Toyama Travel Guide
While it doesn’t draw tourist visits like other destinations in Central Honshu, Toyama is worthy of a stopover. Located within view of the peaks of the Japanese Alps and sitting on the Sea of Japan, nature is never far, yet despite this, the biggest attractions of Toyama can be found within city limits.
A spectacular glass museum, preserved Edo Period structures, and a number of beautiful municipal parks are just a few sights you should see during your stay in this beautiful city.
Start your time in the Toyama area by checking out what the Toyama Glass Art Museum has to offer. This institution, which boasts spectacular modernist architecture, has sourced unique glass artworks from across the globe, easily making it this city’s top attraction.
While there are a number of interesting exhibits throughout this museum, be sure not to miss the Glass Art Garden. Assembled by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, this exquisite arrangement of coloured glass sculptures will have you in awe at the creativity of those who shape glass for a living.
On your way out, be sure to check out the public library of Toyama, as it is located in the same building at the Toyama Glass Art Museum.
Still on an art kick after the glass museum? Keep it going with a trip to the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design. While it is not well known to foreign tourists visiting the region, its contents make it a hidden gem.
Within, you’ll find works by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Dali, and others. Of course, there are plenty of pieces by nationally and regionally famous Japanese artists as well, so take your time so you can discover talent in places you would have never considered. This is a great attraction to visit as a family, as there is a children’s area that help brings the creative arts alive in a way that is engaging for those who are younger.
Take a trip back to the Edo Period by dropping by Toyama Castle Park. While it may not be the best place to go if you are a historical purist (the original castle was dismantled in the Meiji Restoration and was rebuilt using ferro-concrete in the 1950s), the appearance of the castle still makes it a worthwhile place to visit.
Some of the castle walls and the moat are original, and within the reconstructed keep, you’ll find a museum that relays both the history of the castle and the city of Toyama. In the park, a number of cherry trees make it a great place to be during sakura season, while the Sato Memorial Art Museum shows off the lacquerware, paintings, and other valuables of a wealthy businessperson from the city’s past.
At one point, the Traditional Town of Iwase was separate from Toyama. However, as the city grew over the centuries, it eventually overtook it. During its heyday, this Edo Period port received ships from China, Russia, and other trading nations.
Many of the old timber shophouses from that time still stand, lovingly cared for over the ages by the families who inherited them. As you stroll, you’ll find artist collectives, as well as tours that will show you how people lived in this port town for generations.
As you make your way through Toyama, you’ll come across unique public spaces like Fugan Unga Kansui Park. Originally created at the dawn of the 20th century to control seasonal flooding, this strip of land abutting a canal was beautified and turned into a park in the 1980s.
Scenic in spring, summer, and fall, locals can be spotted going for daily walks along the water’s edge, bird watching, or enjoying sakura blooms in season. Cruises operate on the canal during the summer months, with rides costing 1500 yen for adults.
Yatsuo no Machinami is another old streetscape that is worth experiencing on a visit to Toyama. Along this cobblestone thoroughfare, you’ll find countless structures maintained in a style that is consistent with the Edo Period.
On most nights, its restaurants, which serve traditional Japanese cuisine, make this place well worth your time. During the early days of September, though, it is definitely the place to be, as the Owara Festival turns these stone streets into a dance floor. Filled with performers doing traditional dances, it will be an evening of culture you won’t soon forget.
Get a dramatic, sweeping view of Toyama City and its natural surroundings by heading up into the Toyama City Hall Observation Tower . Situated 70 metres above street level, this post will allow you to see the snow-capped peaks of the distant Tateyama Mountains on a clear day.