Exploring Toyama ken and Ishikawa ken

Got back on Friday evening from a great trip up to the provinces of Ishikawa and Toyama on the Japan Sea. Although this part of Japan is not blessed with a super-abundance of amazing sights, it is what I would call ‘quietly pretty’ and a great place to slowly drive around enjoying some great mountain and coastal scenery, traditional farming villages and lots of very pretty flowers (while the cherry blossom season is well over in Tokyo, it was in full bloom during my trip), as well as some delicious local cuisine.

When not racing from one festival to another, which I will be writing about in separate blogs, much of my time was spent exploring the area for beautiful hidden views and potential camp spots for future visits.

This is always fun, a great way to explore an area and also has the advantage that you already have potential rest spots marked on the map for future reference, such as this spot I discovered on my last trip to the area in September that made the prefect night stay for one of the festivals…

DSC_0003 (2)

I came back home with some fabulous new spots discovered, including a lovely deserted park with a very pretty pond just on the outskirts of a remote onsen village, meaning its just a quick walk to the nearest bath…

DSC_0010

Further into the mountains I found this spot, with great views of both the mountains

DSC_0023

and the coast

DSC_0012

Another great spot I found was this one, which is a great example of what a bit of exploring can get you. Much further down the hill is a very popular viewpoint that was used to take one of the classic shots of Toyama that is used in all the local brochures and posters.

But typically, not a single visitor had bothered to continue on the road further up to the top of the mountain (which was admittedly pretty bad, especially due to all the rubble brought down by the melting snows), where the views were a million times better (except for the haze!)

DSC_0463 (2)

And the descending down the other side of the mountain, equally super views…

DSC_0475 (2)

And here are a couple more great totally isolated places I discovered (the white fluffy things in the background are the snow-covered  Japanese Alps, not clouds, btw!)…

DSC_0037

DSC_0043

Another reliable option are the ski fields, which are basically completely abandoned once the snow has melted…

DSC_0038

What makes the area really fun to drive around at this time of year is that the rice paddies around the houses are largely flooded ahead of planting, which makes the homes look like little islands

DSC_0461 (2)

But this part of Japan also has some seriously pretty villages and towns, including Wajima on the Noto Hanto peninsula, which I found totally charming…

DSC_0331

DSC_0333

DSC_0343

DSC_0346

Another surprisingly charming place was Takaoka, home to the second festival I attended, which has a pretty extensive old part of town

DSC_0527

DSC_0507

DSC_0505

As well as some great temples and shrines,

DSC_0608

including this one that is famous for its very young ‘miko’ (a miko is a Shinto shrine maiden or supplementary priestess)

DSC_0491

Takaoka was also the place in which as I was returning to the shopping centre of the outskirts of town where I’d parked the car after attending the festival, I suddenly realised I no longer had my car keys with me! But when I got back to the van, guess what, they were sitting in the door lock! They’d been there all day, and nobody had stolen a thing! It really made me again realise why I appreciate this country so much!

Funnily enough, I was telling this story to my friend Yuri yesterday, and her reaction was “Why were you so surprised?? This is Japan! I leave the keys in my motorbike all the time!”

I also had a very pleasant surprise when I arrived at Tonami, the town hosting the first festival I planned to attend. Tonami is most famous as the tulip capital of Japan, and when I rolled up I discovered all the local school kids and parents in the middle of making a massive picture made from fresh tulip leaves outside the station…

DSC_0093

Of course, no trip is complete without trying out the local cuisine, the highlight of which was this sansai tempura soba (sansai are wild leaves and plants growing in the surrounding mountains and picked freshly every morning).

Unlike usual tempura, which comes accompanied by a dipping sauce, the sauce for this dish is only for the soba. The tempura itself is eaten with only a small sprinkling of salt and green tea powder (top left of the photo) to ensure none of the unique flavours of the wild plants are lost…

DSC_00391

Well, that just about covers the non-festival part of the trip! I’ll be slowly posting reports on the five festivals as I work my way through the thousands of photos in the coming days, so please keep checking in!

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Exploring Toyama ken and Ishikawa ken

  1. You did well here Floyd. Love the views….. was the place you stayed overnight really isolated ? I’d have been really freaked out!!

    Like

  2. Always isolated, mate! In fact, my last night was the first time in a very, very long time (in fact, so long I can’t remember when last) that I actually had someone else parked next to me for the night!!!

    Actually, it was so nice to go sleep most night again to the sounds of the wild animals (monkeys, deer, raccoon dogs) playing around in the undergrowth nearby!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s