This post may contain affiliate links. When you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you.
Nature takes center stage in Japan’s coastal Hokuriku region. Home to the west coast, towering mountains, and a host of scenic and historical sites, this area should be explored further. Made up of Fukui, Ishikawa, and Toyama prefectures, you can visit villages in the countryside, from dinosaurs to a bustling geisha district. The best part is that it’s easy to get to from Tokyo by train, bus, or car.
Kanazawa, in Ishikawa Prefecture, is home to one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. In what was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle, the park is a year-round hotspot due to changing trees. Kenrokuen translates as “Garden of the Six Sublimities,” essential attributes consisting of spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and expansive views. You will see all these elements throughout your visit: trees, flowers, ponds, bridges, lanterns, tea houses and many hills from which you can see the garden from different points of view. It’s an ideal landscape to take a walk and admire the “eternal life” element of gardening that has taken generations to perfect.
2. Noto Peninsula
The Noto Peninsula’s biggest selling point is its isolation, a hidden gem jutting out into the Sea of Japan from the northern half of Ishikawa. Rich in the spirit of traditional Japan, you’ll find picturesque fishing villages, temples, and unspoiled landscapes. Home to the country’s only passable beach road at Chirihama Nagisa Alley, the views are truly one of a kind. In addition, the Noto peninsula is excellent to visit at any time of the year, although the weather is better in spring and autumn. Here are some of the region’s highlights:
Senmaida’s rice fields face the sea and attract professional and amateur photographers who want to capture an iconic image of Japan. The Wajima Morning Market is also the place where locals and visitors exchange fish, local produce, and produce from more than 200 stalls. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to see an “armored” island. In this case, Mitsukejima is an uninhibited rocky island that attracts tourists who want to see its fascinating formation, watch the sunrise, and even ring a bell promising everlasting love. There are more interesting rock formations at the Ganmon Caves, where large boulders form a gateway to the sea. Finally, temples like Sojiji Temple and the five-story pagoda at Myojoji Temple complete a tour of the peninsula.
3. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Visit the “roof of Japan” where you can venture through walls of snow in spring or enjoy one of Japan’s best hiking trails in summer and fall. Located between Toyama and Naganole, the 37.2 km drive includes Shomyo Falls, the highest waterfall in Japan, Kurobe Dam, the sacred Mount Tate and the picturesque Mikurigaike Pond. Cross the Tateyama mountain range more than 900 meters above sea level by bus, cable car, tram, cable car and on foot, admiring the lush nature that surrounds you. But it’s not just a beautiful mountain pass; the mountain range is precious to be inhabited by gods. The domain is open from mid-April to mid-November.
4. Fukui Prefectural Museum of Dinosaurs
Did you know that Japan is also known for its dinosaur fossil finds? Fukui is famous for unearthing many bones of incredible scientific value, including two species called Fukuisaurus and Fukuiraptor. Home to 44 different dinosaur skeletons, the world’s largest dinosaur museum offers a fascinating look into natural history. There’s also a life-size dinosaur diorama, a dinosaur lab, and regular special exhibits. If you want the chance to dig up some bones yourself, the museum offers transportation to Japan’s foremost dinosaur discovery site, where you can roll up your sleeves and get to work in hopes of finding your historical treasure. The museum is open every day except Wednesday from 9 am to 5 pm, with field visits taking place from April to November.
(Note: the museum will be closed for renovations from December 5, 2022 until summer 2023)
Tranquil ocean views await as you lounge in the steaming hot springs of Wakura Onsen. The indoor and outdoor baths can be enjoyed as is or during part of your stay. Stay in a ryokan to make the most of your Wakura vacation. The 1,200-year-old hot spring is considered a lucky charm for anyone who bathes in it, and traditionally helps bathers catch plenty of fish. You may no longer need luck to fish, but the therapeutic waters are sure to bring you happiness and good health.
6. Tojinbo Cliffs
If Mother Nature is an artist, Fukui’s Tojinbo Cliffs would be one of her many masterpieces. Shaped by the waves of the sea, this rocky coastline rises 30 meters above the water and is home to incredible beauty and traditions. The story is that Tojinbo was a monk who died here, and it’s easy to see how. Visitors should be careful as there is nothing to stop venturing along the sheer cliffs where a misstep can be serious. The cliffs are best seen from the trail next door, from a boat cruise from Tojinbo Tower. It is a short walk from other notable attractions such as the island of Oshima, which can be reached by crossing a beautiful scarlet bridge over the sea.
One of the three holiest mountains in Japan, along with Mount Fuji and Mount Tate, is the snow-covered Mount Haku in Hakusan, Ishikawa. This active volcano hasn’t erupted since 1659, but is still responsible for heating the nearby hot springs. It is home to a diversity of biodiversity on the mountain and in the surrounding National Park. If you enjoy hiking, you may be brave enough to scale the 9,000-foot mountain or follow the park’s landlocked trails. The area also offers delicious seafood, serene onsens, historic temples and shrines, and untouched nature. The city is beautiful all year round and the mountaineering season runs from April to October each year.
Return to the traditional Gokayama neighborhood in Nanto, Toyama, where many houses date back hundreds of years. Two towns, Suganuma and Ainokura, are listed as World Heritage Sites for gassho houses known for their sloping roofs to facilitate snowfall. In addition to the gassho-style villages, visitors can enjoy hot springs, local dishes, and culture such as the kokiriko folk dance. Although there are modest accommodations and local amenities such as restaurants and shops, the real draw here is the authentic lifestyle, architecture and nature. Every season has beautiful views, and although winter is cold, it’s the perfect time to see the pitched roofs in action. Visitors and residents alike can experience “yui,” which means “community spirit,” because Gokayama has a lot of that.
9. Higashi Chaya District
The Kanazawa Geisha Historic District is not to be missed, and while there are three to choose from, Higashi Chaya (meaning oriental tea house) is the largest. Like Kyoto, Kanazawa was one of the few places untouched by the bombs of World War II and still retains Japan’s iconic traditional wooden buildings. Keep an eye out for geisha when you visit one of two teahouses open to the public during the day, including one that’s open by invitation only to wealthy patrons at night. You can also wander the streets stopping to sample Kanazawa delicacies such as ice cream covered in gold leaf or kintsuba, a sweet made with adzuki beans wrapped in wheat flour. Walking north a short distance will find you in the quiet streets of the Utatsuyama temple district, with more than 50 temples and shrines and very few tourists. This district is an ideal stop at any time of the year; the region is beautiful all year round.
10. Museum of Contemporary Art of the XXI Century
Famous for its unique architecture, this spaceship-like building in Kanazawa houses galleries, a library, and a cafe. It has a maze-like design that allows visitors to explore like a giant playground. Filled with interactive artwork, the museum invites visitors to feel comfortable and have fun in the space. Popular exhibits include a pool you can jump into without getting wet (which makes for great Instagram snaps), a glass bridge displaying Japan’s four seasons, and a colorful house with stained glass walls. In addition to the permanent collection, there are always temporary exhibitions that make each visit different. The museum is open every day except Mondays and holidays with variable hours. It is best to visit their website to see what works will be on display during your visit.
There is so much to see and do in the Hokuriku area, including Zen temples, castles, and samurai villages, that this list barely scratches the surface. While these are all must see places, you can always book a tour to make a personalized plan to see all the best this area has to offer.
Japan Merveille Voyage is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan.
From private walking tours to delicious food tours, we can help you put together the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and stories of each region you visit, our knowledgeable and friendly English-speaking guides will be happy to take you to the best places!
Also, we can provide any assistance you may need for your next trip to Japan, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need help!
If you want to make your trip easier, we suggest looking for packages. There is a wide range of packages to meet the needs of every traveler. Click the button below to find the best tour package among the various tour operators!
Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TIC Tac for more travel inspiration. Or tag us to be featured!
Have a good trip !