Traveling at thrilling speed in total comfort and experience the beauty of Japan aboard one of the world's most advanced high-speed trains when the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) opens its doors to passenger service on March 14, 2015. Connecting Tokyo and the historic capital of Ishikawa prefecture, Kanazawa, in approximately two and a half hours, the new route will provide quick access to the Hokuriku region and beyond. Here is a 7-day sample itinerary for you.
Heading north and west from Tokyo on Japan's main island of Honshu, the new train route will provide ready access to the prefectures of Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Gifu, Ishikawa, and Fukui. Framed by the majestic Japanese Alps to the south and the fishing villages found along the Sea of Japan's picturesque coastline, the region offers a treasure trove of cultural excursions far off the beaten path.
Welcome to Japan! One of the world's most cutting-edge capitals, Tokyo is a city of contrasts, modernity, neon-lit landscapes, towering skyscrapers and peaceful shrines. No matter your interest, the city of Tokyo is at your beck and call. Explore the shopping districts of Ginza and Shinjuku and wander the funky backstreets of Harajuku. Pop culture enthusiasts can comfortably explore the anime and manga emporiums of Akihabara and Nakano Broadway for hours. And for those who love culture and tradition, feel free to leisurely take it all in by exploring the temples and souvenir shops of Asakusa, or experience the homey downtown charm of Yanaka or Nezu. A myriad of Tokyo neighborhoods await you.
To explore Tokyo, visit here.
Nagano is an inland prefecture located in the center of Japan. It is surrounded by mountains peaking around 10,000 ft, and is often called the "Roof of Japan". From ski resorts to summer vacationing in Karuizawa, Nagano attracts visitors throughout the year. In Karuizawa, visit the 10-ft waterfall "Shiraito Waterfalls". It is named for the hundreds of thin water lines that look like white strings. The expanse of waterfall stretches 230 ft wide, making for a panoramic view. You cannot miss Snow Monkey Park "Jigokudani Yaen-koen" in Nagano. It is the only place in the world where you can see wild monkeys bathing in hot springs. Read Sake and Food Catalog.
To explore Nagano, visit here.
Sado Island in Niigata is home to Kodo, the world's most famous group of taiko drummers and the biggest draw of the Earth Celebration held every August. Steeped in rural custom, Sado is also known throughout the country for its Noh dramatic traditions. More than thirty Noh stages present performances from April to October, including the famed Takigi Noh (Bonfire Noh). Sado is easily reached from the bullet train's Joetsu-Myoko JR Station and via ferry from nearby port of Naoetsu.
The terrific profusion of sushi restaurants found throughout Hokuriku, coupled with regional sake offerings from the area's Sakagura (sake cellars), make the region a special draw for culinary enthusiasts. In Toyama, dominated by the magnificent Tateyama Mountains and Toyama Bay, the Toyama Bay Sushi network supplies local restaurants with more than 100 varieties of freshly caught seafood, while the Masuda Sake Company, founded in 1893, offers an informative Sakagura tour. From mid April through mid June, visit Yuki no Otani Snow Walls at Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. A tourist bus passes through the 65-ft snow walls.
After exploring Toyama, take local trains to visit Gifu. Gifu consists of two distinct areas: Hida in the north and Mino in the south. Hida is characterized by its mountain range that rises over 10,000 ft, and experience heavy snowfall in the winter. Mino is covered by far-reaching plains and many rivers. Hida-Takayama San Machi is nationally recognized as one of the best-preserved Edo-era (17th - 19th century) neighborhoods in Japan. The historic village of Shirakawa-go is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To explore Gifu, visit here.
Kanazawa is the Ishikawa's capital city with its castles, gardens, and temples. In the city center, wonder through Kenroku-en Garden, one of Japan's three major gardens. Cap the experience with a visit to Kanazawa's teeming and not-to-be-missed Omi-cho Ichiba Market, founded in 1721 as a fish market and now offering vegetables, fruit and more in addition to seafood. Read Sake and Food Catalog.
To explore Ishikawa, visit here.
Hokuriku is also renowned for its traditional craftsmanship, with techniques passed down by generations of artisans creating everything from lacquerware and handmade Washi paper to forged steel swords. Take local trains from Kanazawa and see Fukui masters at work demonstrating traditional Japanese papermaking techniques at the Udatsu Paper and Craft Museum, where visitors can also participate in a hands-on workshop. Eihei-ji Temple was built by Japanese Buddhist teacher Dogen in 1244. It is an active monastery with roughly 200 practicing monks. Try its local sake in Fukui. Yoshida Shuzo was established in 1806. The masters at this small brewery are determined to use only local soil, water and rice. Read The Craft Catalog.
To explore Fukui, visit here.