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 JR local and limited express trains, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, and buses along the route within the Central Region.
Some highlight spots in the area can be found at https://bit.ly/3sP34Rg
Here is a sample itinerary that can help you get the most value out of your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass.
Fukui Station 福井駅
After arriving at Kansai International Airport, we hop on the Haruka Limited Express train to go to Fukui Station, starting our trip.
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.
Amida Soba Yubuan あみだそば
For lunch, we visited local food at a restaurant that offers the famous local menu, Amida Soba. The soba is made using local ingredients and taste different from the soba offered in other areas.
Dinosaur Museum, Fukui 福井県立恐竜博物館
If you want to learn more about the Fukui dinosaurs, you can head to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, located almost 1 hour 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.
They have 10 real skeletons so come and find which one.
Currently, they only let visitors who already reserved a ticket to get in, in order to prevent the spreading of COVID-19.
Kanazawa Station, Tsuzumi Gate 金沢市
The second day is a day for Kanazawa when we can leisurely enjoy the whole city. 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 some modern experience while enjoy its beauty from the old days.
Once arrived at the station, don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the huge Tsuzumi Gate, designed to symbolize the drums played in Noh Theater, welcoming us at the station here. It is said to be an unofficial symbol of Kanazawa and famous for being a combination of traditional wooden design and contemporary style.
All spots in Kanazawa city can be reach by local bus or on foot.
Omicho Market 近江町市場
For lunch, we rode a bus to Omicho Market, one of Kanazawa’s famous food markets. We heard that this market offers local specialties such as snow crab and sweet shrimps during winter season, so we just had 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!
Kenrokuen Garden 兼六園
We exited the Omicho Market for the Kenrokuen Garden. This garden is classified as one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens”, so I guess the 320 yen feels a little cheap. 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 yukizuri (snow hanging), a method of protecting the branches of the pine trees in the garden to prevent them from breaking due to heavy snow.
Ishiura Shrine （石浦神社)
Located right nearby this spot is the Ishiura Shrine, the oldest shrine in Kanazawa. The place is famous to locals of for having a cute character called “Kima-chan”, a white dog.
The god appears on many places, from the entrance with row of red torii to the small amulets (omamori) and goshuin that people can collect.
Higashi Chaya District ひがし茶屋街
Our next spot in Kanazawa city is 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 SNS. Also, this is one of some unique places in Japan where you can try soft cream with gold leaf.
At Kagaya, a restaurant just nearby Kanazawa station, we had Ozen set with dishes made by seasonal ingredients unique to the local area. A tray with sushi, miso soup and some other traditional dishes were served.
On the next day, we took Hokuriku Shinkansen to Takaoka City (Shin Takaoka station then local bus to Takaoka). Luggage are left at Takaoka station.
Do you want to take a ride with your childhood friends? In Takaoka city, there is one tram car designed with full of characters from Doraemon with a blue theme. You can find it at the Manyosen platform.Even Doraemon wears mask!
Zuiryuji Temple 瑞龍寺
From the Great Buddha, hop on a bus and visit another cultural treasure of Takaoka, the Zuiryuji. 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, main 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.
Handcraft Experience at Nousaku Factory, Takaoka City 能作本社で手芸体験、高岡市
We then went 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 of their cute Doraemon collections!
Afterwards, we tried making our very own tin item by joining a workshop at the Nousaku Lab.
Doraemon Postbox ドラえもん郵便ボックス / Takaoka Station
After the workshop at Nousaku Factory, with Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, we took the World Heritage bus heading back to Takaoka Station to go to our next destination. On the first floor of the station, we were welcomed by a slightly familiar 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. Located on the first floor of the Takaoka Station building, 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?
And, that’s the end of our day at Takaoka City. There is still one place that we wanted to visit but not able to, the Fujiko・F・Fujio Hometown Art Gallery. Maybe for the next trip?
Move to Toyama City We gathered back our luggage from the station and took another Shinkansen to move on with our next city, Toyama City.
Once arrived, we went to the hotel to put our luggage there.
Toyama City Public Library and Glass Art Museum富山きらり
Took local tram car again to visit the most interesting building in Toyama, the Public Library and Glass Art Museum or Toyama Kirari as how locals called. This building is actually a library with permanent and temporary exhibitions offering by the glass museum. One other highlight is its unique interior with spiral-shaped stairwell style design, continuing from second floor to sixth floor.
Fugan Canal Kansui Park 富岩運河環水公園
On our way back to the hotel, we visited the Funal Canal Kansui Park, a waterside park surrounding a canal just a 9-minute walk from the North Gate of JR Toyama Station. This park can be enjoyed in every season. We went to see the evening illumination of the Fugan Canal Kansui Park and Tenmon-kyo Bridge.
Toyama Sushi for dinner
Once in Toyama, no one can say no to a sushi meal! Fresh seafood from Toyama Bay can be found served everywhere. We decided to eat at one small conveyor belt sushi restaurant inside Toyama station.
One of the must-try dishes is the white shrimp (Shiro-ebi). They are sweeter and much smaller than the normal one. I had a piece of white shrimp nigiri and white shrimp tempura.
From Toyama, we use Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass and took the bus direct 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 Chitetsu Ticket Center right next to Toyama Station.
A must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, 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 20-minute walk up the mountain will lead you to an observation deck overlooking the whole area. This is the place where many famous Instagramer got their breathtaking photo of the village.
*Note: You can put your luggage at the coin lockers or luggage room near Shirakawago Bus Terminal.
Have lunch at Irori, the restaurant right at the entrance of the village. They have the best Irori set with Hida Beef grilling with Hoba Miso. The set also comes with Grilled Yam topped with a raw egg.
Takayama Historical District
In the afternoon, we took Nohi bus towards Takayama. After storing our luggage inside the coin locker, we walked to Takayama Old town (Takayama Historical District). Located near the Miyagawa River, the old town of preserved and restored buildings remained 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.
For those who wanted to have a unique experience, come visit this small theater. They gather local performers and create outstanding traditional Japanese performance with taiko drum, Shinobue, and shamisen with Japanese dance, lion dance, and sword dance. Guests can also participate in some parts of the show!
*Note: While in Takayama, stay at a hotel near the station is advised. There are some very nice hotels with onsen facilities and hide beef beef dinner available. Also, luggage can be stored at coin lockers available both at Takayama Station or Nohi Bus Center nearby.
Miyagawa market (Morning market) 朝市
This is the last day and we decided to wake up early to visit the Miyagawa market – one of the three majors morning markets in Japan, selling everything from flowers to pickles to fresh produce. It takes place beside Miyagawa River in the old town. On the river side, there are around 50 open-air stalls stretching about 350 metres, from Kaji bridge to Yayoi bridge – a scenic spot for some pictures.
Hida Furukawa 飛騨古川
After enjoying the market, we took another train to Hida Furukawa station. The reason we wanted to go there before lunch is to catch the scene appeared in “Your name”. I attached here the timetable for trains coming during the day so if you want to take the same photo, please note that the timetable may change after March.
We took a walk and had lunch here before moving back again to Osaka.
From “Your Name” movie, at 47m28s
Real life at Hida Furukawa station
This timetable is subject to change so please check again before you go.
I took the Hokuriku Railroad Express Bus back to Kanazawa via Takayama to head to Osaka. In Kanazawa, we stop for a dessert at Fumuroya Café, a speciaty café serving local desserts with made of namafu (rice cake-like pieces of wheat gluten)
Then, we took the Thunderbird Limited Express heading back to Osaka for a night and back to Malaysia on the next day.
*This photo was taken from my previous trip, the automatic ticket gate can be used starting from March 2021 and the design of the ticket may change.
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.
For more details about the Pass please check this link:
Tips for the trip:
-Stay at a hotel near the stations so you can leave your luggage there to go sightseeing. Or else, there are various coin lockers available at stations and popular tourist spot (ie, Shirakawago).
-Reserve your seats on bus to and from Shirakawago since the place is exceedingly popular with travelers and locals. Buses are always full.
-Once arrived at Kansai Airport, 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 for max 4 times but need to use the non-reserve seats on Shinkansen trains.