Your Travel Guide to Toyama City: The Best Things to Do, Eat, and See!
Despite not being a prominent tourist site, Toyama City is a place rich with history, culture, things to do, and regional foods. It is accessible via the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train) heading to Kanazawa, and as the base of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, it has plenty of unspoiled nature scenes to offer. Whether you're looking to take a pit stop on the way to Kanazawa or you simply want to explore the more regional areas of Japan, read on to see what wonders we believe this amazing capital of Toyama Prefecture has in store for you!
Sep 12 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
* This article was made in collaboration with Good Luck Toyama.
Must-Try Activities in Toyama City
Go on a Relaxing River Cruise
If you have at least 30 minutes to spare, try a cruise on the Matsukawa River. These cruises have been running since 1988 and are a great opportunity to look at the scenic city from a different angle, learn a bit of Japanese history through the helmsman, and even have fun feeding the fish and observing the local wildlife.
With roughly 460 cherry trees lining its banks, the Matsukawa River makes for a great sight during the sakura (cherry blossom) season. This scenery is so splendid that it landed the river a spot in Japan's top 100 cherry blossom spots! The best way to experience this gorgeous view is through a cruise, so do consider it if you're planning to come to Toyama in early April.
There are also night cruises both during and outside of the sakura season. Though it'll be quite cold during the sakura season, you can always warm up at the Matsukawa Chaya, a teahouse right at the cruise docks where you can savor coffee, ice cream, and many other foods. Just note that it requires you to reserve in advance.
Get a Beautiful Panoramic View of Toyama City
From the observatory on top of the city hall, you can get a stunning panoramic view of the whole city. On days with amazing weather, you can even see the Tateyama Mountain Range in the distance! Whether you choose to come in the morning or in the night, you're in for a treat.
Make Delicious, Crispy Senbei!
Sasaraya is a senbei (rice cracker) specialty store with several branches all across Japan. If you're a fan of this common Japanese snack or you're simply looking for a souvenir, it's highly recommended that you pay its headquarters in Toyama a visit. You can tour their factory (reservation needed), gaze at the Tateyama mountain range from the 2nd floor observatory, or try making some senbei yourself!
After you're done making some delicious senbei, you can explore the facility and try out some of the unique offerings sold at their cafe. We recommend getting their Shiroebi Senbei Soft Cream (300 yen), pictured above, which has the Toyama specialty shiroebi (Japanese glass shrimp) thoroughly mixed into the ice cream. The salty heart-shaped senbei goes beautifully with the sweet ice cream!
Pet or Ride a Horse
Right next to Toyama's Tourist Information Center, there's a stable with a friendly, retired horse that you can pat for free. If that's not enough for you, head into the information center and ask if you can ride a horse! They even offer special courses where you can dress up in Japanese samurai armor or a kimono and then go for a ride.
* Please ask the staff member stationed by the stable if you can pet the horse before going up to it.
* The horses are regularly rotated and always watched over.
Sights in Toyama That You Can't Miss
This castle is actually the reconstruction of the original Toyama Castle, which suffered fire and earthquake damage before being torn down in 1870. Housed within Toyama Castle Park, it is a fairly small castle with a beautiful white and black exterior that's worth at least one visit.
Inside the castle, you'll find a museum that goes over the history of Toyama City and the castle using exhibits, maps, 3D models, and so on. You can also climb up the castle tower to get a good sweeping view of the whole city. Even if you're not into architecture, there's a bit of something for everyone!
One of the highlights of our time in Toyama City was stumbling across pieces of art or decorations all throughout the city! Here are some examples of what we saw:
Found on the main street from the train station. It's an easy-to-understand map that shows exactly where you are and hints at which direction you're heading to.
There were statues of prominent figures in Toyama's history all throughout the city! Why not go around and see how many you can spot in one day?
Even some of the bridges were decorated in small but unique ways! They added a touch of creativity and joy to the already splendid scenery.
Some shop shutters actually had designs painted on them!
Toyama Glass Art Museum
The first thing about this building that'll catch your eye is its stunning architecture. This is the work of the world-famous Japanese architect Kuma Kengo. It was designed to evoke the feeling of being in a wooden forest full of soft light.
However, the gorgeous architecture isn't the only feature to take note of. This museum specializes in contemporary glass art, with permanent and revolving art exhibitions on every floor. There's also a cafe, a library that spans several floors, and free Wi-Fi. Stop by on a hot sunny day!
Gardens and Other Natural Scenery
Even in the city center, which is fairly developed with tall buildings everywhere you look, there's lush greenery everywhere throughout Toyama.
In Toyama Castle Park, for example, you can gaze at a beautiful Japanese garden.
In some areas, you'll even find vermilion bridges with a traditional Japanese design, ponds filled with koi fish, and wild birds roaming through the bushes. Don't miss out on Toyama's scenic nature when you're in the area!
Local Treats Worth Tasting
It might seem strange to recommend water, but Toyama is especially known all over Japan for its delicious, high-quality water that comes straight from the Tateyama mountain range. It is so delicious that it has won gold in the Monde Selection for seven years in a row!
Kamaboko (fish cake) is one of Toyama's specialty foods, and this museum is wholly dedicated to it. Take a look at how they make kamaboko in a factory setting, learn all about the food through presentations in English, try out some kamaboko samples, and even try making kamaboko for yourself!
Kamaboko is an incredibly healthy food with a long history in Japan. It comes in a wide variety of shapes, with some particular forms being made for special occasions like weddings. The above picture shows just a few examples of the many shapes kamaboko can appear as. All of these (and more!) are for sale at the museum, so do pay a visit if you're looking for a unique and delicious souvenir.
Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten
This shop has been selling traditional Japanese herbal medicines since 1936. It is extremely popular with tourists who come from countries that regularly use herbal medicines. The shop itself has a slightly retro exterior that makes it stand out from its surroundings.
Inside the store, they have displays of the equipment used to make herbal medicines in the past. You can actually try operating one of them for free! Simply ask the shop staff and they'll show you how it works. Alternatively, try telling the staff any medical problems you're having and they'll tell you which medicines you should try.
The upper floor is home to their cafe where you can indulge in a menu that heavily incorporates Japanese herbs. You might find them to be on the bitter side, but they're actually ridiculously good and healthy to boot!
This tiny shop has been selling all kinds of traditional Japanese candies for over 350 years. It is most well known for its mizuame, made without using sugar. These candies can even be used in cooking!
Since these candies are cheap, extremely long lasting, and portable, it is highly recommended to purchase a few as souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones.
Tsuki Sekai Main Branch
This shop's exterior may look bland, but it actually hides sweets so delicious that it has been able to stay afloat for over 100 years! This was one of the final stops when we visited Toyama City, but it intrigued us just as much as every other place we visited.
Tsuki Sekai actually happens to be the name for both the shop and the sweets it sells (pictured above). These little cakes are incredibly light and melt in your mouth in a unique fashion. Apparently they go extremely well with tea and coffee, but unfortunately we didn't have any on hand to try some with! Still, they taste great on their own and are a traditional Japanese snack, so it's worth picking up a few as souvenirs.
Come and Explore Toyama!
Now that Toyama is a stop on the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train) line, it is getting more tourists than ever before, who come to experience its history, culture, activities, food, and so on. So, if you're looking to travel to somewhere a bit different, why not give Toyama City a try? You just might end up having a grand time!
Tip: If you're set on coming to Toyama City but you're not sure where to stay, we highly recommend Hotel Grand Terrace Toyama (link goes to Booking.com). It took us only 7 minutes to get to the hotel from JR Toyama Station's South Exit, and since the hotel was situated right in front of a city tram stop, it was incredibly easy to get to all of Toyama's sightseeing spots from it!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.