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3-Day Model Trip Outline of the region

Hokuriku

3-Day Model Trip Outline of the region / Hokuriku / Hot Spring Resorts and Magnificent Seasonal Views

Little Kyoto

From the sheer cliffs and diversified rocks along the picturesque coastline seen from Wakasa Bay, Echizen-misaki Point, Tojinbo and Noto-hanto Peninsula, to the mountainous scenery including the World Cultural Heritage Shirakawa-go Village and Kurobe Gorge, the Hokuriku region offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Japan. The Samurai culture of the Edo Period (1603-1867) flourished in Kanazawa which became a "Little Kyoto". It is a home to artistic craft products that rival those of Kyoto for their beauty and refinement, and is also known for some of Japan's most famous Zen temples.

Kaga Hyakumangoku

In the area of present-day Ishikawa Prefecture, the luxurious culture called Kaga Hyakumangoku thrived during the Edo Period. Hyakumangoku referred to the Kaga Clan's rice crops, and was synonymous for its glorious prosperity. The Maeda Family, having passed through the severe wars and transition of the Warring State Period, ruled the Kaga Clan. Its first feudal lord in the Edo Period, Maeda Toshiie, had the fervent desire that there would not be any more wars so that the people of Kanazawa could live in peace. The successive Kaga feudal lords perpetuated his desire by striving to cultivate and maintain the rice fields making them productive despite the severe climate of this region known for its heavy snowfall in winter. At the same time, they strove to foster a brilliant culture that could compete with that of Kyoto. The feudal lords did this by gathering experts in tea ceremony, artisans and ceramists for social events, supported their artistic activities, and in this way inspired them to compete with each other. Even today, there are many kilns and art studios around the city of Kanazawa where Kanazawa Castle was located, and many artists have made it their home.

Kaga Colors

The world famous Kutaniyaki porcelainware, along with Aritayaki and Imariyaki, is known for its vivid coloring. This coloring of Kutaniyaki is called Kagagosai and refers to the five basic colors of green, yellow, red, purple and navy blue used in the patterns and designs of natural subjects on the porcelain. Kagayuzen is a well-known dyeing technique noted for its elegance. Along with Kyoyuzen, produced in Kyoto, it is best known for its use in traditional kimono. While both use multi-color techniques, unlike Kyoto's famous Kyoyuzen with its gradation of multi-coloring and use of gold foil and embroidery, Kagayuzen employs a sharply contrastive gradation of the five basic colors in a manner that is natural and very unique to Samurai culture as compared to that of the imperial culture in Kyoto. Also, the traditional technique of a single artisan carrying out the complete process from the first sketch to the final process by hand, is still retained from the old days.

Kanazawa Castle Park

Kanazawa Castle Ruins that used to be the residence of the Kaga Clan has been transformed into the Kaga Castle Park. Its castle tower was destroyed by lightning, but Hishiyagura (diamond shaped turret), Gojukkennagaya (armory) and Hashizumemontsuzuki yagura (gate with turret) which were all restored in 2001, retain the atmosphere of the glorious days of yesteryear. Kenroku Garden originally was the outer garden of the castle. Covering 105,000 m2, it is famous for the diversity of its garden and the way it utilizes the contours of the land. The pine trees protected by yukitsuri (a pole and ropes to support trees against heavy snowfall in winter) and beautiful kotojidoro (lanterns) placed along the side of the pond are famous. The garden is counted as one of the three great gardens in Japan together with Kairakuen in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture and Korakuen in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture.

Kaga Cuisine

Kanazawa is also known for Kaga Cuisine or the cuisine of the feudal lord of which such delicacies as crabs and the small sweet prawns called amaebi play a prominent role. At the 300-year-old Omicho Market, visitors come from nearby prefectures and even from the Kanto region to shop. In winter the market is piled high with crabs from the Sea of Japan. These delicacies can be savored in the Japanese-style restaurants of Kanazawa and as well as the Japanese-style inns with onsen (hot spring) located around the city. There are many hot springs in the vicinity of Kanazawa, and one of note is Yamanaka Hot Spring. It has a beautiful ravine praised by the haiku poet Matsuo Basho and an elegant bridge over the ravine called Korogibashi,which literally means "cricket bridge."

Noto-hanto Peninsula

Situated to the east of Kanazawa is the Noto-hanto Peninsula surrounded by the remarkable cliffs and sea-eroded caves along its saw-toothed coastline. The peninsula is also known for Soji-ji Temple, the second most prominent Zen training temple in Japan after Eihei-ji Temple. Here, too, is Wajima City, the home of Wajima-nuri lacquerware noted for its distinctive multi-coloring.

Gokayama

An excursion to Toyama leads to some of Japan's most spectacular mountain scenery. A recommended trip is to travel via the breathtaking 2,702-meter-high Mt. Hakusan down to Shirakawa-go Village, and then backtrack to Gokayama, a World Cultural Heritage Site. The Ainokura District of Gokayama is a small community of three- and four-story thatched "Gassho Style"(literally means "praying hands") farmhouses. They are skillfully built without nails in a steep A-frame style to protect the houses from the very heavy snows of this region. Many of the houses are over 300 years old, and the upper floors of these farmhouses were used for silkworm raising, which provided an extra source of income in this area during the winter time when no farm work was possible as a result of being snowbound. Vistors can stay in these houses, eating with the family, but prior reservations are advised. Making paper by hand is also demonstrated in Gokayama.

Alpine Grandeur

One of the most amazing travel experiences in Japan is along the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, which originates in Toyama. This is not possible until May when enough of the winter snow has melted to make it possible to carve a path along the roads. Visitors come from all over Japan to make the scenic journey that goes through walls of ice taller than the bus. The same route is also breathtaking in summer when alpine flowers bloom on the high, still-snow-capped mountains.

A taste of Zen

An equally tantalizing trip from Kanazawa is to head south to Fukui Prefecture to visit the Eihei-ji temple, the most famous and prominent Zen training temple in Japan. Since the temple was founded in 1243, generations of trainee priests have led an austere life here, meditating, eating vegetarian food, tending the temple and begging for alms. One can apply for an overnight stay to experience the ways of Zen, including zazen (sitting meditation). Applications should be made in writing one week in advance.

The Cliffs of Tojinbo

Fukui has spectacular coastline scenery to enjoy, but perhaps most nationally famous of all, is Tojinbo which belongs to the Echizen Kaga Coastline Quasi-National Park and is noted for its gigantic cliffs and the beauty of the surrounding intricately shaped rocks. Tojinbo is the name of the cliffs whose rock faces have roughly been eroded by the raging waves. The cliffs extend as far as 1 km, and are designated a natural monument in Japan. This columnar jointed andesites (collection of pentagonal and hexagonal columns of rocks) of Tojinbo is a geographically rare phenomenon, and can only be seen here in Japan and only two other places around the world. A sightseeing boat for viewing the sight from the sea is available, and it can be viewed from the 54.7 m-high Tojinbo Tower as well.

Old Seaport

Obama is an old seaport situated in the inner inlet of Wakasa Bay in Fukui Prefecture. A road linking Obama to the ancient capital of Kyoto was once called the "Mackerel route," as it was along this road that couriers ran carrying freshly-caught mackerel to the tables of Kyoto epicures. Obama also prospered as a stopping-off point for the ships that carried marine products. In San'no-cho, the former geisha quarter, a taste of the atmosphere of olden days, the streets crowded with people, can be experienced even today. Many temples and shrines dot the landscape of Obama, and sites such as the Hachimangu Shrine, with it's "lodges" set aside for the gods who may be visiting from other parts of the Japan, and the Jingu-ji, an imposing temple with a thatched roof, are popular. Obama also produces Wakasa-nuri a unique lacquerware inlaid with pieces of shells and eggs with numerous colors which glitter like jewels. A pair of chopsticks of Wakasa-nuri is quite popular and make a useful and lasting souvenir.

Old Morning Market

The old castle town of Echizen-Ono, known for its 400-year-old morning market, is lined with old inns. On the Echizen Coast on the cliff 132 m above sea level, stands Echizen-misaki Lighthouse from which Tojinbo or Tsuruga-hanto Peninsula can be overlooked on a clear day. The Echizen Coastal area has a rather mild climate because of the warm current of Taima. It brings less snowfall and causes the wild Echizen daffodils in the vicinity of Echizen-misaki Point to bloom in riotous colors from December to March.