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Explore the Central Japan Region with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

Explore the Central Japan Region with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass

Planning a trip to Nagoya and Central Japan Region? In this travel guide with sample itinerary, I will help you plan your trip and give suggestions on the top things to do, tourist spots and attractions that you could visit in Nagoya, and nearby prefectures such as Gifu, Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui.


The Central Japan Region is a year-round destination that offers an abundance of nature and delicious food every season. Plan your next winter holiday in Central Japan by using the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass to enjoy five days of unlimited rides on designated JR local trains, limited express trains, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, and buses within the Central Region.

You can check some of their highlight spots here https://bit.ly/3sLBDI8.

Here is a Central Japan sample itinerary that can help you get the most value out of your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass:


DAY 0: Arriving late at night in Nagoya, all you will need is a good night rest. So, be sure to choose a hotel that is centrally located and offers great accommodation.

Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel


You may start your Central Japan trip at the Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel. This luxury hotel is conveniently located right above Nagoya Station, making it the best jump-off point for your five-day Central Japan adventure. Aside from its convenience, Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel also had excellent customer service and large modern rooms, which will surely make your stay amazingly comfortable. The panoramic views of the city that can be seen in the room also added to its luxurious ambience.

DAY 1: After a good night’s rest, you may start exploring some of Nagoya’s popular tourist spots as well as its local cuisines. You may also do a bit of shopping.

Nagoya-meshi (Kishimen)

 
Tasting various cuisines in different areas of Japan is one of the most anticipated activities of any tourist visiting the country. Try one of Nagoya’s specialty cuisines - kishimen. It is a noodle dish known for its hirauchi (flattened) noodles made from wheat flour, water, and salt. For the full Nagoya experience, kishimen is best eaten in the form of miso stewed udon.

For those who are not a fan of miso, kishimen can also be enjoyed with pasta sauce, hot soup, or cooled, just like regular udon.

Things to do in Nagoga Kishimen Ramen

Nagoya TV Tower


From Nagoya Station, take a 10-minute subway ride to see the Nagoya TV Tower, which is only a few minutes’ walk from Oasis 21. The tower was constructed in 1954 and is considered as the first and oldest television transmission tower in Japan. The tower was originally built to mark the reconstruction of the city after the second world war and to promote tourism and TV broadcasting in Nagoya at that time. In 2005, it was recognized as one of Japan's tangible cultural property, a recognition given to tangible cultural products that possess high historic, artistic, and academic value to Japan.

Currently, the tower is still being used for multimedia broadcasting while also housing various restaurants, shops, and two observation decks where visitors can enjoy an amazing 360-degree panoramic view of the city for JPY 900 per person. The Nagoya skyline seen from the observatory is considered one of Japan’s Night-view Heritage, so make sure you don’t miss it!

For more information, you may visit http://www.nagoya-tv-tower.co.jp/.

Things to do in Nagoga Kishimen Ramen

Café Gentiane (Piyorin)


The Japanese’s obsession for cute things does not end in the Kanto area – it is a culture shared all over the country. In Nagoya, the cutest dessert is called piyorin. It is said that the name is coming from the words piyo-piyo (Japanese onomatopoeia for the chirping sound of a chick) and purin (Japanese pudding), piyorin is a chick-shaped cake that can be enjoyed at Café Gentiane, a specialty cafe located along the Tokaido-dori side of Nagoya Station.

Aside from its cute appearance, piyorin is also well-known for using one of the most expensive eggs in the country – Nagoya’s famed cochin eggs. While a custard base topped with vanilla mousse is the original flavor, piyorin also comes in matcha and other limited-edition flavors depending on the season.

Isn’t that they are so cute? These are special version for Valentine.

Things to do in Nagoga Kishimen Ramen

JR Gate Tower


Adjacent to the JR Nagoya Station is the Takashimaya Gate Tower Mall. Not to be confused with the JR Takashimaya that stands right next to it, the Gate Tower Mall is the one with the bus terminal on the first floor. The Gate Tower Mall is a shopping mall that houses stores specializing in cosmetics, fashion, and lifestyle. There are also a select number of cafes and restaurants offering pastries and sandwiches.

Shopping (Uniqlo, Bic Camera)


Located on the 9th and 10th floor of the JR Gate Tower is Bic Camera. Contrary to its name, cameras are not the only things you can buy here. Bic Camera has a wide selection of electronics, game software, and even alcoholic beverages available for purchase. If your total expenditure exceeds a certain value, you can also avail of the tax-free incentive so make sure you have your passport with you when you shop here.

If you’re in the mood for shopping for clothes, just go up one floor to get to Uniqlo, and its slightly cheaper-priced sister company, GU, to start rocking that Japanese-style fashion!

*Note: Leave your luggage at hotel and pick them up before moving to Takayama. From Nagoya Station, take the train to Takayama and transfer to Nohi bus to Hodakaso Yamano Hotel.

Hodakaso Yamano Hotel


For the night, you may stay at the Yamano Hotel, a ryokan in the middle of the mountainous area. The highlight of the night is their outdoor bath located outside of the hotel. Take a cable car and go to the ground, there is a wide hot spring bath in the wood where you can enjoy nature. You shouldn’t miss the dinner with Hida beef too! https://visitgifu.com/see-do/okuhida-hot-spring-villages/

Hodakaso Yamano Hotel


DAY 2: On this day, explore Takayama and Takaoka Cities, taste its local cuisines and visit Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shinhotaka Ropeway


For another unforgettable Japanese winter experience, try riding the Shinhotaka Ropeway, the only double-decker ropeway in Japan. If you go to Central Japan in winter, you sure don’t want to miss out on viewing the magnificent Japanese Alps Mountain Range. From the Yamano Hotel, take the Nohi Bus directly to the ropeway. At the rooftop observatory deck located in the upper station (Nishihotakaguchi Station) at an altitude of around 2,156 meters, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys covered in white snow. https://visitgifu.com/see-do/shinhotaka-ropeway/

Takayama Ramen


For lunch, try the Chuka Soba or locally known as “Takayama Ramen”. The soba has base broth made with bones, vegetables, and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) is enriched with soy sauce. Both the soba and base broth are handmade with different style representing each restaurant. Have a bowl of char siu toppings or with raw eggs.

Takayama Ramen


Takayama Historical District


In the afternoon, go for a walk around the Sanmachi-dori. Located near the Miyagawa River, the old town of preserved and restored buildings remained from the Edo period lets you soak in a historic atmosphere. Add up to your stroll with a piece of Hida Beef Nigiri or Hida beef skewers. https://visitgifu.com/see-do/takayama-historic-district/

Takayama Historical District


Hida Beef


While in the Central Japan region, you should also try their famous Hida beef. Hida beef refers to the Kuroge Wagyu breed of cattle raised in Gifu Prefecture known for its high quality, with beautiful marbling, color, texture and taste. It is said to be one of the best beef brands in Japan so it is definitely a must-try delicacy.

“But I can’t afford such a high-class beef”

Oh, but you can! Although kuroge wagyu is considered to be a high-class beef, it is also a popular ingredient in many “B-class” Japanese gourmet cuisines. In Takayama, you can have a Hida beef croquette for as low as 250 yen! Hida beef can be enjoyed in a steamed bun, broiled skewer, or as a sushi. https://visitgifu.com/see-do/hida-beef/

Hida Beef in Takayama


Shirakawa-go


From Takayama Station, take the Nohi bus direct to Shirakawa-go Village, which is probably the most popular destination in Central Japan region. This route is the most preferred access mode to Shirakawa-go and is usually sold out, especially in the winter, so it’s better to reserve your tickets beforehand. Tickets can be exchanged at Nohi Bus Center right next to Takayama Station.

Shirakawa-go Village


A must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri villages, whose roofs are constructed at a steep angle to allow heavy snow to fall off easily in winter. While mostly known for the snow-covered houses during winter, Shirakawa-go offers wonderful views in every season so make sure to visit this place during different times of the year to feel each season’s unique charm.

Shirakawa-go Village

Shirakawa-go Village


A five-minute shuttle ride for 200 yen (one-way) or a 25-minute walk up the mountain will lead you to an observation deck overlooking the whole area. This is the place where many famous Instagrammers got their breathtaking photos of the village.

Shirakawa-go Village


*Note: You can put your luggage at the coin lockers or luggage room near Shirakawago Bus Terminal. They are located at the back of the room or come to ask the staff for that. https://visitgifu.com/see-do/unesco-world-heritage-site-shirakawa-go/

Shirakawa-go Village

Shirakawa-go Village

Shirakawa-go Village


Takaoka City


After enjoying Shirakawago, take the World Heritage Bus to move to another city - Takaoka City. This is the hometown of Fujiko F. Fujio, father of Doraemon, so one can find various places related to the characters.

Doraemon Tram


Take the Doraemon Tram to go eat dinner at a famous local sushi restaurant. Who wouldn’t want to take a ride here with one of your childhood friends like Doraemon? I’m sure you like it!

Doraemon Tram Takaoka City


Toyama Sushi (Dinner)


Toyama is located near the sea and is therefore abundant with fresh seafood products. Don’t miss to enjoy the freshest ingredients that landed directly from the sea to one of the restaurants located at Toyama Bay. You may check out Iki-zushi氷見寿司, which is a well-known restaurant among the locals. One of their must-try dishes is the white shrimp (Shiro-ebi). They are sweeter and much smaller than the normal one. Enjoy sumptuous servings of white shrimp nigiri and white shrimp tempura.

Toyama Sushi


Route Inn Takaoka


At night, check-in at Route Inn Takaoka which is conveniently located in Takaoka City. As it is centrally located, it only takes about 2 minutes walk from Takaoka Station, near Takaoka Buddah and Zuiryuji Temple.

DAY 3: On this day, you could explore more around Toyama and Takaoka and visit its popular tourist spots and attractions. Then at the end of the day, proceed to Kanazawa City.

Shogawa Gorge, Toyama


In the morning, take a bus from Takaoka Station going to Shogawa Gorge for a relaxing boat cruise. For just 2,800 yen, you can enjoy the spectacular view of Shogawa Gorge by riding a sightseeing boat that operates on the Shogawa Gorge between Komaki Dam and Omaki Onsen.

Shogawa Gorge, Toyama


The soothing one-hour cruise along the Shogawa Gorge offers varying but equally breathtaking views all throughout the year. In winter, you can see the mountain covered in snow while flowers in full bloom adorn them in spring. The summer season highlights the mountains’ lush greenery and in autumn, you get the best seat in enjoying Japan’s autumn leaves.

Shogawa Gorge, Toyama


Zuiryuji Temple


After finishing the sightseeing boat, go back to Takaoka city to visit Zuiryuji Temple and have lunch. It has been designated as a "National Treasure" and is a must-see attraction during a visit to this pleasant town in the Central region of Japan. The main gate, Butsuden (Buddha hall), and Dharma hall stand in a line, and the temple buildings are laid out symmetrically left and right, interconnected by roofed passageways in a beautiful and powerful sight.

Zuiryuji Temple


You can have your lunch at Yasuragi-an where they serve seasonal dishes. The dishes for February using fresh vegetables and seafood.

Doraemon Postbox


After seeing the Temple take the bus heading back to Takaoka Station to go to your next destination. On the second floor of the station, you will be welcomed by a slightly familiar cat. This giant copper made Doraemon Postbox is considered one of the icons of Takaoka City, which happens to be the birthplace of the manga artist that brought Doraemon to life. Located on the first floor of the Takaoka Station building, letters and postcards dropped in this postbox is stamped with a commemorative Doraemon postmark. Why not send yourself and your friends a postcard to commemorate your visit to Doraemon’s birth town?

Doraemon Postbox


Handcraft Experience at Nousaku Factory, Takaoka City


From Takaoka Station, go back to your hotel and take your luggage and then take a taxi to Nousaku Factory for a little cultural immersion. Takaoka City is historically known as a center of metal casting, and this industry still thrives in the city today. Take a look at their cute Doraemon collections! Afterwards, you may try making your very own tin item by joining a workshop at the Nousaku Lab.

Handcraft Experience at Nousaku Factory, Takaoka City

Handcraft Experience at Nousaku Factory, Takaoka City


Kanazawa Station, Tsuzumi Gate


After visiting Nousaku Factory, proceed to Shin Takaoka station to catch the Hokuriku Shinkansen toward Kanazawa City (included in the pass too!)

Look at the huge Tsuzumi Gate, designed to symbolize the drums played in Noh Theater, welcoming you at the station here. It is said to be an unofficial symbol of Kanazawa and famous for being a combination of traditional wooden design and contemporary style.

Kanazawa Station, Tsuzumi Gate


Kagaya


At Kagaya, you can enjoy an Ozen Set with dishes made by seasonal ingredients unique to the local area. A tray with sushi, miso soup and some other traditional dishes are served for you to enjoy.

Kagaya Dish


Hotel Wing International Premium Kanazawa Ekimae


At night you may stay at Hotel Wing International Premium near Kanazawa Ekimae. It is a fairly new hotel with stylish design.

Hotel Wing International Premium Kanazawa Ekimae


DAY 4: On your 4th day in Central Japan, you may explore Kanazawa City and enjoy its many historical tourist spots and amazing attractions.

Kanazawa City


The fourth day is a day for Kanazawa when you can leisurely enjoy the whole city. Kanazawa is an old castle town, well-known for its well-preserved Edo-era districts, art museums, magnificent garden and regional handicrafts. Here one can try both some modern experience while enjoy its beauty from the old days.

Kenrokuen Garden


From Kanazawa Station, take a bus to Kenrokuen and visit Kenrokuen Garden. This garden is said to be one of The Three Great Garden of Japan. Entrance fee is 320 yen, which feels a little cheap. The spacious grounds used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and features a variety of flowering trees of seasonal natural beauty, including the snow-covered landscape with yukitsuri (snow hanging), a method of protecting the branches of the pine trees in the garden to prevent them from breaking due to heavy snow. If you visit Kanazawa Castle first, you could exit the castle grounds from the Ishikawa Gate, which will lead you directly to the Kenrokuen Garden.

Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa City Japan


Kanazawa Castle, Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge


Next in our itinerary is Kanazawa Castle. This used to be seat of the Maeda Clan, a feudal domain ranking second only to the Tokugawa possessions in terms of size and wealth, from 1583 until the end of the Edo Period. Since then, the castle has been extensively rebuilt and renovated due to numerous fire incidents. In July 2020, Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge on the west side of Kanazawa Castle were restored.

Kanazawa Castle, Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge


The castle ground is vast, and the building and gates contain excellent displays on traditional carpentry and the garden with a central pond can be a resting place if you get tired of walking.

Kanazawa Castle, Nezumitamon Gate and Nezumitamon Bridge


Gyokusen’an Rest House


Located in the area of Kanazawa Castle Park, this is a tea house with the view of the Gyokusen’inmaru Garden. Sit down and have a cup of tea with wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets.

Gyokusen’an Rest House


Omicho Market


For lunch, take a ten minute walk to reach Omicho Market, one of Kanazawa's famous fresh food markets. This market offers local specialties such as snow crab and sweet shrimps during winter season. Similar to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, hundreds of stalls and restaurants selling fresh seafood are lined up so you can choose which ones you want to try!

Omicho Market


Higashi Chaya District


For your last spot in Kanazawa city is Higashi Chaya District, said to be one of Kanazawa’s largest geisha districts. Walk around the old Chaya (tea house) in a Kimono and take a photoshoot for your social media accounts. Also, this is one of some unique places in Japan where you can try soft cream with gold leaf.

*Note: Prepare your things and just leave your luggage at the hotel and get it back at end of the day. Then, take Thunderbird limited express train heading to Awara Onsen in Fukui Prefecture.

Higashi Chaya District


Stay at Awara Onsen Matsuya Sensen


Take a hotel shuttle bus from JR Awara Onsen station to the ryokan.

Awara Hot Spring Footbath


After checking in, you could start exploring and enjoy the FREE public foot bath nearby. Search for “Ashiyu” on Google Maps for this place, located just in front of Awara Yunomachi station. This decent facility offers several foot baths which are different shapes and temperatures. You may also want to try some food selling at the Yataimura Yukemuri Yokocho right in front of the foot bath building.

Awara Hot Spring Footbath


DAY 5: On your last and final day, you could explore Katsuyama City in Fukui Prefecture before your flight back home.

Fukui Station


For your last day, take the shuttle bus and Hokuriku Main Line to go back to Fukui Station.

Did you know that Katsuyama City in Fukui Prefecture is Japan’s most prominent dinosaur fossil discovery site? In Fukui Station’s West Exit, you can see a 10-meter model of Fukuititan, one of the dinosaurs found in Fukui. A model of the other dinosaur fossils discovered in Fukui, Fukuiraptor and Fukuisaurus, can also be found in Fukui Station.

Fukui Station


Dinosaur Museum, Fukui


If you want to learn more about the Fukui dinosaurs, you can head to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, located almost 1 hour away from Fukui Station. This museum, located in Katsuyama City, is recognized as one of the top dinosaur museums in the world and is the largest of its kind in Japan.

Currently, they only let visitors who already reserved a ticket to get in, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dinosaur Museum, Fukui


Dinocafe


The restaurant inside the museum offers western style food with Dino’s characters desserts that will satisfy the visitors including kids, adults and Dino’s lovers.

Dinocafe


About Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass


If you’re planning to explore Japan’s Central region, this PASS is must-have item. Aside from being convenient, it can also help you save on transportation costs. Plan your trip well and make the most of it for 5 consecutive days.

You can purchase it on the official website of JR Central (link below) before departing at cheaper price than buying in Japan, at about 15,280 JPY.

For more details about the Pass please check this link: https://bit.ly/3bEOJjl.

Tips for your Central Japan trip:

  • Stay at a hotel near the stations so you can leave your luggage there to go sightseeing. Or else, there are various coin lockers available at stations and popular tourist spot (ie, Shirakawago).
  • Reserve your seats on bus to and from Shirakawago since the place is exceedingly popular with travelers and locals. Buses are always full.
  • Once you arrived in Nagoya Station, you can exchange your Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass at the JR counter. Also, Tourist Pass holders will be able to go pass the automatic gate from March 2021.
  • Tourist Pass holders can reserve seats on Limited Express train but need to use the non-reserve seats on Shinkansen trains.
  • Plan your itinerary well to save time and be able to explore as many tourist spots and attractions as possible.
  • Check the weather and plan for the clothes you will bring. Be sure to be ready for the cold weather if you’re visiting during winter.




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