Gaya Travel team members continues travelling using bullet trains and buses around the Hokuriku-Shinetsu region, located on the northwestern part of Japan’s Honshu island. The entire experience introduces the writer to the legendary Japanese efficiency, excellent customer service and obsession with hygiene and cleanliness that all of us should emulate. The region is also teeming with pristine nature, inspiring landscapes and quintessential Japanese culture.
1. Kurobe Gorge Railway
Recommended for: Admiring spectacular natural scenery
Famous for its magnificent view, Kurobe is the name of the town in Toyama prefecture where the popular V-shaped gorge is located. Above the gorge, there are 21 bridges in total, with the Kunoragi bridge being the highest at 60 metres from ground. Originally, this Torokko was meant to carry workers to the hydropower plant.
The power generated from the plant is not only for local use but also distributed to Osaka and several other prefectures. Kanetsuri onsen (hot spring) is located just next to the Kurobe river, which requires walking a few minutes after getting off the Torokko at Kanetsuri station
Should traveller wish to experience hot spring, bring along towel and be prepare to submerge in the buff!
Price : ¥ 2,420 yen for round trip from Unazuki to Kanetsuri station | Browse: www.kurotetu.co.jp
2. Gokayama Ainokura Gasshozukuri Village
Recommended for: Experiencing Japanese heritage
The historic village of Gokayama remains unchanged since the Edo period and is now one of Japan’s national treasures, listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in December 1995. The design of the houses is called Gassho-zukuri, adopting the style based on the traditional farmhouse with wooden beams and steep thatched triangular roof made of straw and reed to allow snow to slide off easily.
Travellers can also stay and witness the Koriko performance, treasured as the oldest form of folklore in Japan.
Opening hours : 0900 to 1700 hours
Website (kindly refer here for room rates)
1. Sakoda Gold and Silver Leaf Museum
Recommended for: Cultural art
Kanazawa is located in Ishikawa prefecture. Its climate, humidity and excellent water encourages gold leaf production. A gold leaf is made from 24 karat gold mixed with 5% silver. The traditional techniques of making and handling the gold leaf is still preserved until today.
In Sakoda Gold and Silver Leaf Museum, traveller can experience making chopstick art using the gold leaf. Handling the gold leaf requires extra care because it is so light and easily damaged. Sweets, lotion and cosmetics are some of the products that use the gold leaf as one of their ingredients.
Opening hours : 0900 to 1800 hours
2. Tea ceremony experience at Gyokusen An
Recommended for: Participating in a Japanese tea ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony (chado) began during the Edo period when only the samurai warriors and nobles partook in it to indicate stature. Generally, the tea ceremony comes with matcha (powdered green tea), a bamboo whisk and Japanese confections.
The tea ceremony demonstrates grace and refined etiquette through the preparation and presentation of the green tea. Gyokusen An is one place to experience the tea ceremony, located in a private garden close to Kenroku-en Garden, considered as one of the best gardens in Japan.
Price : Tea ceremony ¥ 1,000
Opening hours: 0900 to 1600 hours
3. Kenroku-en Garden
Recommended for: Resting and admiring the aesthetics of the Japanese garden
This garden is a must visit if you happen to be in Ishikawa prefecture. It is one of the best three gardens in Japan. I noticed that there are many photos and postcards that capture the scenery of this garden. Back during the Edo period, this garden was mainly for the feudal lord since it is located just outside the Kanazawa Castle, but these days it is open to the public.
The fountain here is also the first one made in Japan using natural physics rather than machines to pump water. The garden features elements in Japanese culture such as rocks, bridge, water fall, pond and stone lantern. Every element in the garden is in harmony with each other. Another feature in the garden is the majestic pine tree with branches tied together to protect it from heavy snow.
Entrance fee: ¥ 310.
Opening hours: 0800 to 1700 hours.
4. Kaga Fruit Land
Recommended for: Experiencing farming activity
During autumn season (Oct till Dec), apple picking is among the famous activities in Japan. In Kaga Fruit Land, besides apples, it also grows four other kinds of fruit that travellers can pick: blueberry, grapes, strawberries and cherries. Other fruits like papaya and oranges are also cultivated.
There are also fresh juices, wine and various fruit products made available at the Kaga Fruit Land store. Travellers should take note that the availability of the fruits for picking depends on their harvesting seasons. I noticed that the Fuji apples picked here were fresher and juicier than the ones I bought at home. Besides farming, the 80 hectares of land where Kaga Fruit Land sits on also offers an 18-hole golf course, including a barbeque area that can accommodate up to 300 persons.
Price : ¥ 1, 200 yen for apple picking (the charge depends on the type of fruits or packages)
Opening hours: 0800 to 1600 hours
1. Tajinbo cliff
Recommended for: Breathtaking scenery of the edge of the cliffs
This unique geographical rock formation called Tajinbo cliffs is located near Oshima, the Island of the Gods. The name of this cliff is derived from a legendary and tragic death of a corrupt Buddhist monk.
The story can be found written on the board along the way to the cliffs. The monk was thrown off the cliffs by the area’s inhabitants of that time due to his immoral behaviour. Presently, this place offers an unforgettable view of sunset. Besides enjoying the scenery, visitors can enjoy riding on a cruise along the coast and take remarkable pictures of the cliffs from the water.
Free entrance at any time.
2. Eihei-ji Temple
Recommended for: Understanding Japanese spirituality
Founded in 1244, Eihei-ji temple has been serving as monastery for Zen Buddhism monks for nearly 770 years. The monks here are different than the other Buddhist monks because they are permitted to marry, have children and hold jobs outside the monastery. Despite having access to worldly conveniences, they chose to become monks to maintain their spiritual and mental strength. In order to become monks, they need to pass several tests before they can be ordained. It requires an intensive training for a year or two at the temple.
During the training, they could only speak little, besides reading, sleeping and meditating on the same tatami mat for several hours every day. Such rigorous regime develops patience and calmness. Those who intend to improve their spirituality in a less arduous fashion may opt for the temple’s meditation programme that includes at least one-night stay at the monastery.
Entrance fee : ¥500 yen
Opening hours: 0400 to 1700 hours
3. Dinosaur Museum
Recommended for: Checking out jaw-dropping dinosaurs in the largest Dinosaur Museum in Japan
Another attraction in Fukui prefecture is the Dinosaur Museum. It is the third largest dinosaur museum in the world that received almost 720,000 visitors last year. Housed in a building with amazing architectural design, this museum spans four floors that exhibit over 40 dinosaur skeletons, all comes with excellent explanation in Japanese and English.
The museum teaches travellers how to clearly differentiate between an original skeleton and an artificial one. Fukui is the befitting place for this huge museum because dinosaur (raptor and saurus) skeletons were found within this prefecture. There are also dramatic hologram and animatronic presentations of the dinosaurs that excite adults and children alike. The museum also houses a movie theatre, restaurant and souvenir shop.
Entrance fee: ¥ 770 yen
Opening hours: 0900 to 1700 hours
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Hokuriku-Shinetsu District Transport Bureau and Relation Japan Inc. for inviting us to join this amazing trip.
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 11.2. Read the magazine for free HERE.