high-class beef” - one might think.

Although kuroge wagyu is considered to be a "high-class" beef, it is also a popular ingredient in many “B-class” Japanese gourmet cuisines. In Takayama, you can have a Hida beef croquette for as low as 250 yen! Hida beef can be enjoyed in a steamed bun, broiled skewer, or as a sushi. 


Shirakawa-go 

After the short walk, from Takayama Station, you can take a direct bus from Nohi to Shirakawa-go Village, which is probably the most popular destination in the Central Japan region. This route is the most preferred access mode to Shirakawa-go and is usually sold out, especially in the winter, so it’s better to reserve your tickets beforehand. Tickets can be exchanged at Nohi Bus Center right next to Takayama Station.


A must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri villages, whose roofs are constructed at a steep angle to allow heavy snow to fall off easily in winter. While mostly known for the snow-covered houses during winter, Shirakawa-go offers wonderful views in every season so make sure to visit this place during different times of the year to feel each season’s unique charm. 

A five-minute shuttle ride for 200 yen (one-way) or a 25-minute walk up the mountain will lead you to an observation deck overlooking the whole area. This is the most Instagrammable spot for taking breathtaking photos of the village.


*Note: You can put your luggage at the coin lockers or luggage room near Shirakawago Bus Terminal. They are located at the back of the room or come to ask the staff for that.



 Takaoka City 

After visiting Shirakawa-go, you can take the World Heritage Bus to move to another city in the trip -  Takaoka City. This is the hometown of Fujiko F. Fujio, father of Doraemon, so one can find various places related to the characters.

Doraemon Tram

Do you want to take a ride with your childhood friends? There is Doraemon Tram with Doraemon and friends decorated inside and outside. 



Even Doraemon has mask on!



Toyama Bay Sushi (Dinner) 

Toyama is located near the sea and is therefore abundant with fresh seafood products. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy the freshest ingredients that landed directly from the sea at one of the restaurants located on Toyama Bay. The place featured here is a conveyor belt sushi store called iki-zushi氷見寿司, well known within locals. One of the must-try dishes is the white shrimp (Shiro-ebi). They are sweeter and much smaller than the normal one. 



DAY 3

Shogawa Gorge, Toyama 

In the morning, leave luggage at the hotel and take a bus from Takaoka Station to Shogawa Gorge for a relaxing boat cruise. For just 2,800 yen, you can enjoy the spectacular view of Shogawa Gorge by riding a sightseeing boat that operates on the Shogawa Gorge between Komaki Dam and Omaki Onsen.

The soothing one-hour cruise along the Shogawa gorge offers varying but equally breathtaking views all throughout the year. In winter, you can see the mountain covered in snow while flowers in full bloom adorn them in spring. The summer season highlights the mountains’ lush greenery and in autumn, you get the best seat in enjoying Japan’s autumn leaves.


Zuiryuji Temple  

Next, you can visit the Zuiryuji Temple in Takaoka city and have lunch. It has been designated as a National Treasure and is a must-see attraction during a visit to this pleasant town in the Central region of Japan. The main gate, Buddha hall, and Dharma hall stand in a line, and the temple buildings are laid out symmetrically left and right, interconnected by roofed passageways in a beautiful and powerful sight. 


You can have lunch nearby the temple, at Yasuragi-an where they served seasonal dishes. The dishes for February using fresh vegetables and seafood.



Doraemon Postbox/ Takaoka Station

After seeing the Temple, you can head back to the train station. On the first floor of the station, you will be welcomed by a slightly familiar robot cat. This giant copper made Doraemon postbox is considered one of the icons of Takaoka City, which happens to be the birthplace of the manga artist that brought Doraemon to life. Letters and postcards dropped in this postbox is stamped with a commemorative Doraemon postmark. 




Why not send yourself and your friends a postcard to commemorate your visit to Doraemon’s birth town?

Handcraft Experience at Nousaku Factory, Takaoka City  

From Takaoka Station, collect your luggage before heading to Nousaku Factory for a little cultural immersion. Takaoka City is historically known as a center of metal casting, and this industry still thrives in the city today. 

Take a look at their cute Doraemon collections! Here, you can also experience making your very own tin item by joining a workshop at the Nousaku Lab. 


Kanazawa Station, Tsuzumi Gate 

After visiting Nousaku Factory, it’s time to say goodbye to the city. Catch the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Shin Takaoka station toward Kanazawa City. Shinkansen is included in the pass so you do not need to worry about the fee.


The Tsuzumi Gate, designed to symbolize the drums played in Noh Theater, welcomes you at the station here. It is said to be a symbol of Kanazawa and famous for being a combination of traditional wooden design and contemporary style.


Kagaya  

At Kagaya, try the Ozen set with dishes made by seasonal ingredients unique to the local area. It is served with a tray consisting of sushi, miso soup and some other traditional dishes.

Hotel Wing International Premium Kanazawa Ekimae

The Hotel Wing International Premium near Kanazawa Ekimae, a fairly new hotel with stylish design, is an accommodation option for you to consider here.

DAY 4

Kanazawa City 

Spend a leisurely day at Kanazawa for your fourth day. Kanazawa is an old castle town, well-known for its well-preserved Edo-era districts, art museums, magnificent garden and regional handicrafts. Here one can try both some modern experience while enjoy its beauty from the old days.

Kenrokuen Garden 

Take a community bus from your hotel to Kenrokuen Garden - classified as one of Japan's Three Great Garden -so I guess the 320 yen for entrance fee is a steal. The spacious grounds used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and feature a variety of flowering trees of seasonal natural beauty, including the snow-covered landscape with yukitzuri (snow hanging), a method of protecting the branches of the pine trees in the garden to prevent them from breaking due to heavy snow.

  




Kanazawa Castle, Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge 

Kanazawa Castle used to be seat of the Maeda Clan, a feudal domain ranking second only to the Tokugawa possessions in terms of size and wealth, from 1583 until the end of the Edo Period. In July 2020, restoration of Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge on the west side of Kanazawa Castle were completed. 

Gyokusen’an Rest House  

Located in the area of Kanazawa Castle Park, this is a rest house with view of Gyokusen’inmaru Garden. 


Sit down and have a cup of tea with wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets while enjoying the calm atmosphere of the place.


Omicho Market 

For lunch, take a ten-minute walk to reach Omicho Market, Kanazawa's well known fresh food market. This market  is known to offer local specialties such as snow crab and sweet shrimps during winter season, so make sure to try it! Similar to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, hundreds of stalls and restaurants selling fresh seafood are lined up so you can choose which ones you want to try! 



Higashi Chaya District 

The last spot in Kanazawa city is no doubt the Higashi Chaya District, said to be one of Kanazawa’s largest geisha districts. Walk around the old Chaya (tea house) in a Kimono and take a photoshoot for your Instagram. 



Also, this is one of some unique places in Japan where you can try soft cream with gold leaf.

 


*Travel tips: Leave your luggage at the hotel and get back for them at end of the day. Then, take Thunderbird limited express train heading to Awara Onsen in Fukui Prefecture.


Stay at Awara Onsen Matsuya Sensen 

Take a hotel shuttle bus from Awara Onsen Station to the ryokan. 


Awara Hot Spring Footbath 

After checking in, you can check out the FREE public foot bath nearby. Search for “Ashiyu” on Google Maps for this place, located just in front of Awara Yunomachi station. This decent facility offers several foot baths which are different shapes and temperatures. The Yataimura Yukemuri Yokocho right in front of the foot bath building seems to be a wonderful place to try some local dishes.




DAY 5

Fukui Station  

Hop on the shuttle bus and train on Hokuriku Line to go back to Fukui Station on the last day!


Did you know that Katsuyama City in Fukui Prefecture is Japan’s most prominent dinosaur fossil discovery site? In Fukui Station’s West Exit, you can see a 10-meter model of Fukuititan, one of the dinosaurs found in Fukui. A model of the other dinosaur fossils discovered in Fukui, Fukuiraptor and Fukuisaurus, can also be found in Fukui Station. 



Dinosaurs hide in various shape around the station. If you have some extra time, take a look finding them!

Yokokan Garden 

This is a Japanese stroll garden located near Fukui Station. The place is good for a walk or enjoy tea ceremony. 


Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum

If you want to learn more about the Fukui dinosaurs, you can head to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, located almost 1 hours away from Fukui Station. This museum, located in Katsuyama City, is recognized as one of the top dinosaur museums in the world and is the largest of its kind in Japan. 

Currently, they only let visitors who already reserved a ticket to get in, in order to prevent the spreading of COVID-19.




DINOCAFE 

The restaurant inside the museum offers western style food, including Dino’s characters desserts that will satisfy the visitors including kids, adults and Dino’s lovers. 



 About Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass 

If you’re planning to explore Japan’s Central region, this PASS is must-have item. Aside from being convenient, it can also help you save on transportation costs. Plan your trip well and make the most of it for 5 consecutive days. 


Get them before the trip through the official website here

Tips for the trip: 

-Stay at a hotel near the stations so you can leave your luggage there to go sightseeing. Otherwise, there are various coin lockers available at stations and popular tourist spot (ie, Shirakawago).

-Reserve your seats on bus to and from Shirakawa-go since the place is exceedingly popular with travelers and locals. Buses are always full.

-Once you arrive at Nagoya Station, you can exchange your Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass at the JR counter. Also, Tourist Pass holders will be able to go pass the automatic gate from March 2021. 

-Tourist Pass holders can reserve seats on Limited Express train but need to use the non-reserve seats on Shinkansen trains.

-Facilities in Japan follow strict measures to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 so that they can welcome everybody immediately when the borders open again.

 




Note: This post is in collaboration with Central Japan. Content and images are provided by them and do not reflect my own views.


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