Michelin Green Guide’s 10 Top Picks of Tourist Spots in Toyama Prefecture
The Michelin Green Guide features interesting tourist destinations and facilities where you can experience rich nature and various cultures. The Michelin Green Guide Japan (revised 6th edition; French version) features 29 Michelin-starred spots in Toyama Prefecture in the Hokuriku Region. In this article, we will give you a peek into our top picks carefully selected from among these 29 outstanding spots.
The ratings are classified into the following three grades based on the recommended level for tourists.
・ Worth a trip in its own right (★★★)
・ Worth a detour if you are nearby (★★)
・ Interesting (★)
The Historic Villages of Gokayama (★★★)
Gokayama is a collective term for villages located near the Shogawa River in Nanto City at the southwestern end of Toyama Prefecture. Many people may be familiar with images of these traditional Gassho-style houses with steeply slanting roofs. The Ainokura and Suganuma villages of Gokayama as well as the villages around Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture are designated as World Heritage Sites.
The villages of Gokayama are sparsely scattered among mountains. “Mystic” is a good word to describe the idyllic views of these hidden villages. They are also some of the few World Heritage Sites that still serve as residential areas.
Gokayama and Shirakawa-go are located in some of the most snowbound regions, thus the Gassho-style roof was invented hundreds of years ago to make sure that houses were able to withstand the weight of accumulated snow. Some of the buildings were built almost 350 years ago and some even offer accommodation. The villages feature seasonal nighttime illumination, which surrounds the entire areas with a fantastic ambiance.
Takaoka Zuiryuji Temple
A National Treasure（★★）
Built in the early 17th century, this temple features the rare garan layout, which is characterized by halls connected by corridors. “Garan” is a collective term for temple buildings. The garan of Zuiryuji Temple was modelled after a Chinese temple architecture style. Among the buildings of Zuiryuji Temple, the Sanmon Gate, the Butsuden Hall, and the Lecture Hall, which were built in the early Edo period true to the Zenshu architecture style imported from China, are designated as national treasures.
Featuring delicate and elegant works throughout the precincts, Zuisenji Temple is very representative of Inami, Nanto City, which is a famous wood-carving town. In particular, the carving work on the front side of the Sanmon Gate awes you with its exquisite workmanship. Many of them are masterpieces of Inami wood carvers, who laid the groundwork for the traditional Inami wood carving. The sando (the road leading to the temple precincts) is still lined with wood-carving studios, which features melodious chisel sounds that travel all the way to the temple precincts.
In addition, the spacious precincts are home to a garden that fascinates visitors with beautiful seasonal views including those of cherry blossoms, wisteria and autumn leaves.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route（★★★）
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a world-famous scenic mountain route that runs through the Northern Japan Alps, which contains a range of 3,000-meter peaks. Extending a total length of 37.2km between Tateyama Station (Tateyama Town, Toyama Prefecture) and Ogisawa Station (Omachi City, Nagano Prefecture), this famous route features an altitude of up to 1,975 meters. Passenger vehicles are not allowed in its vast area, but visitors have access to six different modes of transportation including buses, gondolas, cable cars and trolley buses as they explore the magnificent pristine nature that sprawls above clouds.
Known to be the Northern Japan Alps’s most beautiful volcanic pond, Mikuriga-ike Pond features reflections of majestic 3,000-meter mountains on its clear blue water surface, making it a picture-perfect spot.
The Tateyama Ropeway consists of a single span of cable without any supporting pylons and operates at a 488-meter-difference of elevation. Extending for a total length of 1,700 meters, this single span cable is the longest in Japan. With nothing blocking the view, the ropeway is also known as “a moving observatory” for the magnificent 360-degree panoramic view.
Yuki no Otani (Snow Wall) （★★★）
Located on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, this three-star winner is a huge snow wall Which can be experienced only between mid-April and mid-June. Situated near this tourist attraction, Murodo is perched at the highest point of the route at an altitude of 2,450 meters, which is known to be one of the world’s most snowbound areas. The wall height sometimes reaches as high as 20 meters. During these two months, visitors have an opportunity of “Yuki no Otani Walk,” walking through the awe-inspiring snow corridor. During this time of the year, the highest temperature in Murodo is around 10 degrees Celsius, so visitors are recommended to dress for the very cold weather.
Stepping onto this beach, visitors have their breath taken away by the spectacular views of the rough reefs along the coast as well as the 3,000-meter majestic Tateyama Mountain Range over Toyama Bay. This place shows different aspects by season and time of the day, including the dynamic lush greenery of the mountains during the summer and the sun rising from the snowbound mountain during the winter.
Furthermore, Amaharashi Coast is said to be one of the three places in the world that feature a range of 3,000-meter mountains seen over the sea horizon.
Toyama Glass Art Museum（★★）
This museum is housed in TOYAMA KIRARI, which is a building complex in the heart of Toyama City designed by world-famous architect Kengo Kuma. Inspired by the diverse aspects of the Tateyama Mountain Range, the striking and sparkling building combines three different materials, which are granite, glass and aluminum.
In addition to permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum houses spatial artworks by the studio of Dale Chihuly, who is a top contemporary glass artist.
Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design（★）
Located inside Fugan Unga Kansui Park, the Toyama Prefecture Museum of Art and Design houses an extensive collection that includes world-famous classics such as a Picasso’s masterpiece, various artworks of the 20th century, including abstract artworks, and hands-on exhibitions. Accommodating adults and children alike, the museum is a perfect destination for families.
The rooftop features a garden, which commands a sweeping view of the Tateyama Mountain Range. If you are visiting the museum, don’t miss the Starbucks in the park, which is called “the most beautiful Starbucks store” in the world.
The Kurobe Gorge Railway（★）
This trolley train runs through the steep hills of Kurobe Gorge, which is Japan’s deepest V-shaped gorge. The open-air trolley without windows allows passengers to directly experience the pristine nature including lush summer greenery and autumn foliage.
Along the railway, you can find Unazuki Onsen, a popular hot spring resort known for Japan’s most transparent spring and its large spring volume, as well as open-air hot spring baths hidden among grand nature, casual foot baths, etc.
The starting station of the trolley train, Unazuki Station, houses an observation deck which commands a view of the trolley train running across the bright red bridge spanning the deep valley, making it a popular photo spot.
The Shogawa Gorge Cruise（★）
This cruise takes passengers through views of the Shogawa Gorge in Tonami City, southern Toyama Prefecture, as it travels through the dam lake. The natural scenery that transforms itself each season never gets old. In particular, the beautiful view of the snowbound gorge is reminiscent of ink brush paintings.
On the cruise route, you can find Omaki Spa Kanko Ryokan, a hidden gem hot spring inn that is only accessible by this boat. The open-air baths surrounded by the snowbound virgin forest and the view of the gorge from the windows will further enhance your travel experience. If you are taking the cruise in the winter, make sure you book this “secret inn” on the lake.
*The information herein is as of March 2021.