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Toyama Prefecture

Toyama Prefecture

Finally had a chance to revisit Toyama properly.    Last time was just a stop over for ramen, this time turned into a nice jaunt, and again sample the ramen.  I had to eat this delicious bowl of Toyama Black, and yes you can have it in Tokyo, too.  For me, it's better to be in the place where it's known best, the backcountry of Toyama.   Imagine with me for a moment, thick cuts of melt in your mouth pork, bamboo shoots soaked in an aromatic soy sauce black pepper broth... Noodles are boiled to perfection.  Because you are in Hokuriku the soy sauce is not like the stuff people pour over sushi in the States with, but a much more refined and milder version of soy sauce.   Don't imagine it like you would something you use on other Japanese food, but something a better.  If you love black pepper without a doubt this ramen will be a hit.

Why Toyama?  Nobody has really heard about this prefecture.  Is it like Tokyo?   Tokyo is Tokyo, not Japan, per say.    Tokyo could actually stand on its own as a country because of its sheer density, culture,  and local economy.    Tokyo favors sight-seekers while Toyama favors the nature lovers and the tree huggers.   Toyama is very much Japan while Tokyo is a hodgepodge of different fusion concepts and designs, fusion foods, and cultural anomalies.    Tokyoites still think it's un-Japanese to share a bath with the opposite sex, and the same could be said for all of Kanto region.   Cultural purism abounds in every other prefecture except Tokyo Prefecture( actually not a prefecture, but could be considering its size and population). 

Kansui Park has one of the most beautiful promenades for walking and is arguably one of the best date spots.   Bridges, canals, waterways, and plenty of spots to sit on green grass and wide open spaces.   Breathe in the clean fresh air while taking in the gorgeous vistas of the bay and mountains.   You could easily spend an entire afternoon here being lazy.  Maybe even read a book on Toyama's lush greenery.    I got online to see if I would be able to book a room for the evening.  Lucked out and found a place in Unazuki Onsen; huge room with a 24-hour hot spring bath and only a 5-minute walk from the station.   I took the last room and off I went.  I made all of my connections on time thankfully and had no preparation for this trip.   Everything was serendipitous like it was all meant to happen just for me.    On a final note for Toyama City, there are lots of museums, pubs, natural parks, and some decent places for shopping.   Its transportation hub is very well thought out and English is spoken by many people here.

Toyama for me represents the coming together of the very best the West has to offer without the gaudiness of Harajuku and the swankiness of Omotesando and the Ginza.   Toyama is the place for  the Eurocentric fashionistas who prefer a more toned down image when they drink their coffee.   A moderately reserved city with clean-cut urban professionals that have a healthy appreciation for city life.   People who live here love it here and many would balk at the idea of living anywhere near Tokyo. 

The reason I chose to visit was for the legendary hot spring baths, delicious water, craft beer, and Japanese sake, and in typical fashion had a chance to chat with Hokuriku's lovely Jukujo.     From Kanazawa Station it takes about 20 minutes on the Hokuriku Shinkansen to reach Toyama Station.    If you want to by-bass Toyama Station you can continue on to Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen Station ( This is a shinkansen stop!).  From there you can take another line directly to Unazuki Onsen.    I chose to spend the afternoon in Toyama City for only one reason and that reason was to spend a lazy afternoon sipping coffee at the gorgeous Kansui Park Branch Starbucks Coffee shop, aka...voted the most beautiful Starbucks in the world!   It's basically just a glass terrace version of Starbucks overlooking Kansui Bay.   You can imagine how difficult it is to get a seat!   I lucked out and was able to get the best spot to enjoy my N.Y. cheesecake and straight black.  ( divine).

The rail networks is really great if you like trains.  Train enthusiast will love Toyama's dated train station all neatly preserved in original form.    Train lines meander around ridges and valleys and lowlands.   Take in views of soaring cliffs and rice terraces filled with water.   Catch a glowing  red sunset over rice paddies with snow-capped mountain ranges in the backdrop!  This is Toyama Prefecture....(sigh).    One interesting note about the Kurobe Line is that you can bring your bicycle onboard without breaking it down.  Just roll it right on the trains and keep it next to you.  The two lines you may want to remember are the Ainokaze Toyama Railway and the Chiho Railway lines.  These lines will take you to some of the most pristine areas arount Toyama Prefecture.

Again, if you choose to not go directly to Toyama Station, Kurobe Unazuki Onsen is a major shinkansen station you can get off at, and from there you can board local trains bound for Kurobe City.

Finally, arriving at nightfall, I walked out of Unazuki Onsen Station gates and was impressed at this lovely fountain shooting up hot steamy hot spring water.   Quite a few Chinese and Korean tourist, too.

After check-in, I had one of these!  Unazuki Beer made from river water and hops grown right in Kurobe.  Quite refreshing after a long journey from Kanazawa Prefecture.   Pure water is the source of pride for the locals here in Kurobe and boasts one of the purest water dams in the world.   

Nightfall came, and the moon was full and the skies were clear.  I opened up the veranda windows wide and sat out drinking just beer.  T.V. was on and volleyball was on the tube.   The beer and onsen went straight to the bones and I fell into a deep sleep.   When I woke up the next morning the weather was gorgeous and sunny.   I grabbed some nihonshu and went down to the outdoor bath to enjoy my liquid breakfast.  Who needs solids, anyway...?

I took my time and checked out nice and slowly.   I took 5 dips in this onsens all night and morning.  Had a chance to reflect on a lot....The last onsen I visited was on the other side of town just after lunch called Kindama Onsen, and it is super amazing water.

Mission accomplished....


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