Japan City Guides: Toyama 富山市
Toyama is the capital of Toyama prefecture, in central Honshu on the Japan Sea coast. Toyama is the center of Japan's pharmaceutical industry and also has a strong decorative glassware tradition. Toyama may be less well known for tourism than the nearby "Little Kyoto" that is Kanazawa further west, but spacious, pleasantly laid out Toyama is a gateway to skiing, snowboarding and hiking in the Japan Alps, and has numerous points of scenic, cultural and artistic interest that make it a memorable tourist destination - easily reached by free shuttle buses that criss-cross the city.
Toyama Castle is set in big, broad Toyama Johshi Park in the center of the city. The castle was first built in the Edo period and was well restored after World War II. Toyama Castle contains the Museum of Local History. The Sato Memorial Art Museum is also in Toyama Johshi Park and 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.
The Matsukawa River flows along the northern edge of Toyama Johshi Park, and a Matsukawa River Cruise along it is particularly pleasant in the spring cherry blossom-viewing season. As well as cherry blossom trees, the river banks are lined with statues made by local artists.
Fugan Canal Kansui Park is a water-centered recreational park about 500 m north-west of Toyama Station, with a cafe and restaurant, and Tenmonkyo Bridge with its two observatory towers. From Fugan Canal Kansui Park, visitors can take a cruise north up the canal about 2 km to the Nakajima Lock, an early 20th century lock gate modeled on those on the Panama Canal and then about another 3 km to the port town of Iwase on Toyama Bay.
The Toyama Art Creation Center includes the Toyama City Performing Arts Theater and is located between Toyama Station and Fugan Canal Kansui Park.
The Museum of Modern Art Toyama and the adjacent Toyama Science Museum are both in Jonan Park, about 1.3 km south of Toyama-johshi Park. Toyama Prefectural Suiboku Museum is dedicated to sumi ink paintings.
Toyama Folkcraft Village is set in the pleasant wooded hills of Kurehayama Park just west of the city center and contains several museums dedicated to the area's arts and crafts: including ceramics, tea, clay dolls, glass, medicines,local history and art. Toyama Folkcraft Village is accessible by bus from outside the CiC Building across from Toyama Station (ask the tourist office for details).
Chokeji Temple is nearby the Toyama Folkcraft Village, and is known for its 500 statues of rakan - followers of the Buddha - arranged on the hill behind the main temple building.
Toyama's pharmaceutical history and current activity is covered in several attractions throughout the city.
Toyama Medicine Museum in the above mentioned Toyama Folkcraft Village displays over 3,000 items related to the production of medicines in the area dating back over 300 years. The Kanaoka Residence is an Edo Period house and the museum of a former pharmaceutical business in the city. And Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten is an historic shop in the center of Toyama selling traditional Japanese and Chinese herbal medicines.
Toyama is famous for its glassware, and there are several museums showcasing it. The Toyama Glass Art Museum, 8 minutes walk south-east of Toyama Castle, was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and opened in 2015. This striking building with a superb interior to match includes the municipal library. The Toyama Glass Studio is accessible from JR Toyama Station on a bus bound for Toyama Daigaku Fuzoku Byoin; alight at the "Family Mart Mae" bus stop and it is a 5 minute walk from there..
North of Toyama Station is Toyama's historic port area in Toyama Bay. Visit the Iwase Canal Hall shopping center or the 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, 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.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route 立山黒部アルペンルート
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, heading south-east down to neighboring Nagano prefecture. The mountain routes through Chubu Sangaku National Park and its awe-inspiring Tateyama Mountain Range 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 Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, and covers a distance of about 90 km (56 miles).
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. Murodo (室堂) at 2450m above sea level is the highest point along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.
From Murodo there are several long-distance hiking routes including one south to Kamikochi.
The approximately 1km-long Yuki-no- Otani Snow Wall Walk can be visited from mid-April to June from Murodo Station with snow walls reaching heights of up to 20m.
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.
Toyama has a number of interesting festivals including the quirky All Japan Chindon Contest (Zen Nihon Chindon Concours) for traditional street musicians (listen to some chindon sounds), 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.
The Centram street car does a loop of the central area of Toyama City including Toyama Castle and Citizens' Plaza, which stages the twice monthly Etchu Oteichiba Market on the 1st and 4th Sunday of the month.
The following is a selection of the hotels and other accommodation facilities available in Toyama City.Onyado Nono Toyama is a very stylish and comfortable business hotel a few minutes walk south of Toyama Castle Park, and is ideally located with stores, restaurants, bars and other facilities all around. The rooms are air-conditioned and have satellite TV and a kettle - and with comfortable tatami mat flooring. Japanese-style public bath for guests' enjoyment, and coin launderette. The on-site restaurant provides free raamen in the evening! Toyama Chitetsu Hotel is a new, clean, modern business hotel right next to Toyama Station, with department stores and other facilities right there. Spacious comfortable rooms, great breakfast buffet, and all the facilities you need for a refreshing stay - at reasonable rates.
The ANA Crowne Plaza Toyama has great views over Toyama Castle park, from its southern edge. especially enjoyable from the 19th floor bar. With numerous restaurants on the premises as well as a massage serice and front desk business services, the ANA Crowne Plaza is the city's most well equipped, and the spaciousness and comfort of the rooms is unmatchable. Surprisingly reasonable nightly rates for what you get.
Access - Getting to Toyama
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.
To Tokyo take the Hokuriku shinkansen (approx 2 hours 10 mins) by Kagayaki train or 2 hours, 40 minutes by Hakutaka train. From Toyama to Tokyo the Kagayaki stops at Nagano, Omiya and Ueno. The slower Hakutaka service stops at Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen, Itoigawa, Jyoetsu-Myoko, Nagano, Omiya and Ueno.
To Nagoya take the Hida service via Takayama (3 hours, 35 minutes) on the JR Takayama Main Line or the Shirasagi service via Maibara on the JR Hokuriku Main Line (3 hours, 35 minutes). Alternatively take the Tokaido shinkansen from Nagoya changing at Maibara to the express train for for Kanazawa and then on to Toyama.
Toyama now connects by Hokuriku Shinkansen to Kanazawa in about 20 minutes or less depending on which train you travel. The Tsurugi is an all-stop service between Toyama and Kanazawa with Shin-Takaoka Station for Takaoka city just 8 minutes from Toyama Station. To reach Takaoka Station from Shin-Takaoka Station change to the Johana Line (3 minutes). Alternatively Takaoka Station is 17 minutes on an Ainokaze Toyama Railway train from Toyama Station.
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.
Book highway buses to Narita International Airport from Kanazawa, Takaoka, Toyama, via Ikebukuro and Osaki Bus Station Terminal (night). Book highway buses to the Hokuriku area from Narita Airport Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to Toyama and Kanazawa.