Discover Central Japan: Travel with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

Embark on a captivating journey through Central Japan’s heartland, a region renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural tapestry, and culinary excellence. Guided by the convenience of the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, this personal exploration delves into the serene beauty and vibrant life that define the Hokuriku and Kansai regions. From the tranquil elegance of traditional gardens to the bustling, flavor-filled seafood markets, each step of this journey is a testament to the harmonious blend of history and natural beauty that Central Japan offers.

This travelogue is crafted to share the enchanting highlights and invaluable insights from my adventure, providing both inspiration and practical guidance for those eager to embark on their own exploration of these captivating regions with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass: Cost and Coverage Overview

The Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass stands as an invaluable asset for travelers aiming to delve into the scenic and cultural richness of Central Japan. Offered at 19,800 yen for adults and half price for children, this pass provides five consecutive days of unlimited access to a broad network of transportation options, facilitating a seamless exploration of the region’s diverse attractions.

Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass against a backdrop of Central Japan's map, highlighting key travel routes

Key Routes Covered:

  • JR Lines from Nagoya to Toyama: This route, passing through the picturesque town of Takayama, connects travelers directly to the heart of the region, offering scenic views and convenient access to various destinations.
  • Hokuriku Shinkansen from Toyama to Tsuruga: Extending the reach of high-speed travel within the region, this Shinkansen line enhances connectivity between key cities, making journeys quicker and more comfortable.
  • JR Limited Express from Tsuruga to the Kansai Region: Including Kyoto and Osaka, this service provides a direct link to the cultural and historical heartland of Japan, expanding the travel possibilities for pass holders.
  • Bus Services to Shirakawago and Gokayama: From Takayama, Kanazawa, and Toyama, these bus routes offer direct access to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Shirakawago and Gokayama, renowned for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses.

With its comprehensive coverage, the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass not only simplifies the logistics of travel but also opens the door to a wealth of experiences across Central Japan’s scenic landscapes and cultural sites, all while offering substantial savings on transportation.

Unveiling the Value: The Economics of the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

Feature Comparison Graph

Embarking on a journey through Central Japan can be both enriching and costly, but with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, the scales tip favorably towards value. A stark comparison between costs reveals a persuasive argument for the pass. If one were to navigate the route from Nagoya to Kyoto, covering idyllic stops such as Shirakawako and the coastal town of Himi, the total without the pass would be 30,240 JPY. Opt for the pass, and the cost is a mere 20,560 JPY, equating to substantial savings of around 32%. This is not just a saving in terms of yen but also in time and hassle, as it eliminates the need for multiple transactions. Thus, the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass does more than save money—it simplifies your travel and enriches your Japanese odyssey.

takuyama hokuriku pass ticket

Exploring Central Japan: A Daily Itinerary with the Takayama-Hokuriku Pass

Day 1: Arrival and First Impressions in Nagoya

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From Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya Station

Embarking on a journey through Japan with the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass unfolds a tapestry of cultural and scenic beauty. However, it’s essential to note that transportation from Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya city center is not covered by the pass. Here’s a detailed overview to help you navigate this part of your trip smoothly.

Our flight touched down at Chubu Centrair International Airport at 2:30 PM. After collecting your luggage, a 2-minute walk from the arrival hall will get you to Access Plaza. Here, you can catch a train, bus, or taxi to Nagoya city center.

If your destination is near Nagoya Station, I recommend the train for its speed and convenience. The μ-SKY express can get you there in 35 minutes for 1,250 yen, while the regular express takes 46 minutes and costs 890 yen. Buses to other central areas like Sakae or Fushimi take about 55 minutes and cost 1,500 yen, avoiding the hassle of transfers. Taxis offer a similar travel time to the express train but cost around 16,000 yen.

Upon reaching Nagoya Station, we used the paper voucher we had purchased online and received by mail to exchange for our Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass at the exchange counter. We also reserved seats for our 5-day itinerary, planning to start using the pass the following day.

We exchanged for designated seat tickets for the first and fifth days of using the pass. The bus tickets to Shirakawago had already been booked online, and since there are many Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed bullet train services in the Hokuriku area with plenty of non-reserved seating, we didn’t book these in advance. We only reserved seats for the journey from Nagoya to Takayama on the first day and from Kanazawa through Tsuruga to Kyoto on the fifth day. With six opportunities for reserved seating, the pass seemed more than sufficient.

Dining Recommendation

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Unagi (eel) rice is one of Nagoya’s specialties, and the famous Hitsumabushi originates from here. The name “Hitsumabushi” comes from the practice of serving chopped grilled eel over rice in a wooden bowl. The traditional way to enjoy it involves dividing the eel rice into four portions: first, savor the original flavor; second, enjoy it with condiments like seaweed or wasabi; third, pour hot tea or broth over it to make a sort of tea-infused rice; and finally, eat the last portion however you prefer.

Given the popularity of eel restaurants, especially in tourist areas like Sakae, we chose Unafuji, a local favorite a bit away from the subway station. We arrived just as they opened, avoiding any lines, and the quality was excellent.

Accommodation Suggestion

For those staying briefly in Nagoya, I recommend accommodations near Nagoya Station. We chose ibis Styles Nagoya, an 8-minute walk from the station, which is considered a bit far, but we selected it for its proximity to a famous breakfast spot we planned to visit the next morning. Other accommodation options:

  • High-end: Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel, directly above Nagoya Station, with convenient access to department stores.
  • Mid-range: Nagoya JR Gate Tower Hotel, also above Nagoya Station, offering easy access to shopping and transportation.
  • Budget-friendly: Meitetsu Grand Hotel, located on the Meitetsu line at Nagoya Station, directly accessible from Chubu Centrair International Airport.


Given the distance between different line platforms at Nagoya Station, these three hotels are the best choices for proximity to JR, Shinkansen, Meitetsu, and Kintetsu lines, making them ideal for staying near Nagoya Station.

Day 2: From Nagoya’s Morning Rituals to Takayama’s Historic Charm

Experiencing Nagoya’s Breakfast Culture

This morning at 7 AM, we visited Coffee Shop KAKO to immerse ourselves in Nagoya’s unique breakfast culture. Known for their in-house roasted coffee and homemade jams, they offer a “Morning Premium Set” available until 11 AM, where a drink comes at a set price with an option to add toast for an extra charge. The clientele was a mix of locals and tourists. Arriving late might mean waiting in line, managed by staff who seat guests as space becomes available.

For those averse to waiting, there’s a branch across the street, Coffee Shop KAKO Yanagibashi, which usually has more seating available.

After breakfast, we returned to our hotel to grab our luggage and headed to Nagoya Station to catch the 8:43 AM train to Takayama, arriving at 11:03 AM.

Tasting Takayama Ramen

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Takayama Ramen

Upon dropping our bags at the hotel, we dined on Takayama Ramen at Masagosoba. This local delicacy, primarily found in Gifu Prefecture’s Takayama, is known as Hida Takayama Ramen or Hida Ramen. Its signature is a soy sauce-based broth with Japanese-style mixed soup, featuring thin, curly noodles. Depending on the restaurant, the broth may include chicken, seafood, vegetables, and mushrooms, creating a unique flavor profile.

Exploring Takayama

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Post-lunch, we began our sightseeing in Takayama. Our first stop was Hida Kokubun-ji Temple, home to a 1,250-year-old ginkgo tree believed to have been planted at the temple’s founding. Its most stunning in November, when its golden leaves create a breathtaking canopy above and a carpet below, words hardly do it justice.

Next, we strolled through Takayama Historical District, composed of three nearly parallel streets filled with unique shops, including sake breweries, miso factories, tea houses, craft stores, and eateries, each brimming with Edo period history.

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Funasaka Sake Brewery was among the most visited. Inside, you can taste various sakes for around 100 yen each. I sampled every type, finding my preferred style of Japanese sake.

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Takayama Historical District Sake brewery

A Brief Visit to Hida Furukawa

Charming street in Hida Furukawa lined with traditional townhouses and white-walled storehouses, under a clear blue sky.

At around 3 PM, our journey took a charming turn aboard a 15-minute train ride whisking us away to Hida Furukawa. This quaint town, etched in the hearts of many as the backdrop of the enchanting anime “Your Name,” is a tapestry of history and tradition. We arrived to discover Shirakabe Dozogai Street, a living museum lined with traditional townhouses. These homes are the handiwork of skilled Hida artisans, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Edo-period white-walled storehouses that watch over the serene Setogawa River.

As we strolled, the timeless beauty of the architecture was palpable, each structure meticulously preserved. The scene was one of pure nostalgia, a window to a bygone era where modernity gently intertwines with the past. Cafés and shops, once family homes, now invited us in, their doors opened to reveal a blend of the old and the new.

Kaba Sake Brewery was a highlight, its renowned SHIRAMAYUMI sake a testament to the craftsmanship that Hida Furukawa is celebrated for. Equally compelling was the Watanabe Sake Brewery, with its celebrated Hourai sake, a sip of which whispers the secrets of the soft water sourced from the nearby Alps. Each brewery boasted a signature sake that echoed the light and elegant profile characteristic of the region’s offerings.

In Hida Furukawa, every corner turned is a step into history, every sip of sake a taste of tradition, and every sight a story waiting to be told. For the traveler seeking the soul of Japan, Shirakabe Dozogai Street is not just a destination—it’s a journey through time.

Tasting Hida Beef

After our brief exploration, we made our way back to Takayama, arriving by 5 PM at Hidagyu Maruaki, a renowned restaurant specializing in Hida beef. The establishment was teeming with eager diners, and after a wait of over an hour, we were finally seated. We initially opted for the barbecue set designed for four, which proved to be an ambitious choice for just the two of us. For those dining in pairs, selecting dishes à la carte or opting for the Sukiyaki set might offer a more tailored dining experience.

Hida beef, celebrated for its marbling, tenderness, and rich flavor, stands as a culinary emblem of the region. This prized variety of Wagyu beef has garnered the highest accolades for meat quality at national Wagyu competitions, placing it on par with the famed Kobe and Matsusaka beef. The tradition behind Hida beef is deeply rooted in the agricultural practices of the Hida region, where the cattle are raised in a serene environment with meticulous care. This attention to detail and dedication to quality is evident in every succulent bite, making it a must-try for any visitor to the area.

Accommodation Suggestions

We stayed at the Chisun Grand Takayama, a mere 3-minute walk from the station, offering clean, spacious rooms, albeit without an onsen.

Other options include:

  • High-end: Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan and Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan Annex, a 10-minute walk from the station near Takayama’s Old Town. Their essence lies in the meals provided, so opt for plans including dinner and breakfast. They offer communal baths and some suites with private hot springs.
  • Mid-range: Tokyu Stay Hida Takayama Musubinoyu, excellently located beside the station. Rooms come with a washer-dryer, and the hotel is modern and clean, featuring free communal baths and private outdoor hot springs for an additional fee.
  • Budget-friendly: Residence Hotel Takayama Station, also beside the station. This apartment-style hotel offers kitchenettes and washer-dryers, ideal for those who wish to cook their own meals with locally purchased beef. Guests can use the hot springs at its sister hotel within a 10-minute walk for free.

Day 3: A Journey from the Tranquil Shirakawago to the Vibrant Heart of Kanazawa

Shirakawago: A Timeless Village

Panoramic view of Shirakawago from Shiroyama Tenshukaku Observation Deck, showcasing the village's unique gassho-zukuri rooftops

Upon our arrival at Takayama Station the day before, we promptly exchanged our pre-reserved bus tickets for Shirakawago and the onward journey to Kanazawa at the bus terminal next door. It’s worth noting that these bus rides were included in our Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

Setting off at 8:20 AM, we embarked on a scenic hour-long bus ride to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawago, famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses and enchanting winter snowscapes. Anticipating a blanket of snow in mid-December, the absence of it upon our arrival cast a slight shadow of disappointment over the picturesque village.

The bus terminal in Shirakawago was well-equipped with numerous coin lockers for convenient storage. For those finding them full, a manned deposit point offered an alternative.

Shirakawago’s singular main street promised a leisurely exploration within three hours, assuming no meal stops. However, dining there would necessitate a tighter schedule, as eateries begin to fill up with queues forming from 11:30 AM onwards.

Our exploration began with the Wada House, Shirakawago’s most prominent gassho-style structure, echoing the village’s rich history. The Wada family, erstwhile village leaders and guardians, flourished through the lucrative trade of saltpeter, vital for the village’s economy.

While the Wada House stands out, other gassho-style buildings like the Kanda House and Nagase House also beckon with their historical allure, though visiting one offers a comprehensive glimpse into this architectural marvel.

We then ventured to the Shiroyama Tenshukaku Observation Deck, accessible by a shuttle bus that departs every 20 minutes from the Wada House for a modest fee of 200 yen, payable in cash. Those preferring a stroll could reach the viewpoint in about 15 minutes.

Descending from the viewpoint, our journey continued along the main street, leading us past Myozenji Temple, a thatched gassho-style temple that adds to the village’s mystique.

The Shirakawago Hachiman Shrine, the furthest landmark from the bus terminal, marked the endpoint of our village tour. A 15-minute walk brought us back to the bus terminal, ready for the next leg of our journey.

Lunch at Morimori Sushi, Kanazawa

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Morimori Sushi

In the afternoon, after an hour’s bus ride, we found ourselves in Kanazawa, the Hokuriku region’s crown jewel and a city of historical significance, once ranking as the fourth largest during the Edo period. Our lunch destination was Morimori Sushi, nestled within the bustling Omi-cho Market, renowned for its conveyor belt sushi. Despite its popularity, our wait was surprisingly short, thanks to our late dining time.

Higashi Chaya District: A Stroll Through History

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Kanazawa, often referred to as the city of gold, holds a special place in Japan’s cultural and historical landscape. The Higashi Chaya District, with its beautifully preserved teahouses and traditional wooden lattice façades, offers a glimpse into traditional venues of hospitality and entertainment dating back to the Edo period. Walking through this district, one can’t help but feel transported back in time, amidst the subtle sounds of shamisen strings and the quiet elegance of geisha gliding to their evening appointments.

A significant aspect of Kanazawa’s cultural heritage is its centuries-old tradition of gold leaf production. Kanazawa accounts for approximately 99% of Japan’s gold leaf production, a testament to the city’s craftsmanship and dedication to preserving this delicate art form. The use of gold leaf in Kanazawa extends beyond the ornamental, finding its way into various aspects of daily life and even culinary practices.

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A visit to Hakuichi, a shop known for its gold leaf ice cream, offers a unique taste of this tradition, literally. The gold leaf, with its thin, ethereal quality, adorns the ice cream like a piece of wearable art, offering a moment of luxury that is both visual and gustatory.

Wandering through the Higashi Chaya District in a rented kimono comes highly recommended, offering an immersive cultural experience. Easy Kimono Rental Plan in Kanazawa

Our day concluded with dinner at SHIROKU, a seafood rice restaurant within Forus, a shopping mall adjacent to the station. The meal was average in my opinion.

Where to Stay in Kanazawa

Opting for accommodation near Kanazawa Station is wise, given its convenience for accessing the city’s myriad attractions. The station’s east side, facing the main sights, is more established, while the west side boasts newer hotels. Nonetheless, the station’s compact size means little difference in convenience between the two.

  • High-end: Hyatt Centric Kanazawa, a stone’s throw from the station’s west exit, having opened its doors in 2020.
  • Mid-range: Hotel Nikko Kanazawa, merely a minute from the east exit, offers great convenience.
  • Budget-friendly: Hotel Kanazawa, also near the east exit, offers spacious rooms and is a better value than Via Inn inside the station.

Day 4: A Bustling Day from Kanazawa to Himi and Amaharashi Coast

Our adventure began early, departing from Kanazawa Station and navigating through three train changes to reach the esteemed Himi Fishery Port. The journey unfolded as follows: a swift Shinkansen ride to Shin-Takaoka, a brief transfer to Takaoka, and finally, a scenic route to Himi, culminating in a local bus ride to the fishery port itself. It’s important to note that the latter part of our journey wasn’t covered by our Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, adding an element of exploration beyond the pass’s boundaries.

Himi: A Seafood Haven

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The Himi Kanburi meal set

Today was a whirlwind of activity. Our first destination was Himi Fishing Port in Toyama Prefecture, reached after three train changes from Kanazawa Station: 1) Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Shin-Takaoka, 2) Train from Shin-Takaoka to Takaoka, and 3) Train from Takaoka to Himi, followed by a local bus from Himi Station to Himi Fishery Port. It’s important to note that the only Shinkansen were covered by the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

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Himi Fishing Port

Toyama bay boasts one of Japan’s richest fishing grounds, renowned for its seafood. Himi Fishing Port 2F Fish Market Restaurant, located on the second floor of Himi Fishing Port, offers the freshest catch directly from the auction market. The dining hall opens at 6:30 AM, serving a sumptuous seafood feast to fishermen and food enthusiasts alike. Popular dishes like seafood bowls are available year-round, with seasonal seafood bowls also on the menu. According to online reviews, queues start forming around 8 AM during weekends and holidays. We arrived around 9 AM without having to wait, but by 10 AM, a short wait was beginning to form.

The Himi Kanburi Meal Set would then encompass the luxurious slices of buri (Japanese amberjack), traditionally served with rice, miso soup, and the distinctive “Fisherman’s Soup” with fish balls, to ensure a balanced and enriching dining experience. Our goal was to savor the winter delicacy of Himi Kanburi, a high-grade fish caught during winter. Known for its migration, the Japanese amberjack’s muscles tighten after a long journey, making it especially delicious before spawning. The proximity of the fishing grounds to Himi Fishery Port ensures unparalleled freshness.

The journey from Kanazawa took over 1.5 hours, but it was well worth it, ranking among the top three meals of our trip in Japan. A must-try for sashimi lovers, despite the somewhat complex public transport details provided below.

Amaharashi Coast: Where Mountains Meet the Sea

Stunning view of the Amaharashi Coast with the Tateyama Mountain Range in the background, showcasing Central Japan's natural beauty.

Our next destination, the Amaharashi Coast, offered a breathtaking panorama where the sea meets the snow-capped Tateyama Mountain Range. The beauty of this landscape, enhanced by the solitary islands dotting the sea, is truly mesmerizing, especially when the weather is clear. A short walk from Amaharashi Station led us to Cafe ISOMI TERRACE, a cozy spot on the second floor of the Roadside Station “Amaharashi,” where we relaxed and admired the view. The rooftop observation deck provided a perfect vantage point for capturing the majestic scenery.

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Tranquil pond reflecting the lush greenery of Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan's three great gardens, located in Kanazawa.

Returning to Kanazawa, we explored Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s three great gardens, renowned for its embodiment of six aesthetic attributes. The garden’s design, a masterpiece of space and creativity, offers a unique experience in every season, showcasing landscapes unparalleled in beauty and historical depth.

Our day concluded with a meal at Itaru in Kanazawa’s Korinbo district, a restaurant celebrated for its luxurious Akamutsu Clay Pot Rice. Akamutsu, a deep-sea fish known for its delicate, fatty meat, is often featured in high-end Japanese dining.

The journey from Kanazawa to Himi, though complex, is a testament to the rich experiences awaiting those willing to venture beyond the usual paths. With careful planning and an adventurous spirit, the treasures of Japan’s coastal and cultural landscapes are within reach, offering memories that last a lifetime.

Transportation Details:

When planning a trip from Kanazawa to Himi, travelers have two primary routes to consider, each with its own set of advantages and specific details regarding travel time and transfers:

  1. Via Shinkansen and JR Trains:
    • Kanazawa to Shin-Takaoka via Shinkansen: The journey takes approximately 14 minutes. The Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass covers this segment, but it’s important to note that the Kagayaki Shinkansen requires seat reservations.
    • Shin-Takaoka to Takaoka via JR Train: This leg of the journey is brief, lasting about 3 minutes. However, the frequency of trains between these stations is limited, which means waiting times at Shin-Takaoka could potentially offset the faster travel time of the Shinkansen.
    • Takaoka to Himi via JR Train: The final stretch to Himi takes around 34 minutes.
    • Total Transfers: 2
    • Overall Consideration: This route offers the comfort of guaranteed seating on the Shinkansen, making it a preferable option for those utilizing the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. The total journey time, including potential waiting periods, may be comparable to the alternative route due to the limited train frequency on the Shin-Takaoka to Takaoka segment.
  2. Via IR Ishikawa Railway and JR Trains:
    • Kanazawa to Takaoka via IR Ishikawa Railway: Direct travel time is about 40 minutes on a regular train service. This option does not fall under the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass and may involve standing during peak commuting hours due to limited seating.
    • Takaoka to Himi via JR Train: Similar to the first route, this segment takes approximately 34 minutes.
    • Total Transfers: 1
    • Overall Consideration: Although this route involves fewer transfers and the direct train to Takaoka might initially seem quicker, the overall journey time can be similar to the first option when accounting for the regular train’s capacity issues during busy periods. Additionally, the comfort and assurance of seating provided by the Shinkansen might be missed.

Given these specifics, the first route via Shinkansen and JR trains, despite the need for seat reservations and potential waiting times, emerges as the more appealing choice for those holding the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. It combines efficiency with the comfort of guaranteed seating, making it an optimal choice for a smooth and enjoyable journey to Himi.

Himi Station to Himi Fishing Port: The journey from Himi Station to Himi Fish Market takes just 8 minutes by car and only 18 minutes if you choose to walk. Local buses from Himi Station run infrequently, so plan connections carefully. The latest bus schedules can be found at Kaetsunou Bus Timetable. Note that bus announcements and displays are in Japanese, and buses won’t stop unless signaled. If you’re the only passengers, informing the driver of your destination can ensure you don’t miss your stop.

In Japanese, Himi Station is referred to as “氷見駅前” (Himi Eki-mae), and the Himi Fish Market’s dining hall is known as “氷見漁港前” (Himi Gyokou-mae). Utilizing web search effectively can quickly provide the schedule for these locations. Additionally, the bus timetable is categorized into three types: weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays/holidays.

Himi to Amaharashi Coast and Back to Takaoka: Trains departing from Himi Station to the Amaharashi Coast operate approximately once every hour, ensuring a steady flow of visitors eager to witness the unique blend of mountainous and coastal scenery. For those planning this segment of the trip, it’s crucial to consult the timetable in advance to align your plans with the train schedules. The Amaharashi Coast, accessible from Amaharashi Station, is just two stops away from Himi, making it a convenient and short journey for travelers. You can find the detailed train schedule here: Train Timetable from Himi to Amaharashi.

Allocating one to two hours for exploring the Amaharashi Coast is advisable. During our visit, we found that two hours allowed us ample time to fully enjoy the area’s natural beauty without feeling rushed. It’s important to keep an eye on the time to ensure you don’t miss your return train. Here’s the timetable for planning your departure from the Amaharashi Coast: Train Timetable from Amaharashi to Takaoka.

A key tip for travelers: when purchasing your train tickets, opt for the ticket machines rather than using an IC card. Amaharashi Station employs manual ticket checking, making traditional paper tickets necessary for this part of your journey. This small detail is crucial for a smooth travel experience, ensuring you’re prepared for the manual inspection process at the station.

This careful planning and attention to detail will make your trip from Himi to the Amaharashi Coast and back to Takaoka not only feasible but thoroughly enjoyable, allowing you to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes that define this region of Japan.

Day 5: A Gastronomic and Artistic Odyssey from Kanazawa to Toyama

Kanazawa: A Culinary and Cultural Journey

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Ikiiki Tei at Omi-cho Market

Our day began at the heart of Kanazawa’s culinary scene, Ikiiki Tei at Omi-cho Market, where we indulged in what is arguably the city’s most exquisite seafood bowl. For enthusiasts of raw sashimi, this establishment is a pilgrimage site, securing its place as one of the top culinary delights of our journey.

Panoramic view of Kanazawa Castle's restored towers and stone walls, surrounded by moats and greenery, under a sunny sky.
Kanazawa Castle

The exploration continued with a visit to Kanazawa Castle, a historical phoenix risen from the ashes of the past century’s fires, now beautifully restored. This site offers a deep dive into the architectural grandeur of Japan’s castellated heritage.

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Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool

We then immersed ourselves in the avant-garde at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, where the boundary-pushing installations, including Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool,” challenge and delight in equal measure.

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Our journey through Kanazawa’s rich cultural tapestry would not be complete without delving into its revered wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) culture. In the Nishi Chaya District.

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We visited Amanatto Kawamura, a confectionery known for its exquisite monaka—a traditional wagashi of bean paste sandwiched between two thin wafers. Tasting monaka in this historic setting, amidst the district’s meticulously preserved teahouses and lattice windows, offered a profound connection to Kanazawa’s storied past as a cultural and artisanal powerhouse. This experience not only satisfied our taste buds but also deepened our appreciation for the artistry and tradition behind Japanese sweets.

Toyama: A Canvas of Natural and Artistic Beauty

Close-up of Masuzushi, a traditional sushi dish from Toyama, wrapped in bamboo leaves.
Masuzushi vinegared trout sashimi on top of vinegared rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves

The afternoon took us to Toyama, a city where tradition and modernity intertwine, thanks to the convenience of the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. A quick tip for those taking the Kagayaki train: make sure to reserve your seat. At Kanazawa Station, we picked up Masuzushi, a Toyama delicacy, serving as our delicious train bento for the roughly 20-minute Shinkansen ride to Toyama.

Spectacular glass artworks on display inside the modern architecture of the Toyama Glass Art Museum.
Toyama Glass Art Museum

Our first stop in Toyama was the Toyama Glass Art Museum, a testament to contemporary creativity housed in a Kengo Kuma-designed marvel. The museum’s focus on glass art, set against the backdrop of Toyama’s natural beauty, offers a unique cultural experience.

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Toyama Castle

A leisurely walk led us to Toyama Castle Park, where the Toyama Municipal Folk Museum stands as a sentinel of the city’s rich history, encapsulated within the reconstructed castle keep.

Breathtaking sunset view over Fugan Canal Kansui Park, with the famous Starbucks and the Toyama city skyline in the distance.
Fugan Canal Kansui Park

The visit to Fugan Canal Kansui Park was perfectly timed to capture the enchanting transition from day to night, with the park’s Starbucks acclaimed as the most picturesque in the world, providing a serene vantage point for the stunning sunset.

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Mawaru Toyama Bay Sushi Tama Toyama Station Store

Our culinary adventure in Toyama concluded at Mawaru Toyama Bay Sushi Tama Toyama Station Store, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that prides itself on quality and offers an endless supply of miso soup. Our return journey to Kanazawa on the Shinkansen wrapped up a day filled with unforgettable tastes and sights, marking the perfect end to our gastronomic and artistic odyssey.

Day 6: Farewell to the Hokuriku Region with a Culinary Finale

On this concluding day of our Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, we set our sights beyond the enchanting Hokuriku region, venturing into the vibrant Kansai area. The Hokuriku Shinkansen connecting Kanazawa and Tsuruga, as well as the train service from Tsuruga to Kyoto, fall within the pass’s coverage. A brief interlude in Tsuruga enriched our travel tapestry before we continued to Kyoto, marking the successful completion of our pass’s journey. Our next destination was Nara, for which we purchased separate tickets.

A Morning Culinary Delight at Tsuruga

Crowded lanes of Nihonkai Sakanamachi(Seafood market) in Tsuruga, bustling with vendors selling fresh seafood and local delicacies.
Nihonkai Sakanamachi(Seafood market)

Our day kicked off at 8:48 AM from Kanazawa Station, heading towards Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture. By 10:10 AM, we found ourselves in Tsuruga, ready to explore. After securing our luggage, we hopped on the 10:15 AM sightseeing bus to the Nihonkai Sakanamachi(Seafood market), a haven for seafood lovers. This market, the largest along the Japan Sea coast, boasts an abundance of fresh catches, from succulent shrimp and clams to the freshest fish straight from Tsuruga Port. With nearly 20 dining options, the market caters to all palates, offering everything from hearty lunches to exquisite takeout, with many restaurants specializing in delectable seafood dishes.

Fresh Echizen Crab on display at a seafood market in Tsuruga, known for its rich taste and quality
Echizen Crab

Among Tsuruga’s culinary treasures, the “Echizen Crab” stands out as a national delicacy, revered across Japan and honored by the Imperial Family. The optimal season for this prized catch spans from November to March, with the crabs’ rich, fatty meat peaking in flavor during the late fishing season.

tsuruga 3
Grilled Mackerel Sushi

Another local specialty, Grilled mackerel sushi, offers a taste of tradition, its origins rooted in the ancient coastal culinary practice of “Hama-yaki.” This dish, perfect for savoring on the train ride to Kyoto, marries the rich flavors of mackerel with the subtle sweetness of sushi rice in a harmonious blend.

Journeying Onward to Kansai

After an enriching visit to the Nihonkai Sakanamachi(Seafood market), we made our way back to Tsuruga Station and boarded the 12:16 PM Thunderbird train to Kyoto. Transitioning to the Kintetsu Line at Kyoto Station, we proceeded to Kintetsu-Nara Station, eager to explore the historical and cultural riches of Nara.

With the Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass having fulfilled its purpose, we prepared for our exploration of Nara with a new pass, promising further adventures and discoveries, which I’ll detail in an upcoming narrative.

Transportation Details:

For those inspired to embark on a similar journey, here are essential transportation links and accommodation recommendations to enhance your Nara experience:

  • From Kanazawa to Kyoto: Ensure a smooth transition by consulting the train schedule.
  • From Tsuruga to the Japan Sea Fish Market: Opt for the city loop bus for a direct route to the market, avoiding the lengthy walk. Detailed bus schedules can be found here.
  • From Kyoto to Kintetsu-Nara: After arriving in Kyoto via the JR line, seamlessly transition to the Kintetsu Express at Kyoto Station for a direct journey to Kintetsu-Nara. This express service operates with departures every thirty minutes, offering a convenient and efficient route to explore the historic city of Nara.

Accommodation Suggestions

In Nara, we opted for the IROHA GRAND HOTEL Kintetsu-Nara, a mere stone’s throw from Kintetsu-Nara Station, perfectly positioned for exploring the city’s famed sites and ensuring easy access to both Kyoto and Osaka.

  • Luxury: Fufu Nara, a boutique luxury resort nestled beside Nara Park, offers easy access to iconic sites like Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha.
  • Mid-range: Nara Hotel, a storied establishment that has welcomed royalty and dignitaries, located near the serene Nara Park.
  • Budget-friendly: Iroha Grand Hotel Kintetsu Nara Ekimae, boasting an unbeatable location and comfortable accommodations, is an ideal choice for business and leisure travelers alike.

Choosing Your Gateway

The Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is a gateway to exploring the rich tapestry of Central Japan, stretching from the bustling city of Nagoya in the south to the serene landscapes of the Hokuriku region in the north, and further southwest along the shores of Lake Biwa to the cultural heartlands of Kyoto and Osaka in the Kansai region. This pass does not cover the direct Shinkansen line connecting Nagoya with the Kansai area, encouraging travelers to delve into the scenic routes and hidden gems along the way.

Starting your journey from either Nagoya or the Kansai area offers a strategic advantage, as these locations serve as the two main gateways for the pass. This approach ensures a linear travel path without the need to backtrack, optimizing the use of the pass over its five-day validity. For travelers arriving from outside Asia, beginning the journey in the Kansai area might be more convenient due to the direct international flights available to Kansai International Airport, unlike Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair International Airport, which primarily serves destinations within Asia.

International Access to Nagoya and Kansai: A Gateway to Central Japan

Chubu Centrair International Airport (NGO) Direct International Flight Destinations:

Asia:

  • China: Beijing (Capital and Daxing), Shanghai (Pudong), Dalian, Tianjin, Nanjing
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan: Taipei (Taoyuan), Kaohsiung
  • Korea: Seoul (Incheon), Busan
  • Other Parts of Asia: Manila, Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi), Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur (via Kaohsiung), Singapore

Pacific and Oceania:

  • Guam
  • Honolulu

Kansai International Airport (KIX) Direct International Flight Destinations:

East Asia:

  • China: Shanghai (Pudong), Haikou, Nanjing, Beijing (Daxing), Tianjin, Shenyang, Dalian, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Jinan, Harbin, Wuxi, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Hefei, Shijiazhuang
  • Korea: Seoul (Incheon, Gimpo), Busan, Muan, Daegu, Cheongju
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau
  • Taiwan: Taipei (Taoyuan), Kaohsiung

Southeast Asia:

  • Singapore, Philippines (Manila), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

Europe & Middle East:

  • France (Paris), Netherlands (Amsterdam via Seoul), Finland (Helsinki), Germany (Munich), UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi), Turkey (Istanbul), Qatar (Doha)

America & Oceania:

  • USA (Los Angeles, San Francisco), Australia (Cairns, Brisbane), Hawaii (Honolulu), Guam

These direct flight connections to Chubu Centrair International Airport and Kansai International Airport make accessing the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass‘s starting points more convenient for international travelers. Whether you’re flying in from across the globe or from within Asia, these airports serve as your gateway to an unforgettable journey through Central Japan’s scenic beauty and cultural heritage.

Please note that the listed destinations are based on the spring 2024 schedule and may be subject to change. Always check with the airlines for the most current flight information before planning your travel, ensuring a smooth start to your adventure with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

Buy Your Pass

Purchasing the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is a step that marks the beginning of an unforgettable journey through the heart of Japan.

Buy It Here: Purchase the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

Stay Connected

To ensure you’re always connected while traveling, consider renting a portable Wi-Fi device, purchasing a local SIM card, or getting an eSIM for your smartphone. This connectivity will prove invaluable for various tasks such as navigation, translations, and checking train schedules on the go.

Managing Luggage

Coin Lockers: Utilize coin lockers available at train stations to store your luggage during day trips. This makes exploring towns and attractions more comfortable and hassle-free.

Luggage Forwarding Services: Consider using Japan’s efficient luggage forwarding service to send your suitcase to your next hotel or destination, especially if your itinerary includes multiple stops.

Resource List for Central Japan Exploration

Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass:

Transportation:

Accommodations:

NagoyaTakayamaKanazawaNara
HIgh-endNagoya Marriott Associa Hotel
(Booking / Agoda)
Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan
(Booking / Agoda)

Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan Annex
(Booking / Agoda)
Hyatt Centric Kanazawa
(Booking / Agoda)
Fufu Nara
(Booking / Klook)
Mid-rangeNagoya JR Gate Tower Hotel
(Booking / Agoda)
Tokyu Stay Hida Takayama Musubinoyu
(Booking / Agoda)
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa
(Booking / Agoda)
Nara Hotel
(Booking / Agoda)
Economy Meitetsu Grand Hotel
(Booking / Agoda)
Residence Hotel Takayama Station
(Booking / Agoda)

Chisun Grand Takayama
(Booking / Agoda)
Hotel Kanazawa
(Booking / Agoda)
Iroha Grand Hotel Kintetsu Nara Ekimae
(Booking / Agoda)

Cultural Sites and Activities:

Dining by City:

This resource list provides a starting point for planning your journey through Central Japan with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. Remember to verify the current status of attractions and services, as operational details may change.

Conclusion

Reflecting on the days spent meandering through the scenic wonders and historical depths of Central Japan with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, it’s evident that this journey transcended mere travel. It was an immersive odyssey into the soul of Japan, marked by the architectural splendors of Kanazawa Castle, the tranquil allure of Kenrokuen Garden, the gastronomic delights of Himi, and the timeless streets of Nara. Each destination in the Hokuriku and Kansai regions unveiled its unique charm, enriching my journey with a tapestry of discovery and wonder. The Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass was not just a ticket to seamless travel but a key to unlocking experiences that deepened my appreciation for Japan’s cultural heritage and natural beauty.

As this travelogue concludes, my hope is that it serves as both a guide and an inspiration for others to explore the majestic landscapes and rich cultural narratives of Central Japan, creating their own indelible memories with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

Ready to Discover Central Japan?

Embark on your own unforgettable journey through the heart of Japan. With the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, explore the rich tapestry of landscapes, culture, and culinary delights that Central Japan has to offer. Whether you’re drawn to the serene beauty of traditional gardens, the bustling markets filled with local flavors, or the historic charm of ancient streets, your adventure awaits.

Don’t wait to experience the journey of a lifetime. Purchase your Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass today and start planning the trip that will fill your heart with memories and your spirit with adventure.

Connect, explore, and discover with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. Your adventure starts now!

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