Although Toyama is not particularly well known as a tourist site, this prefecture is home to various cultural assets and is the gateway to the Japanese Alps. Situated along the coast of the Japan Sea, Toyama is also bursting with cultural assets, artistic sites and exciting tourist activities. Get to know the prefecture with our pick of the 15 things to do in Toyama.
1. Explore the Uozo Aquarium
Though the Uozu Aquarium is by no means as large as the other well known aquariums of Japan, what it has by the bucket load is charm and a fascinating number of marine life unique to the waters of Toyama. Touch starfishes, watch colorful fish swim around or dive into one of the aquariums tanks for an up close and personal experience with the animals. Did we mention that this aquarium is the oldest one in the region?
- Name: Uozo Aquarium
- Price: ¥730 (Adult), ¥400 (Student), ¥100 (Child)
- Opening hour: 9:00 – 17:00
2. See the Takaoka Daibutsu
One of Japan’s Three Great Buddha Statues, the Daibutsu in Takaoka is, without a doubt, a symbol of this humble city. Originally built in 1745, the Great Buddha was made by the skilled craftsmen and artists of the Takaoka community. A pathway lies underneath the base of the Great Buddha, which makes for a fascinating walk and unforgettable trip.
- Name: Takaoka Daibutsu
- Address: 11-29 Otemachi, Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture
- Price: Free admission
- Opening hour: 6:00 – 18:00
3. Eat Hotaru Ika Sashimi
When it comes to gastronomic delights, there’s no arguing that Toyama is best known for its firefly squid. Called hotaru ika in Japanese, firefly squid’s flavor is best appreciated when eaten in sashimi form. Locals tend to much on this succulent squid with a soy dipping sauce, some Japanese mustard or with no sauce whatsoever.
4. See the 500 Buddhas of Chokeiji Temple
Go soul searching at the serene and other worldly Gohyaku-rakan. Called the 500 disciples of Buddha in English, the Gohyaku-rakan is located at the Chokeiji Temple and certainly exudes a calm and quiet reverence. Walk along the pathways around the Chokeiji Temple to see all 500 Buddha statues and snap a photo for an amazing keepsake to show off back home.
5. Watch the Annual Hanabi Display of Namerikawa
Once a year, locals and tourists alike head to the large grass parks of Namerikawa to watch a stunning display of habani, or, as it’s better known in English, Fireworks. Each annual show is seemingly better than the last with the crowd cooing their amazement with each burst of colorful light. Don’t miss out on the various street food stalls that get set up during the hanabi show either!
6. Taste Black Ramen
While ramen is a wide spread dish in Japan that has taken many shapes and forms, Toyama’s local specialty is the eye-catching black ramen. The distinct black broth of the ramen is due to one of the main ingredients, soy sauce. Mixing the dark soy with the chicken stock base gives the noodles a real hearty flavor and a salty punch. Black ramen noodles are also a bit thicker than the regular ramen noodle and the dish is topped with a soy marinated quail egg, some shredded leeks and generous slices of fatty pork.
7. Visit the Toyama Castle
A glorious example of Japanese architecture, the Toyama Castle is an incredible sight to behold all on its own. Portions of the castle’s once mighty stone wall and moat can still be seen despite the damage caused by fires and earthquakes throughout the years. A beautiful and serene garden encompasses the castle and makes the perfect venue for a late afternoon stroll.
- Name: Toyama Castle
- Address: 1 Honmaru Toyama-shi
- Price: ¥200
- Access: 10 minute walk from Toyama Station
- Holiday: December 28 – January 4
8. Participate in the Yotaka Festival
Let the theatrical festivities of the Yotaka Matsuri engulf you at the small but charming town of Tonami in Western Toyama. The lights and sounds of the festival are sure to dazzle you but the look out for the stars of the show, intricate Shinto shrine floats made out of colorful paper. Local festival goers, you and old, carry floats down the streets of town to pray for a bountiful harvest. The show is so spectacular that thousands of tourists flock to the town to see the festival.
9. See A Natural Light Show
Remember those firefly squid we mentioned earlier? Not only are they a delicious treat, but they put on one of the best light shows that Toyama Prefecture has to offer, too! You’ll need to head out some time before the fisherman sail out to fish, but sight of the bright blue lights that the squid emit in the dark ocean water is completely worth it. Some of the best views can be found at Namikawa’s shore.
10. Explore Gakoyama’s Folk Villages
Nestled in the southeastern region of Toyama, Gakoyama is an out of this world location that features traditional 250 year old gasshozukiri farmhouses. The key feature of the farmhouses lie in the meticulously thatched steep roof tops, which locals say look like the hands of many monks gathered together in prayer. While it’s possible to just pass through the village for a quick day trip, the best way to enjoy this historic folk village is to stay the night at one of the farmhouses. For an extra magnificent view, visit during winter.
- Access: Take a bus to Gakoyama
11. Take A Train Across the Kurobe Gorge
Trust us, when you’re crossing the Kurobe Gorge via rail, you’ll be very tempted to press your face against the window to take in more of Toyama’s incredible beauty. Sure to be enjoyable for every type of traveler, the train ride across the gorge takes roughly 80 minutes with several stop-over opportunities. During these stop-overs, explore the best of Toyama’s scenic views and relaxing onsens.
12. Attend the Owara Dance Festival
Heading to Toyama in September? Make your way to the quaint town of Yatsuo for the Owara Dance Festival. During this three day festival, the streets of Yatsuo come to live with hundreds of colorful lanterns while dancers and musicians take to the streets to perform the traditional owara style of dance. Insider tip? The festival is at its best after midnight. Dozens of food and souvenir stalls are also plentiful during the event.
13. Hike Up Mt. Tate
To say that the landscape of Mt. Tate is gorgeous would be a huge understatement. Also known as Tateyama, Mt. Tate stands alongside Mt. Haku and Mt. Fuji as one of the country’s holy mountains. The lush green vistas are permeated with random bursts of color thanks to the beautiful flowers that blossom on its grassy plains. At the top of the mountain, take a sip of osake and watch robe clad monks go about their chants.
14. See Craftsmanship at the Toyama Folkcraft Village
Nestled in the charming hills of Kurehayama Park is the Toyama Folkcraft Village. The boasts several museums just waiting to be explored and are dedicated to the arts and crafts of Toyama. See astounding ceramic work, view clay dolls, glasswork and event sample locally grown tea. You can also get to know about Toyama’s long and decorated pharmaceutical history at this village.
- Name: Toyama Folkcraft Village
- Price: ¥500 (Adult), ¥250 (Child)
- Access: Walk 5 minutes from the CiC Building Bus Stop
- Opening hour: 9:00 – 17:00
15. Wander Around the Zuiryuji Temple
One visit to the Zuiryuji Temple and we guarantee that the image of this breathtaking temple will remain with you forever. As one of Japan’s national treasures, the Zuiryuji Temple was built over 500 years ago during the Maeda Era and features a gorgeous wooden construction and a colossal lead roof. Make a wish at the temple or simply enjoy the relaxing atmosphere that it has to offer.
From lively festivals to relaxin and serene excursions, Toyama prefecture certainly shouldn’t be underestimated. With a thriving local community and enjoyable festival to attend, Toyama has just as much personality, culture and heritage to offer as its neighboring prefectures and tourist powerhouses. Make sure to stop by Toyama and explore everything it has to offer on your next trip to Japan.
Have a good trip and travel!