Toyama: Japan’s Hidden Treasure

Back in April, I participated in a Japanese speech contest in Portland called the Toyama Cup.  Much to my surprise, I ended up winning the grand prize, and as a result, I got to explore the beautiful Toyama prefecture in August.  I have been to Japan twice previously, and during those times I visited many beautiful places and famous places.  However, until my trip to Toyama, I have never seen a place full of artistic life as well as beautiful nature.  Although not many people abroad know about Toyama Prefecture, I think Toyama has something for everyone. I would like to share with you my TOP FOUR reasons to visit to Toyama.

  1. NATURE

The first thing that astonished me when I came to Toyama was the amount of nature you could see everywhere.  Even when driving from place to place, I would constantly look out my window and look at the luscious green mountains, rice fields, and the bright blue sky.  This type of scenery actually reminded me a lot of Oregon landscapes as well.  While there were many beautiful natural places in Toyama, Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route was one of my favorites.

The Tateyama Range that consists of many mountains with the elevations of 3000’s meters to the Toyama Bay with the depth over 1000 meters.  On a usual day, when the weather is nice and clear, people say that the view is amazing going up the mountain.  The day I went it was really cloudy and a thick fog covered the mountain as we went up.  While I wasn’t able to see this crystal clear view of the mountain landscape, I still think the fog gave it sort of a mystical feel.  

In the heart of the mountains also lies the Kurobe Dam, a natural huge dam that produce abundant fresh water throughout the year.  The produced water is used as hydroelectric power and for all sorts of irrigation water for various purposes, and is an important resources that supports everyday life in Toyama.  If you stand in the center of the dam you can even see a rainbow pass through.

If you are not much of a hiker but still enjoy nature, the great thing about visiting this place is you go up the mountain without climbing by foot.  It has many various forms of transportation such as cable cars, ropeways, buses and more, which allows you to still enjoy making your way up the mountain while enjoying the scenic view.  On the other hand, if you are a hiker and love the challenge of climbing up the mountain, there were also many hikers making their way up the mountain on foot as well.

2. ART

Because of my unique interest in the fine arts, I found the artistic places in Toyama to be particularly interesting.  First we went to the Toyama Glass Art Museum.  This art museum has glass art on display by Chihuly and other artists as well.  The Chihuly exhibit was not only breathtaking because of its vivid colors and creative shapes his pieces took on, but I was excited to make conversation over Chihuly as many of his works are also featured in the Desert Botanical Garden in my Arizona.  I also enjoyed the Toshio Iezumi exhibit as all of his glass works were the same color, but each one had a different shape, form, reflection or something that it made it completely different from the others.  While the pieces of art themselves were stunning and fun to look and take pictures of, what made the museum unique is beautiful architectural deign and its inclusion a library as well.  When I happened to go, there was an event going on called “Knowledge Forest,” where children could write down their favorite book and why they like it on a leaf-shaped paper, and it would be hung and connected to other children’s recommendations.  I feel like a library or a museum can easily be a boring place for a child, but it is engaging activities like these that make it interesting not only for adults but for children as well.

Afterwards, we went to the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design.   Although the museum was not yet open when I had gone, the museum was still packed with fun and engaging activities to do.  I have no better way to describe the contents of the museum other than “INTERACTIVE ART.”  Down every hall was something new to try….whether it was a photo spot with a polar bear statue, a video-game like room where you made a picture by walking around, or hallways with shapes on the walls that you could move around.  The architecture was also one of genius, as the museum has open glass windows to allow people to look down onto the beautiful park while enjoying the museum.  The rooftop has a playground that honestly is both photogenic and fun for both children and adults.  This museum intrigued me so much by its interactive atmosphere that it made me want to come visit again once it opens to see how the atmosphere of the museum is different in its entirety.

 

Another interesting place related to the fine arts in Toyama prefecture is TOGA Village, a huge park full of theatre companies in the mountains of Toyama.  I have studied about Tadashi Suzuki before at my university, as his physical approach to acting is universally known in the world of theatre, but I hardly imagined his theatre company to be that deep into the mountains.  When I went there were no productions to see unfortunately, but they have many productions each and every year, so I hope that I can go back to Toyama to see one sometime.

3. SEAFOOD

Toyama Prefecture lies on Toyama Bay and the Sea of Japan, making it one of the best places to try seafood in Japan.  Some of their specialities include yellowtail, broad velvet fish, and crab.  Shinmato Fisherman’s Wharf has one of the only live auctions that takes place in the afternoon as opposed to early morning where you can watch them sell a wide variety of fish, and soon after, you can head inside to look at the fish-selling vendors and buy kaisen-don.

If you would like a similar experience with more of a scenic view, I recommend going to Himi Banyagai.  Here I was able to see a wide variety of different fish, visit an exhibit about fishing in Toyama Bay, and enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean during this time.

4.  HISTORY

Zuiryuji Temple is designated as a National Treasure of Japan and a must see place during a trip to Japan.  While most people go to Kyoto to see temples when they came to Japan, I found these temples in Toyama to be very quiet and peaceful, which allowed me to really take in all of my surroundings. Zuiryuji dates all the way back to the Edo period.  The open windows down the long narrow hallways make it easy to see the beautiful green grass lawn that separates the gate from the temple, and the peaceful atmosphere makes it really feel like you are walking through ancient Japan.

I found the Great Buddha of Takaoka to be particularly interesting, as it was not my first time visiting one of the giant Buddha’s before.  Last year I had visited the Buddha in Kamakura, which is supposedly one of the larger Buddha’s and is a very popular tourist location.  However, although the Buddha of Takaoka was smaller, I found it a lot more interesting.  Because it was smaller and less crowded, I was able to enjoy not just the Buddha itself, but the entire atmosphere surrounding it as well.  It was fairly quiet there and the people working there told us how depending the angle you stood at the Buddha looked either happy or angry.  On the inside, there were many pictures depicting Buddha, hell, and other religious symbols.  It peaked my interest in Japanese religions because I have never really learned about Japanese religions through art before.  IMG_4607

Well thats all for this very long blog post.  またね〜

 

 

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