Cruising down the City of Medicine: 10 Unique Things to Do in Toyama City
Surrounded by beautiful nature and popular travel destinations like the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Toyama City is a worthy travel destination by itself. It boasts a rich history and a unique tradition as a medicinal town, as well as a wide variety of local dishes.
If you're traveling to this part of Japan, stopping in Toyama can be a very pleasant trip. Here's a selection of unique things you can do here.
1. Go on a Cruise Through History and Nature
The best way to start acquainting yourself with Toyama is to hop on a river cruise. Right by the Toyama Castle Park is the Matsukawa River, once used to draw water for the castle moat. The Matsukawa River Cruise has been operating since 1988 and it takes visitors on a relaxing boat trip through the center of the city.
While leading you under seven bridges and hundreds of cherry blossoms, the boatman will tell you about the history of Toyama and share interesting anecdotes about the bridges. The cruises offer great views throughout the year with gorgeous cherry blossoms in spring, vibrant greens in summer and falling leaves in autumn.
The cheerful boatman
The dinner cruise is a great way to taste some Toyama specialties in a special atmosphere.
InformationMatsukawa River Cruises | 松川遊覧船
Address (boarding deck): 1-34 Honmaru, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Access: 10 min. walk from JR Toyama station
*Please check the website for prices and reservations
2. Learn About Toyama Through Music
Inside the Matsukawa Chaya café is a small exhibition dedicated to Rentaro Taki, a well-known Japanese composer from the late 19th century. Taki lived in Toyama when he was 7 and attended school inside the Toyama Castle ruins. This is said to have inspired his famous song "Kojo no Tsuki" ("The Moon over the Ruined Castle"). The space documents the connection between Taki and the city of Toyama.
InformationTaki Rentaro Memorial Room | 滝廉太郎記念館
Hours: same as Matsukawa Chaya
3. Gift Yourself a Craft Fish PasteOne of the typical foods of Toyama is kamaboko, a fish paste made from surimi that is very common in the Japanese cuisine. At Umekama you can sample and purchase Toyama's characteristic kombu-wrapped kamaboko, and also explore the origins and history of this staple dish. The gallery space showcases old kamaboko-making tools, and a presentation available in four languages (including English) will tell you everything from the invention of kamaboko to the origin of its name.
Umekama not only produces Toyama's signature kamaboko, but also what is called "craftsman kamaboko". The fish paste is made into shapes that symbolize good fortune and well-being like the sea bream, crane, tortoise and Mt. Fuji and shared in occasions such as births or weddings. This tradition is unique to Toyama. With a reservation you can try your hand at making craft kamaboko. The shop has a large window into the factory, where you can see kamaboko craftsmen at work.
Kamaboko is rich in protein and low in fat and calories, making it a healthy food.
Toyama's signature kombu maki kamaboko
Craft Kamaboko from up close
InformationUmekama Museum U-mei Kan | 梅かまミュージアムU-mei館
Address: 482-8 Mizubashi Kainasaki, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: weekdays and Saturdays 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. / Sundays and holidays 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays
Access: 25 min. by car from JR Toyama Station
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.umekama.co.jp/
4. Dive into the City of MedicineSince the Edo period (1603-1868) Toyama has been renowned for its pharmaceutical industry. Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten is the best place to experience Toyama's medicinal tradition. The shop's flagship product is Hangontan, a remedy for the digestive system that has been used since the Edo Period.
Inside the shop you can see how Hangontan pills were made and you can try making your own using the traditional wooden machine. They promote the concept of zauri, a Japanese way of selling while counseling. Not only they sell remedies, but they also offer help clients choose the best remedies for their symptoms.
You can peruse a wide variety of medicinal herbs and teas, as well as various kinds of medicines in retro packages that, make for great alternative souvenirs!
On the second floor is the restaurant YAKUTO, where you can experience medicinal cooking. They offer healthy and delicious meals made using medicinal herbs and healthy ingredients. The menu even includes sweets and homemade ice cream.
InformationIkedaya Yasubei Shouten | 池田屋安兵衛商店
Address: 1-3-5 Tsutsumichodori,Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (Yakuto 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)
Yakuto is closed on Wednesdays
Access: 3 min. walk from Nishicho Station on the Toyama Chiho Railway
5. Indulge in Guilt-Free CandyGoing hand-in-hand with Toyama's medicine tradition for over 350 years is Shimakawa Ame Ten. Founded in 1663, this establishment produces mizuame, a mildly sweet syrup that was originally added to medicines to balance their bitterness. Mizuame contains no sugar and it's obtained by cooking together only two ingredients: malt and starch. While it is not used in medicines anymore, it makes for a great healthy treat and it can also be used in cooking or as a sweetener.
You can tour the factory to see how this candy is still made using the traditional method and even try making it yourself. The shop also sells other sweets, including mizuame throat candy.
Simple things are the best: a little mizuame on a stick
Mizuame is sold in several sizes, all with a very stylish packaging.
InformationShimakawa Ame Ten | 島川あめ店
Address: 6-7 Furukajimachi, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays
Access: 3 min. walk from Kamihonmachi Station on the Toyama Chiho Railway
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.shimakawaameten.co.jp/
*The factory tour and candy making experience require a reservation (TEL: 076-425-5104 Japanese-only)
6. Enjoy Rice, Shrimps and Mountains All in One PlaceAnother typical treat and souvenir from Toyama is Shiroebi Senbei. This crispy rice cracker is flavored with Shiroebi, a small shrimp found in Toyama Bay. We recommend a trip to Sasaraya's main store in Tateyama where you can watch the making process and even grill some fresh ones yourself. The factory/shop is surrounded by Toyama's countryside, offering great views of the Tateyama Mountain Range from their cafe space.
All their rice snacks and sweets are made with 100% Toyama harvested rice.
A must: try their unusual Shiroebi senbei soft-serve ice cream!
Sasaraya serves some of the most amazing grilled dango.
InformationSasaraya Tateyama Main Store | ささら屋立山本店
Address: 21 Tateyamamachi, Nakaniikawa-gun, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Closed on New Year's Day
Access: 13 min. walk from Tazoe Station on the Toyama Chiho Railway
Website (Japanese-only): https://www.sasaraya-kakibei.com/
7. Taste the Delicate Sweetness of the MoonSpeaking of treats you can only find in Toyama, Tsukisekai is another must-try. Founded in 1897, this traditional shop makes a delicate dry sweet called Tsuki Sekai ("moon world"). The ingredients are simple: a base of fresh eggs, different types of sugars, molasses and vegetable gelatin. This treat melts in your mouth. Here they also make Maidohaya, a soft, marshmallow-like sweet that comes in two flavors: sesame and yuzu.
InformationTsukisekai Honpo | 月世界本舗
Address: 8-6 Kamihonmachi, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Closed on Sundays
Access: 5 min. walk from Nishicho Station on the Toyama Chiho Railway
Website (Japanese-only): http://www.tukisekai.co.jp/
8. Enter the Floating CastleInside the Toyama Castle Park is a reconstruction of the Toyama castle built in the 1950s. To protect it, they utilized the Jinzu River which has been the biggest river in Toyama prefecture as a natural defense moat for its north side. Viewed from a boat sailing the river, the castle looked like it was floating on the water, gaining it the nickname "floating castle". Inside you can find the Toyama Municipal Folk Museum documenting the history of Toyama and the Maeda Clan who once ruled the city. This interesting history trip will lead you to the observation deck, where you'll be able to gaze at the city from the castle tower.
Toyama Castle and an impressive helmet worn by Maeda Toshinaga, one of the lords of the Maeda clan.
Toyama Municipal Folk Museum | 富山市郷土博物館
Address: 1-62 Honmaru, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Access: 15 min. walk from Toyama Station
Website (Japanese-only): https://www.city.toyama.toyama.jp/etc/muse/index.html
9. Lose Yourself in a world of glass and BooksIf you want a little rest, dip into some incredible art at the Toyama Glass Art Museum. Opened in 2015, this beautifully intricate building of glass and wood was designed by world-famous architect Kengo Kuma.
You'll be enraptured by its spiraling structures and stacking layers. Its six floors house temporary and permanent glass art exhibitions, as well as Toyama's city library. The many open spaces with tables and benches are great for a rest, while the library will make you feel in contact with the locals.
InformationToyama Glass Art Museum | 富山市ガラス美術館
Address: 5-1 Nishicho, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Access: 2 min. walk from Nishicho Station on the Toyama Chiho Railway
*Please check the website for prices and information about the exhibitions.
10. Watch the City from up HighThe Toyama City Hall features a 70 meter-high observation tower that offers gorgeous views of Toyama. On a clear winter day you'll be able to gaze at the famous scene of Toyama with the breathtaking Toyama Mountain Range in the background. Even when the mountains are not visible, the night skyline is still an excellent view.
InformationToyama City Hall Observation Tower | 富山市役所 展望塔
Address: 7-38 Shinsakuramachi, Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture (MAP)
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. (November - March 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.)
Closed December 29 - January 3
Access: 8 min. walk from Toyama Station
Website (Japanese-only): https://www.city.toyama.toyama.jp/zaimubu/kanzaika/shiyakushotemboto.html
Where to StayThere are plenty of accommodation options in Toyama City. For easy access to all the main spots we recommend something close to the main station like the Hotel Grand Terrace Toyama. With its convenient location just a 5-minute walk from both Toyama Station and the Toyama Castle Park it's the ideal headquarters for your trip. The buffet breakfast on the 12th floor offers gorgeous views of the city, as well as a selection of regional food.
Hotel Grand Terrace Toyama
A night treat! Free ochazuke (green tea over rice) in the lobby
Access and Getting AroundToyama City is easily accessible by Shinkansen from Tokyo (2h 8 min.), Osaka (3h 10min.) and Nagoya (3h 30min.). Toyama Airport is also connected with Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
Several tram lines and buses run within the city, making it easy to get around. The Toyama Chiho Railway has three different routes in the central part of the city, while the Toyama Light Rail Toyamako Line (Portram) connects Toyama Station with the port town of Iwase. The Gurutto Bus is a good way to get to Toyama's main sightseeing spots. In addition, rental bicycles are also available with more than 20 stations dotted around the city.
Toyama transportation Routes and Fees
Toyama is a unique city with plenty to discover and explore. It makes for a perfect starting point for visiting other locations in Toyama Prefecture and it has so many things to offer that it can be a destination in itself. While it's beautiful throughout the year, the best time to visit is the winter, when the clear skies allow for those beautiful mountain views.
*The above article is based on information from June 2019.
*Prices, business hours and other information in this article are subject to change.
About the Author
Laura is an Italian living and working in Tokyo. She loves exploring hidden and unknown places, taking pictures and listening to Punk Rock music. When she’s not busy doing the above, she might enjoy a craft beer or play the sanshin (an Okinawan instrument similar to a shamisen).
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 09 19,2019 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team