From Tokyo to Kanazawa: A Journey via the Hokuriku Shinkansen

The Shinkansen line that would eventually become the Hokuriku Shinkansen was built before the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics to service the host city. In 2015, this Shinkansen line was extended up to Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, then in 2024, it was extended again out to Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture. 

Fans of anime and manga will undoubtedly want to visit Akihabara, a commercial district known for its electronics and otaku-culture merchandise. Fans of food culture will also find places of interest in Akihabara, where its frequently-flocked-to Izakaya street is great for food-centric nights out. 

And while Tokyo is well-known for its large crowds and fast-paced hustle and bustle, much of the city is great for leisurely exploration, which is often not far from the more busy areas. A short walk away from Shibuya is Tomigaya, where charming cafes and stylish restaurants can be found at any corner with a much more laid-back feel, it's a perfect oasis for relaxation. 

From either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station, the Hakutaka Hokuriku Shinkansen can be boarded and ridden to our first destination outside of the Kanto region. 



Akihabara at night.


Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku

@Markus Leupold-Löwenthal via Wikimedia

Tomigaya Cafe

Cafe in Tomigaya, near Shibuya


Pay homage to this historic event by visiting the M-Wave Building, which is a 15-minute bus ride from Nagano Station. The former speed skating rink for the games is home to the Nagano Olympic Museum, where a number of artifacts, including the Olympic Torch and documentative photos, can be found. 

However, Nagano’s history extends much beyond the end of the last century. Zenko-ji was founded in 642 AD, and the city of Nagano itself was initially built around this central temple. Zenko-ji is one of the few remaining pilgrimage sites in Japan and is especially famous for its Gokaicho ceremony, which takes place once every 7 years.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

@flickr/ Douglas Sprott

M Wave Building

M-Wave Building, Nagano



Zenko-ji Temple Nagano

@flickr/ jpellgen

But aside from this, typical beach-going fare such as swimming can be done at a few beach spots on the coast. On clear days, the view from this coastline is beautiful, reaching as far out as the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa

The prominence of jade in this area is well displayed at the Hisui-en Garden, where jade rocks are used for decorative purposes throughout. Not far from the garden is also the Tanimura Art Museum, for which a joint ticket with the Gyokusui-en Garden can be purchased. 

Moving up from sea level, Mount Myojo is a limestone rock mountain that looms over Takanami-no-ike. This mountain is popular with rock climbers and hikers and is a great representation of the natural scenery that can be found on the Sea of Japan coast.

Jade Itoigawa

Jade found in Itoigawa



Lake Takanami with a view of Mt. Myoko

@Japan Visitor


Hisui-en Garden, Itoigawa

@Japan Visitor

Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen Station services the eastern part of Toyama Prefecture, right below Niigata. This is a part of the prefecture that is especially rich in natural scenery. 

Here, travelers can make their way to Kurobe Gorge, a point on the Japanese Alpine Route. The deep, rolling valleys are laced with foliage that is vibrant green in summer and glowing shades of crimson and gold in autumn. These valleys are traversed via a trolley train that was originally set up to aid in the construction of the Kurobe Dam that exists nearby. The entire journey takes a little over an hour. 

As the station’s name implies, this area is also near Unazuki Onsen, a town with hot springs often trekked to by locals of Toyama to relax. The town itself is at the entrance of Kurobe Gorge,  making it a great spot for travelers to go back after seeing the natural scenery of the valleys.

Japan Visitor - kurobe-gorge-1.jpg


@Japan Visitor

Some of the most famous fish sourced from these waters include buri (Japanese Amberjack), shiroebi (White Shrimp), and hotaru ika (Firefly Squid). These specialties can be enjoyed at restaurants such as Sushi Ei and Sushi Masa in downtown Toyama. For higher-end options, Michelin-starred Sushijin and SOTO are great ways to eat some of the highest-quality seafood Japan has to offer. 

In addition, Toyama is also home to one of the three holy mountains of Japan, Mount Tateyama (alongside Mount Hakusan in Ishikawa and the iconic Mount Fuji). This mountain serves as the other end of the Alpine Route and also boasts amazing scenery. Those who traverse to the peak will be able to see the iconic Oyama Shrine and an outstanding view of one of Japan’s most geographically diverse prefectures.

Oyama Shrine

Oyama Shrine at the peak of Mount Tateyama



Nigiri at Sushijin in Toyama

Joshua Mueda

Toyama Bay

View of Toyama Bay from Himi, Toyama

@flickr/ 歲月之歌

This includes the Higashi Cha-ya district, which consists of old wooden tea houses (cha-ya means tea house) and other buildings dating back to the Edo Period (1603–1868). Traditionally, this area was intended as an entertainment district where geisha (or geiko, as they are called in Kanazawa) would perform and tend to guests. While this form of entertainment is largely a part of Japan’s past, the practice can still be seen today in three different tea districts throughout Kanazawa. However, only around 50 geiko are actively performing in the city as of today. 

On the other side of the city is Kenroku-en, one of the three treasured gardens of Japan (alongside Kairaku-en in Ibaraki and Koraku-en in Okayama).

Higashi Cha-ya

Kimono at Higashi Cha-ya, Kanazawa

@flickr/ M Reza Faisal


Kenroku-en in early fall



Crabs at Omicho Market, Kanazawa

@flickr/ Howard Stanbury

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