Regions in every country all have their own tales and this is no different in Japan. Whenever we think about this country, we are reminded of the various cultural images that have cemented their place as the image of Japan in our mind. Toyama city is one of those places with its own charm that everyone who visits Japan can’t miss.
The city is known as the gateway to the mountain range and is praised for its scenic and mighty mountains. If you enjoy hiking then you will fall in love with this place.
If you are planning a trip to Japan but don’t have a fixed destination yet then Lifesara will show everyone our travel plan and see what might interest you. (We also have more travel plans; EP.1 Harvest fresh Muscat grapes in Nagano or EP.3 Enjoy the breathtaking view from the cable car in Gifu) Let’s Goooo.
Toyama, the Historic Villages that full of rich culture
which is one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site
Before this, we have already visited Nagano in the first episode. Our next destination is the Toyama prefecture which is right next to Nagano. This province is situated right in the middle of Japan and if viewed on a map, this city is equidistant from both Tokyo and Osaka!
Rough plan for those who wanted to see the overview before heading out to Toyama:
– Stop at Saikoji Temple on the route to Zenko-ji Temple
– Taste the aromatic Melon Bread from the Arteria Bakery
– Visit to the famous Zenko-ji Temple and take a brief snack in front of the Zenko-ji temple walking street
– Heads toward Gokayama valley to visit Ainokura Gassho-zukuri village, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
– Try some Soba, a specialty of this village, in the Matsuya noodle eatery.
– Learn the “Washi (和紙)” paper making process, a paper making process unique to Japan.
– Listen to the traditional folk song show.
– Visit the museum on the second floor of the Yusuke Guest House and learn about the silkworm industry.
– End the day in Yusuke guest house in a traditional style Japanese bedroom.
Toyama is actually a very beautiful prefecture in Japan, but not a lot of Thai people know about the area but if you get to know about it, you will be amazed by the attractions here. These destinations allow you to mingle with the beautiful local culture as well as the history and satisfy your curiosity for local Japanese tales. If you are still hesitating whether to visit this town or not, then we hope that this content will help you make the call.
Pray at Saikoji Temple and Zenko-ji Temple
We start off in Nagano in the morning with some spare time before boarding the Shinkanzen to another prefecture. Thus, we went to the Saikoji temple, a medium sized local temple that you should come over for a prayer. There aren’t that many people in the morning, so it almost feels like a private temple.
If you are looking for a nice photo angle, then the entirety of the temple’s walkway starting from the front gate all the way to the inner temple are all perfect for a photoshoot!
We reached the temple early in the morning, so there weren’t that many people in the walking street area in front of the temple which opens up at around 9 am. If you prefer a more peaceful trip, then be sure to come in the morning as there are not that many people in the vicinity.
Another ritual that we see a lot of Japanese people engaged in is offering a prayer with burning incense. People who are paying respect in this fashion will donate a 100 Yen coin near a pile of incense, which they will then pick up. These incense are then lit and put in the joss stick pot.
One thing to note is that these worshippers tried to fan the incense smoke towards themselves. It makes us wonder whether this is also part of the ritual? Most likely it’s a way to bathe in the smoke that is a tradition amongst the Japanese.
Another thing we can’t miss is buying a lucky charm! The shop is on the right side and it got all sorts of lucky charms! These include charms for health, studies, exams, career, finance, work and prosperity. A charm for all of your worries!
The charm also contains descriptions in English, making it really easy to choose! The starting price is around 500 and could go up to 1200 Yen. The temple starts opening around 9 am, therefore once you have offered your prayer, you can come back out and enjoy some snacks in the temple’s front.
For this area we also bought a matcha pudding, The taste is just about right!
Toward to the Ainokura Gassho-zukuri village
One of the World Heritage Sites that is worth to visit
After that tasty pudding, we decided to head out to the Ainokura Gassho-zukuri village in the middle of Gokayama valley, a World Heritage Site. The village locates at the south-east of Toyama, it is the place with the highest snowfall level in Japan (If you visit the place during the snowy season, the snow towers over some of the houses and looks really beautiful).
Before we enter the village, we would like to share some travel tricks to our readers. There are 2 ways to reach the village
1) Driving there by your own car.
Take the Shinkanzen from Nagano then get down at Toyama, rent a car around there and drive to the village. If you are worried about driving up a mountain, then we can assure you that the roads are in a good condition with no uneven surfaces. It might even be a boon for you if you rent a car as you can travel freely without the need to wait for the infrequent transport that visits the village.
2) Taking a bus
2.1 Nagano to Shintakaoka
- Take the JR Shinkanzen all the way to Shintakaoka Station, the total price including the Shinkanzen is 7,370 Yen
2.2 Toyama to Gokayama
- After reaching Toyama, you need to purchase another ticket which is the ticket for the JR Johana Line for the Miza station
- After reaching the station, take the bus to Miza station and get down at Miza then walk towards Gokayama, our destination.
We were dumbstruck by the village’s beauty. Photo spots are immeasurable in this village and the highlight here is the panoramic viewpoint offering the view of the entire village. To reach this location, we had to walk a bit further up the hill. Once we were there, we were greeted with the panoramic view of the entire village!
There are around 20 gassho-zukuri houses in the vicinity. The outer roof of all these houses are designed in order to face the same direction. They are also constantly maintained in order to preserve its original state as much as possible, giving the impression of a more traditional lifestyle of the past.
The interesting point is that although the village is registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the original resident hasn’t moved out at all, which is very rare. This also allows us to see the lifestyle of the people here in action.
Another charming thing about this village that we really like is that the people all help each other out by supporting the local business. For example, our guesthouse for the night also sells the paper from the Washi paper-making studio as souvenirs for the guests. This fact made us feel that this village is a very cozy and friendly village.
Try out Matsuya’s soba
After absorbing all the scenery the village has to offer, we went back to the village for lunch since the village is famous for its Soba and tempura menus.
The shop gives off a roadside tavern vibe which is really cute, just like in those Japanese TV Series! The interior exudes a very relaxed atmosphere as it allows you to see the full mountain-side view. If you feel that the outside air is too chilly, then the view behind a glass window with a heater is also an option.
Here is the highlight of this restaurant! There are 2 kinds of Soba noodles here: The dry Soba, which is served with a dipping sauce, and the Soba noodle with soup. In terms of Tempura, they offer a wide variety of ingredients. In our opinion, our personal favorite is the lotus root tempura, it’s simply delicious!
After downing the food, we realized that a souvenir shop is nestled within the restaurant itself and we can shop around while waiting for our Soba!
Take a Washi (和紙) paper making class, a traditional Japanese paper that made in the traditional manner.
After lunch, we headed out to learn some paper making from the uncles in the village.
If you enter the village, you will see a signpost that led us to the building that teaches paper making. You might have to pay a bit more attention than usual as the signpost is really small. The building is in an alleyway but once we entered the building, we were greeted with one of the coziest atmospheres there is.
If you are interested, the teaching fee is around 700 yen per person. When we tell the uncle in there that we are here for a Washi paper making class, he immediately gets to work preparing all the cloth and paper pulp to be used as a base layer.
Next is the production of “paper pattern from the leaves” which entails the use of leaves with beautiful patterns to make an intricate design, then finish the process off with a direct press of the paper pulp onto the pattern. The final step is our favorite!
After that the kindly uncle helped us squeeze out all the water from the paper. Now we have our masterpiece! Hooray!
The store doesn’t only teach paper making but they also sell souvenirs made from the Washi paper. All of these souvenirs are really intricate and you really should buy one back with you! Be sure to buy some if you happen to visit the place!
Catch a folk-song performance
After the Washi paper making session, we have a folklore song performance to catch. This allows us to appreciate the older generation a lot more as we can’t believe the fact that they came up with the Sasara instrument.
The instrument is in the shape of a crescent and made from many pieces of wood strung together. When shaken, the wood will strike each other producing sound. During the dance, the Sasara will shake along with the rhythm of the dancer, producing an amazing result.
After the show, we came back to the village again, in order to visit the museum on the 2nd floor of our guesthouse
Inside this museum is an exhibition about the silkworm industry and the building of the Gassho-zukuri style house. The exhibition was a truly eye-opening experience.
Stay at Guest House Yusuke’s traditional Japanese-style room
Let’s end the day with our stop for the night. Yes! We are resting in the Yusuke Guest House!
Inside the guesthouse, there is a Hojicha tea pot that the guest can drink to their heart’s content. The perfect drink for those chilly nights!
Not only that, the host here will welcome you with a Matcha drink and cookies stamped with the Ainokura Gassho-zukuri logo, which speaks of their generous hospitality.
The dinner here comes in a set and is the final meal for the day. You can also order a different kind of drink as well (not only limited to the teapot in the middle of the room)
The room’s aesthetic is decidedly Japanese as the bed is a giant fluffy bedroll. Although the temperature is a chilly 16 degree Celsius, the host is kind enough to provide us with a heating bag to be used under the bedroll. The warmth made the sleep really comfortable, like we were isekaied into a really cozy anime scene!
During the night, the host aunty also prepared a BathTub for us which we can immerse ourselves in. In the morning, the host will inform us of the breakfast timing. However, when comparing the breakfast with the previous night’s dinner, they are a bit lighter and have a lot of vegetables. But this is not to discredit their meal as the taste will leave you wanting for more, especially when we go back to Thailand. *sobs*
If you wanted to spend a night at this guesthouse, then you can see the details at the Yusuke guesthouse website here
So… how is our 1 Day Trip to Toyama? It’s so full of cultural experiences that a single visit won’t be enough And will definitely be a trip of a lifetime for us! If you are looking for a travel plan for Japan like this then don’t miss the next episode!