Japan City Guides: Toyama
- Situated on the Japan Sea Coast
- Prefectural capital of Toyama Prefecture
- Population: 330,000
- Largely industrial and commercial city
- Near Kanazawa and the Japan Alps
- Easy to navigate on free shuttle buses
- City making eforts to attract more visitors
Within easy reach by train from Kanazawa and a pleasant gateway to the skiing, snowboarding and summer hiking in the Japan Alps, Toyama is making a strong effort to redefine itself as more than just a center of the pharmaceutical industry.
Toyama Castle (Tel: 076 432 9031), first built in the Edo period and set in a pleasant park, has been well restored after World War II and contains the Museum of Local History. The park also has another museum - the Sato Memorial Museum, which exhibits ceramics used in the tea ceremony and other antiques. The Toyama International Conference Center ( Tel: 076 493 4455) is just five minutes' walk south of the castle.
Toyama's modern station and the moat of Toyama Castle (right)
It's possible to enjoy a boat trip (Tel: 076 425 8440) on the nearby Matsukawa River, which is particularly pleasant in the spring cherry blossom-viewing season. The river banks are lined with statues made by local artists.
Toyama's pre-eminence as a center of pharmaceutical production has a long history. The Toyama Medicine Museum in the Toyama Folkcraft Village displays over 3,000 items related to the production of medicines in the area dating back over 300 years. The Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten (Tel: 076 425 1871) in the center of town is an historic shop selling traditional Japanese and Chinese herbal medicines. The Kanaoka Residence (Tel: 076 433 1684) is an Edo Period house and museum of a former pharmaceutical business in the city.
The Toyama Folkcraft Village (Tel: 076 433 8270) is accessible on the free Toyama Museum bus from outside the CiC Building across from the station (ask the tourist office to stamp your brochure). The Folkcraft Village, set in pleasant wooded hills just east of the city, contains several museums dedicated to the area's arts and crafts: including ceramics, tea, clay dolls, glass and medicines as well as museums of local history and art.
View of Toyama cherry trees
Nearby is Chokeji Temple (Tel: 076 441 5451), known for its 500 statues of rakan - followers of the Buddha - arranged on the hill behind the main temple building.
View over Toyama city from the Toyama Folkcraft Village and the restored Toyama Castle and moat
Another free Toyama Museum bus also leaving from outside the CiC Building does a loop of the central area including Toyama Castle and Citizens' Plaza, which stages the twice monthly Etchu Oteichiba Market on the 1st and 4th Sundays of the month. The Toyama Glass Art Gallery (076 443 2138) is in Citizens' Plaza.
Other museums and galleries in Toyama are the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Modern Art (076 421 7111); Toyama Prefectural Suiboku Museum (Tel: 076 431 3719) dedicated to sumi ink paintings and the Toyama Glass Studio (Tel: 076 436 2600).
Buildings at the Toyama Folkcraft Village
North of Toyama Station is Toyama's historic port area, Iwase Canal Hall shopping center and three, pleasant, white sand beaches nearby for swimming: Yaezuhama Beach, Iwasehama Beach and Hamakurosaki Beach. The area still retains some traditional buildings from the time Toyama was a major trading center on the Sea of Japan including the Mori Residence (Tel: 076 437 8960), various historic shipping agency houses on Omachi Street (Iwase Streetscape) and the more modern Toyama Port Lookout and Toyama Cycling Stadium used for keirin races. Take the Portram Light Rail train from the station to Iwasehama.
Nearer to the station is the new waterfront development of Fugan Canal Park with more shops and restaurants, Tenmon Bridge and two observatory towers, Nakajima Lock, an early 20th century lock gate and the Toyama City Performing Arts Theater (Tel: 076 445 5620).
Toyama is the main point of access for visitors traveling on to the volcanic mountains and hot-springs (onsen) of Tateyama, Shinano-omachi, Kurobe and Unazuki. The mountain routes are only accessible in the summer months, usually May-November. The journey via various means of transport between Toyama and Shinano-omachi is known as the Alpine Route.
View of Toyama Castle Grounds
Toyama Castle & Moat
From Toyama Station take the charming Toyama Tateyama Line train to Tateyama, then cable car and bus to Murodo with excellent views at an altitude of over 2400m. From Murodo there are several long-distance hiking routes including one south to Kamikochi.
Heading north, Kurobe Gorge is Japan's deepest gorge and can be reached from Kurobe town on the coast and Unazuki Onsen by narrow gauge railway (torokko). There is a trolley bus and then a bus from Kurobe Lake created by the massive Kurobe Dam via Ogisawa down to Omachi and then from there a train to Matsumoto on the Oito Line.
Chokeji Temple in Toyama and its statues of the 500 arhats
Toyama has a number of interesting festivals including the quirky All Japan Chindon contest for traditional street musicians held in Toyama Castle Park in April and the Toyama Festival at the same venue in August.
Perhaps the most well-known is Sukiyaki Meets the World, a massive event that happens in Nanto City in western Toyama, featuring "alternative" acts from Japan and all over the world. A music feature of Toyama since 1991.
Toyama Tourist Information Center
Tel: 076 432 9751
Getting Around Toyama
Toyama is well served by the free Toyama Museum bus, the light rail to the old port area and a system of street cars (trams) and buses running throughout the city. It is also possible to hire bicycles at Toyama Station and other places around town.
Toyama manhole cover & Toyama Folkcraft Village
Toyama Airport (Tel: 0476 34 3957) is about 20 minutes south of town by bus or taxi to Toyama station. There are domestic flights to Tokyo, Fukuoka, Sapporo and international connections to Seoul, Dalian (China) and Vladivostok in Russia.
Served by the JR Hokuriku Line to Osaka (3 hours, 5 minutes) and Kyoto (2 hours 40 minutes). To Tokyo travel via Echigo-Yuzawa on the Joetsu shinkansen (approx 3 hours 12 mins) or Tokaido shinkansen from Tokyo changing at Maibara to the express train for Toyama (approx 4 hours 50 mins).
There are long distance bus services from outside Toyama Station to Tokyo (6 hours, 50 mins), Kyoto (5 hours), Nagoya (4 hours, 30 mins), Niigata (3 hours, 35 mins), Takayama (2 hours) and other destinations.