6D5N Itinerary in Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Kanazawa, Toyama, Gifu and Fukui Part I

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    My trip to Central Japan has been nothing but amazing!! Throughout the 6D5N trip, I’ve covered 4 prefectures (Gifu, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui) and passed by 3 prefectures (Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka) by using the Takayama-Hokuriku JR Pass. For only 14,260 yen, this pass is GREAT value for money because the transport between Shirakawa-go, Toyama and Kanazawa alone is more than 10,000 yen.

    It is also perfect for those who wish to visit snow covered Shirakawa-go during winter. I have to say that it is truly magical. This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its gassho-zukuri, a unique architecture style special for the Hida district of Japan. Do you know that just one hour away from Shirakawa-go, there are another two gassho villages called Ainokura and Suganuma?

    Takayama-Hokuriku JR Pass (THJR)

    How much is it?

    Purchasing from a travel agent outside Japan
    Adult: 14,260Yen (Child: 7,130Yen)

    Purchasing at a station etc. in Japan/ Purchasing via online
    Adult: 15,280Yen (Child: 7,640Yen)

    Valid for 5 consecutive days

    What is included in the pass?

    • Non-reserved seats of ordinary cars of JR limited express, express, rapid, and ordinary trains between Nagoya - Toyama station (via Tokaido/Takayama lines), between Kanazawa - Kyoto station - stations within Osaka City area (via Hokuriku/Kosei/Tokaido lines), between stations within Osaka City area - Kansai-airport station (via Hanwa/Kansai-airport lines)
    • Non-reserved seats of ordinary cars of the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama - Kanazawa station
    • Nohi Bus/Toyama Chitetsu Bus/Hokutetsu Bus: Shirakawa-go/Kanazawa line and Takayama/Toyama line between Takayama Nohi Bus Center – Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa (with some exceptions; reservations required)
    • Kaetsuno Bus: World Heritage Bus between Shirakawa-go - Shin-Takaoka station

    This pass does not allow you to travel on the Tokaido Shinkansen between Kyoto - Shin-Osaka station. Please be aware that to travel on the Tokaido Shinkansen, you will need to pay the required basic fare and any additional fees separately. Be aware that additional fees will also be required for reserved seats of the Hokuriku Shinkansen between Toyama - Kanazawa station.

    Reserved seats for ordinary trains of JR  conventional lines are usable up to 4 times (excluding Kansai Int Airport return (Haruka Train), non- reserved seats are included in the pass).

    In other words, it includes all the inter-city transport marked in the map below. 
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    My Route (Fly in and out via Kansai Int Airport)

    Kansai Int Airport -> Fukui -> Kanazawa -> Toyama -> Shirakawa-go -> Takayama ->  Gero -> Nagoya ->  Shin Osaka (Nagoya to Shin Osaka not included in the pass) ->  Kansai Int Airport

    Where can I buy it?


    You can buy it online via KLOOK. 5-Day JR Takayama-Hokuriku Pass and 6-Day Japan 4G SIM Card for only RM518! Once you reach Kansai International Airport, you can head to the JR office to exchange for the pass and to reserve seats for certain high demand trains. You should also get your Haruka train ticket here.

    For more information, please refer to http://touristpass.jp/en/takayama_hokuriku/

    How to Make Shirakawa-go Bus Reservation?


    This two bus routes are included in the THJR Pass. However, the buses are often in high demand so it is best to call the numbers above in advance to secure your seats. You need to have your THJR Pass number on hand.

    DAY 1

    The eagerly-anticipated new Hello Kitty Haruka train is finally in operation! We were so lucky to ride the new Haruka Express (for free, included in THJR pass) which is covered in Hello Kitty-themed illustrations and exciting features.
    The Hello Kitty Haruka operates as a normal Haruka Express (Kansai Airport Transfer), however, only certain trains of this railway will be “Hello Kitty HARUKA”. Schedules vary by day, and there are also dates when Hello Kitty HARUKA does not work at all. Check on this website, updated daily, the the next day schedule for Hello Kitty Haruka.
    From Shin Osaka station, we took the Thunderbird Express Train to Fukui Station. Just outside the Fukui station are two landscaped areas with animatronic dinosaurs that move a bit and roar, as well as some footprints. Detailed explanations are in both Japanese and English.
    From Fukui Station, it was another 40 minutes of car ride to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. Fukui Prefecture is home to Japan’s most prominent dinosaur fossil discovery site, located in Katsuyama City, where the museum is.
    We enjoyed a quick lunch in Dino, the only cafe inside the museum. I had the sauce katsu don and Fukui’s specialty – oroshi soba. The food was simple but good. The museum is also a family friendly attraction, as the visitors are mostly families with young kids.
    Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum is the largest dinosaur museum in Japan and is recognized as one of the top three dinosaur museums in the world. Katsuyama-city is also famous as the site of the largest number of dinosaur fossil digs in Japan. The museum, which opened in 2000, has become a popular tourist destination in Fukui and draws over 900,000 people annually.

    The museum is shaped like a dinosaur’s egg and the escalator is designed by a world renowned architect Mr. Kisho Kurokawa. It actually resembles a dinosaur’s skeleton.
    The robotic moving Tyrannosaurus is a very popular photo spot here.
    This room has more than 40 real-size mounted dinosaur skeletons. Although they are many replicas, but some of them are real fossils. Apart from this room, there are more than 1000 exhibits in the museum, dioramas and also a CG theatre.
    Be sure to also enjoy the outdoor dinosaur museum where you can experience searching for fossils yourself by breaking up actual stones brought from local excavation sites. While in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the real dinosaur quarries. Tours leave from the museum (approximately a 20-minute bus ride); however, you need to apply for the two-hour tour in advance. Only for end April to early November.

    For more information and reservations, check the websites below:

    Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum
    Address: 51-11 Terao, Muroko, Katsuyama, Fukui
    Getting Here:
    From Fukui station, please take Echizen Tetsudo’s Katsuyama Eiheiji line. Be sure your train’s final destination is Katsuyama. About 1 hour train ride, please get off the train at the last stop Katsuyama station then take a community bus or a taxi. Bus takes about 15 minutes and tax takes about 10 minutes.
    Hours: 9am to 5pm, close on every second and fourth Wednesdays.
    Primary & Secondary school students 260 yen
    High school & college students 410 yen
    Adult 720 yen
    From Fukui Station, we took the train to Awara Onsen and checked into Oedo Onsen Monogatari Awara Onsen Awara.
    day 1
    Oedo Onsen Monogatari Awara Onsen Awara is located in Awara, a famous osen area and it takes about 10 minute by free shuttle service from JR Hokuriku Main Line Awaraonsen Station, near Tojinbo and Maruoka Castle. Guests may borrow hair dryers and Yukata are at no additional charge (please inquire at the front desk for details). Facilities include a game arcade, ping pong room, a communal bath, an open-air bath and a sauna.
    day 1-001
    The dinner buffet was amazing! They had a mocktail mixing station, fresh sushi and sashimi, tempura, seasonal crabs, teppanyaki grilled steak, grilled seafood, and many more!

    DAY 2
    I love Japanese style breakfast provided by ryokans too, best to fill the tummy after onsen.
    After breakfast, we headed to Yunomachi Plaza. This plaza offers a free foot bath for visitors, with five separate baths to soothe travelers’ weary feet.
    Can you believe that a free facility is so well maintained and clean? Only in Japan!

    Getting Here:
    5 minutes’ walk from Awara-Yunomachi Station on Echizen Railway
    Our next stop is Tojinbo, a one kilometer long stretch of rugged basalt cliffs along the Sea of Japan coast north of Fukui City. The rocky coastline has been carved out by the waves, leaving deep chasms and precipitous bluffs that tower up to 30 meters above the water below.

    Getting Here:
    By Echizen Railway and bus from Fukui Station
    Take the Echizen Railway from Fukui to Mikuniminato Station, the terminal station on the Mikuni Awara Line (50 minutes, 770 yen one way, 1-2 trains/hour). At Mikuniminato, take a bus to Tojinbo (5 minutes, 190 yen one way, hourly buses).

    By bus from Awara Onsen Station
    Hourly buses operate between Awara Onsen Station and Tojinbo (40 minutes, 750 yen one way or 1000 yen for a 2-day pass). Awara Onsen can be reached by local JR train from Fukui in 15 minutes and for 320 yen one way. Note about four of these buses per day continue to Eiheiji Temple. The one way trip between Tojinbo and Eiheiji takes 100 minutes and costs 1470 yen.
    If you can taking the public transport without a rental car, you can skip Tojinbo and headed straight to Kanazawa via train. To get around Kanazawa, you can purchase the one day pass for unlimited rides for one day on buses including the KANAZAWA LOOP BUS, the KENROKUEN SHUTTLE, and other buses in designated areas. Our first stop was Higashi Chaya District (東茶屋街, Higashi Chayagai). A chaya (lit. teahouse) is an exclusive type of restaurant where guests are entertained by geisha who perform song and dance during the Edo Period.
    Other buildings along the central street now house cafes and shops. One of the shops, Hakuichi, sells gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, and also the famous gold leaf ice cream.
    day 2
    Gold leaf tea, gold leaf coffee and gold leaf charms – these are just a small part of the gold leaf products that are available here.
    When in the city of gold leaf, one must have the famous gold leaf soft serve, which I have to admit it’s more for the gram. One full sheet of gold leaf boldly draped over the soft ice cream is the unique creation of HAKUICHI. At 891 yen each, it’s really made of gold!
    Kanazawa produces 99% of Japan’s gold leaf. Hakuza produces gold leaf used for the restoration of fine arts and national treasures of Japan. Hakuza Hikari Kura provides all kinds of gold-leaf souvenirs, but the most interesting thing there is the two-story model house made of white washed plaster and covered entirely with 24K gold platinum leaf. What a contrast to the old wooden shingle-sided houses that make up the rest of this street in the eastern pleasure district!
    Fumuroya is a café in the Higashi Chaya District that specializes in fu (dried, bread-like pieces of wheat gluten). It sells a range of Kaga-style fu products, including sudare-fu (thin, multi-layered), kuruma-bu (ring-shaped), Kaga nama-fu, etc.
    Takara-no-Fu, which just needs to have water added to make hana-fu (flower-shaped) soup or miso soup, is the most popular dishes here and it was so delicious. Even the hot fu dumplings served with kinako powder and brown sugar syrip was good!

    Higashi Chaya District
    Getting Here:
    The Higashi Chaya District can be accessed by the Right Loop of the Kanazawa Loop Bus in about 10 minutes from Kanazawa Station. Get off at Hashibacho (Koban-mae) bus stop (number RL5), from where the district can be reached in a five minute walk.
    For lunch, we headed to Omicho  Market, also known as “Kanazawa’s Kitchen”. Today, it is a busy and colorful network of covered streets lined by about 200 shops and stalls. While most shops specialize in the excellent local seafood and produce, you can also find flowers, clothing, kitchen tools and more on sale.
    If you were only able to eat one dish when you’re in Kanazawa, the kaisendon, or sashimi rice bowl, is what you should try. A hot bowl of rice topped with slices of raw fish sounds like the best of Kanazawa’s local cuisine! Kanazawa restaurants that serve kaisendon can be found anywhere in the city, especially in Omicho Market.

    Getting Here:
    Omicho Market is a 15-20 minute walk or a short bus ride from Kanazawa Station on the way to the city center. Get off at Musashigatsuji bus stop. It is served by most buses departing from the station’s east side, including the JR buses.
    Vary by individual shop; typically 9:00 to 17:30. Many shops are closed on Sundays, national holidays or Wednesdays, as well as during the New Year holidays.
    day 2-001
    The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (金沢21世紀美術館, Kanazawa Nijūichiseiki Bijutsukan) opened in 2004 in downtown Kanazawa, just a few steps from Kenrokuen. It exhibits works of acclaimed contemporary artists from Japan and all over the world, and is among Japan’s most popular art museums.

    Some of the most famous works (means long queue to take picture) are Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool”, a pool where people appear to be underwater (entry inside the pool requires paid admission); and James Turrell’s “Blue Planet Sky”, an exhibit exploring light as a medium which has counterpart exhibits around the world.

    Getting Here:
    Take a bus from Kanazawa Station (East Exit) to Hirosaka bus stop (10 minutes, 200 yen), from where it is a few steps to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Among the buses are also 1-3 JR buses per hour which are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

    Alternatively, Hirosaka bus stop is also served by the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus (stop number S5 and S9), the Kanazawa Loop Bus (stop numbers RL9 and LL8) and the Machi Bus in about 20 minutes from Kanazawa Station.

    The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is also within walking distance from Kenrokuen and Kanazawa Castle Park.
    Kenrokuen (兼六園) in Kanazawa is justifiably classified as one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens” alongside Mito’s Kairakuen and Okayama’s Korakuen. The spacious grounds used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and were constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries. Opened to the public in 1871, Kenrokuen features a variety of flowering trees which provide the garden with a different look for each season.
    One unique feature is many of the garden’s large pine trees feature traditional winter protections to prevent damage by snow. Of special note is the Karasaki Pine, one of the garden’s most prominent trees. Planted from seed, it now stands tall next to Kasumigaike Pond with some of its branches extending far over the pond’s surface.
    Getting Here:
    Kenrokuen is also a stop along the tourist oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus (stop numbers LL9 and RL8) and the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus (stop number S8). The one way ride from Kanazawa Station takes about 20 minutes and costs 200 yen (100 yen on weekends/holidays in the case of the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus).

    Alternatively, frequent Hokutetsu buses run between Kanazawa Station (East Exit bus stop number 3) and Kenrokuen (15 minutes, 200 yen one way). Get off at Kenrokuen-shita bus stop, which is a short walk from the castle park. Furthermore, there are 1-3 JR buses per hour from Kanazawa Station (East Exit bus stop number 4), which are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
    Just walking distance from Kenrokuen is Kanazawa Castle but we did not have time to visit.

    Getting Here:
    Kanazawa Castle Park is a large park in the center of Kanazawa and is accessible from many different sides. The most popular approach is through the Ishikawa-mon Gate, which is located only a few meters from the main entrance of Kenrokuen.

    Kenrokuen and the castle park are a stop along the tourist oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus (stop numbers LL9 and RL8) and the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus (stop number S8). The one way ride from Kanazawa Station takes about 20 minutes and costs 200 yen (100 yen on weekends/holidays in the case of the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus).

    Alternatively, frequent Hokutetsu buses run between Kanazawa Station (East Exit bus stop number 3) and Kenrokuen (15 minutes, 200 yen one way). Get off at Kenrokuen-shita bus stop, which is a short walk from the castle park. Furthermore, there are 1-3 JR buses per hour from Kanazawa Station (East Exit bus stop number 4), which are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
    That’s because we opted for a traditional tea ceremony experience at Gyokusen’an Rest House. It is located within the Kanazawa Castle Park.
    The view from the tatami room is amazing – the perfect setting in which to experience cha-dō (a tea ceremony). The fee is 720 yen, and served with fresh namagashi, a traditional Japanese sweets.
    day 21
    For dinner, we visited the famous Shogyotei, a nice restaurant located on the hillside of Utatsuyama. The restaurant specialises in Kaga cuisine and everything was so delicate and presented like an artpiece. Kaga Province and Noto Peninsula once flourished as the harbor for food and trade coming in from the Sea of Japan. These two areas are now a part of Ishikawa Prefecture, a land blessed with bountiful seas and mountains, as well as the right environment for growing food, resulting in easy access to fresh and seasonal ingredients.

    Address: 1 Chome-38-30 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0831, Japan
    Hours: 11:30am–2:30pm, 5–10pm daily
    Phone: +81 76-252-2271
    We headed back to Kanazawa Station to get some omiyage, especaily gold leaf products. Do note that most of the shops are closed at 8 to 830pm.
    Don’t miss out the light-up at Kanazawa Station. Tsuzumi-Mon (Drum Gate) and Motenashi Dome (Welcome Dome) are two impressive symbols of the new Kanazawa Station – great for photos too.
    The Square Hotel Kanazawa is my favourite hotel this trip. The room is modern and spacious. It is located within 100 m of Omicho Market and 200 m of Meitetsu M’za.
    The onsen on the top floor is fabulous too. Even the hotel’s restaurant look so insta-worthy!!
    They provide ala-carte breakfast and they serve really good coffee here.

    For part II of our trip please refer to here.

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