For sight-seeing I have often wrote about and lauded the beauty of the Hokuriku region, particularly Gifu and Ishikawa Prefectures. What is less known is that Fukui and Toyama Prefecture share much of both cultures and are not only a worthwhile side trips from Ishikawa and Gifu, but worthy destinations in their own right.
My wife Yoko and I have been to Hokuriku many times and since Fukui Prefecture is so near, we have the tendancy to consider it Kansai. As you may recall, we vote the Tsuruga Summer Tohrohnagashi Fireworks Festival to be the most marvelous summer festival in all of ‘Kansai’, except that Tsuruga technically isn’t a part of Kansai at all, so that final award has to go to Nara Tohkae. English conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 tend to agree.
Toyama Prefecture has some of the most beautiful scenery in Hokuriku, the roads and parks are very well preserved and developed, the traffic is FAR less than it is in the more famous prefectures, and you can camp wherever you please. Motorcyclists will love the beautiful, curvy mountain roads wrapping around ancient villages adorned with Gassho-zukuri houses, and owners of really big bikes will be happy to learn than many of the roads are not patrolled all that much. Just be careful as those peaceful roads can work against you, especially in the cooler months.
North of the UNESCO Heritage Shirakawago Village in Gifu Prefecture, a lovely place certainly well worth going to but inundated by ubiquitous bus loads of tourists from everywhere, lies the mountainous region of Toyama which shares much of the same culture and heritage as its more famous cousin just a half hour or so to the south. Authentic gassho-zukuri villages are everywhere and far fewer tourist buses around to spoil it. The picture above shows a relic of a 19th Century Fire Brigade, something that might have been considered useless whenever one of those babies caught fire. But you get the idea.
Head up Route 156 from Shiratori, east of Fukui City from Route 158, or straight north from Gifu City, stop at Shirakawago for sure en route to Toyama Prefecture. It’s one of the nicest drives in all of ‘Kansai’.
Martin Werner Zander
Smith’s School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Monthly Tuition English Conversation School