A Drive Around Toyama Prefecture to Experience Its History and Scenery

Published Date May 18 2020
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Sponsored by TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION

Different views of the Tateyama Mountain Range, a special symbol for the people of Toyama Prefecture. Take a look at a driving course recommended by locals!

Toyama Prefecture is located in the northern part of central Honshu. It can be accessed in about two hours from Tokyo on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and in about one hour by plane from Haneda Airport. Japan’s Northern Alps are home to mountains of around 3,000 meters in elevation, and running through them is the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, one of the world’s most famous mountain sightseeing routes. This, and the gassho-zukuri farmhouse villages of Gokayama, which are a registered World Heritage Site, are known both domestically and internationally as famous sightseeing destinations, attracting many tourists. What’s more, Toyama Prefecture’s coastal area features the Iwase and Uchikawa districts, which boast townscapes preserved from the days when these areas flourished thanks to the kitamaebune* merchant ships; Kaiwomaru Park, where the sailing ship Kaiwo Maru is moored; and the Amaharashi Kaigan Coast, a scenic spot with views of the Tateyama Mountain Range.

*kitamaebune: A generic term for the merchant ships that traveled between Osaka and Hokkaido through the Sea of ​​Japan from the mid-Edo period until the turn of the 20th century.

Toyama City’s main tourist attractions can be reached by public transport, but in order to go to a sightseeing spot a bit further out in the suburbs or visit spots efficiently, it’s most convenient to move around by car. In fact, Toyama Prefecture has the highest rate of road maintenance in Japan. Because the roads are so well maintained, the area offers an environment that’s easy to drive in. Even so, there will still be many people who don’t know where to visit or what route to take around the area. This led us to ask three people who are knowledgeable about the locality to create a route that, especially because it involves going around by car, will allow travelers to fully enjoy the charms of Toyama.

The people who created this tour:
Nakanishi (left): A university student from Gifu Prefecture and guesthouse operator.
Kojima (center): Originally from Toyama; moved away once but decided to return.
Aragaki (right): Native of Toyama Prefecture.

The driving route they created:

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First, start at a sightseeing spot inside the city

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Fugan Unga Kansui Koen Park is an urban park located in central Toyama City. The Tateyama Mountain Range, which can be seen from within the park, enhances the beauty of the park to create a stunning landscape. In spring, many residents of the city visit to see the blooming cherry blossoms along the river. The park is centered on a waterside space that makes use of Fugan Unga Canal’s docks. Walking paths and grassy slopes are laid out on both banks, creating a place of relaxation and an environment of intimacy with the water. Inside the park is also the Starbucks Coffee Kansui Park shop, which was selected as the winner of the top award for outstanding design among Starbucks branches worldwide. We recommend buying takeout coffee from the cafe and taking a walk around the park. While renting a car before visiting the park is fine, of course, we do recommend relaxing at the park first, then renting a car and moving on to the next destination.

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Fugan Canal Kansui Park

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Tour

Trip with a Rent a Car in Toyama pref: A tour to visit a fishing village and the world’s most beautiful Starbucks

Insta-worthy Culture Experience Beautiful Scenery
You can go to around Toyama prefecture. This tour is perfect for c...
9.5 hour(s)

Experience an old-fashioned atmosphere and the history of kitamaebune merchant ships

The first seaside sightseeing spot we recommend visiting is the Iwase district. Historically, Toyama Prefecture was a port of call for kitamaebune merchant ships, so there are still some places in the prefecture where the buildings and atmosphere of that time can be enjoyed. “The Iwase district has many old houses that were owned by people who got rich from kitamaebune trade. Definitely take some time to go see the old-fashioned townscapes,” says Kojima. There is also an observation deck nearby from which Toyama Bay, and even the Tateyama Mountain Range if the weather is clear, can be seen. There are also buildings that used to serve as residential homes and the like that have been converted into cafes, which are wonderful places to enjoy old-fashioned atmosphere and interior design.

Another place in Iwase we would like to recommend is Bakery Miya. This bakery is well-known throughout the prefecture, in particular for its delicious croissants. Those planning to stop by, however, should take note: the staff tends to take “siesta” breaks at irregular times during the day.

Another spot not to miss is Namazu Onsen. This hot spring is on the way to Imizu City, and it is a popular spot for locals to visit. The bath with brown, rust-colored water comes particularly highly recommended.

Enjoy the atmosphere of the port while crossing the Shinminato Bridge

After enjoying the old-fashioned townscape and view of Toyama Bay, cross the Shinminato Bridge and head to Kaiwomaru Park. The atmosphere is drastically different to that of the historical buildings of the Iwase district. It’s a wonderful feeling to drive a car above the water—it is a true pleasure of driving. In addition, the bridge is equipped with a snow-melting system that uses treated sewage water, allowing for safe driving even on days when it’s snowing.

While crossing the Shinminato Bridge, Kaiwomaru Park comes into view. The park is the mooring place for the sailing ship Kaiwo Maru, popularly known as the “Lady of the Sea.” We also recommend enjoying the night view of the ship together with the Shinminato Bridge, which is lit up after sunset. In addition, nearby is the Shinminato Kittokito Market, where a variety of different kinds of seafood caught in the Shinminato fishing harbor are sold; also in the vicinity is Kawanoeki Shinminato, which is full of cafes and souvenir shops. This is also a good spot to have a meal while gazing out at the ocean.

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Kairyu Marine Park

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Kaiomaru Park

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Last but not least is the Amaharasi Kaigan Coast, which has a superb view of the Tateyama Mountain Range and the sea

About a 30-minute drive from Kaiwomaru Park is the Amaharashi Kaigan Coast, a popular sightseeing spot for both locals and tourists alike, and it comes recommended by all three creators of this tour route. “The final spot on this tour, on clear days Amaharashi Kaigan Coast has a beautiful view of the Tateyama Mountain Range beyond Onnaiwa Rock. This is a place we definitely want everyone to see,” says one of the tour creators. The sunset over the mountains behind the rock is particularly lovely, so if time allows, it’s not a bad idea to consider visiting during the late afternoon and early evening. There is a roadside station nearby as well, so visitors can also choose to enjoy the coast during the day, then wait until sunset to appreciate a different view.

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Amaharashi Kaigan Beach

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Finally…

Most of the sightseeing spots introduced in this route include a view of the Tateyama Mountain Range. It seems that the mountains also come up in conversation among local residents fairly often. For example, in place of a greeting, someone might say, “The mountains look beautiful today,” or “It’s cloudy over the mountains today.” The Tateyama Mountain Range seems to be something special to the people living in Toyama Prefecture. We invite visitors to look out the windows at the scenery during their drive and feel what the locals do.

Please check TOYOTA Rent a Car

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