The Hokuriku Region (北 陸, northern territories) is made up of the three prefectures of Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui, which overlook the Sea of Japan. These three areas are characterized by an extremely snowy winter, as in the north they are exposed to the winds coming from Siberia, while, to the south, the Japanese Alps block cold currents, thus retaining snowfall in the area.
At the heart of the Hokuriku we find Ishikawa Prefecture, perhaps the most famous among the three, thanks to Kanazawa, the largest city in the region with a strong cultural and historical identity. In addition to one of the most famous Japanese gardens, the Kenroku-en, you can explore the geisha district, with its tearooms hidden behind traditional buildings, or the samurai alley, as well as a temple which is said to have been used since centuries for ninja practices. Moreover, the peninsula of Noto, will surprise you with a rural and uncontaminated Japan, linked to ancient traditions, absolutely authentic.
Toyama is famous especially for the Kurobe Dam, the highest in Japan, which is part of the Alpen Route, a high mountain route that reveals almost a Swiss landscape, but you are still in Japan! During the thaw, at the beginning of June, it is possible to walk along a road surrounded by snow walls up to 7 meters high! In October, the Kurobe valley gets colored with vibrant autumn colors, which you can enjoy thanks to scenic train routes.
Finally, Fukui Prefecture, still relatively unknown to foreign tourists, will enchant you with some centuries-old temples, including the Eihei-ji, its fossil dinosaur finds, that you can enjoy in an excellent natural history museum (one of the greatest paleontology museums you can find in Asia). Furthermore, the jagged cliffs of Tōjin-bō are a place full of charm.
We still have much to explore in this region, but first take a look at our articles on Ishikawa Prefecture.
How to get to Hokuriku Region
The Hokuriku region, once isolated and difficult to reach, is now much closer to Tōkyō, thanks to the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train), an extension from Nagano to Kanazawa active since 2016. From Tōkyō in about 2 hours and a half you can reach Kanazawa (20 minutes less for Toyama), while the continuation of the works of the high speed line to reach Fukui Station is still ongoing.
For those coming from Kansai, from Ōsaka and Kyōto you can ride the Thunderbird Limited Express, which reaches up to Kanazawa. To go on to Toyama, you need to transfer to the Shinkansen.
The peninsula of Noto is further 80 – 100 km from Kanazawa, but from Tōkyō it can be reached by fast (50 minutes) flights from Haneda airport operated by ANA. The airport code of Noto is NTQ, located in the north of the peninsula. From here, bus connections are scarce, so we recommend renting a car, as we did. In this rural area, traffic is very light, and even for those with little experience, driving will not be a source of anxiety.
Toyama and Kanazawa are covered by the Hokuriku Shinkansen, while the local JR Hokuriku main Lline is available from Kanazawa to the west, via Kaga Onsen, Fukui and Tsuruga.
Along the rest of the coast, between Kanazawa and Naoetsu (Niigata Prefecture), the former JR lines have been divided into several private companies and therefore not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Japan Rail Pass
In addition to the usual global Japan Rail Pass, the Hokuriku area, which saw a touristic boom thanks to the opening of the new Shinkansen route in 2014, makes it possible to use two interesting types of regional Japan Rail Pass:
- Hokuriku Area Pass: allows you to travel in the region for 4 days, covers both the Shinkansen (except the fastest “Kagayaki”), and some private lines and JR.
- Hokuriku Arch Pass: perfect for those who choose the classic tour “Tōkyō + Kansai” passing through this region: 7 consecutive days at about 5000 yen less than the global Japan Rail Pass, with the possibility of adding a convenient extension to the Alpen Route.