I recently had the opportunity to visit the Hokuriku region of Japan, an underrated and relatively unknown area of the country which is rich in sites, culture and spirituality. If you missed my last blog post on the region, I wanted to champion the area a little more, with 10 unique things to do in the area if you should ever visit!
- Visit a Sake Brewery
Sake is Japan’s most well known alcoholic export. You’ll find sake in every bar and restaurant in Tokyo, but you’ll have to head out to the countryside to see the process of it being made. We visited the Kiminoi Sake Brewery near to Myoko city in Hokuriku. It was housed in a traditional building complete with friendly staff and a great little gift shop!
2. Find your Zen in the home of Zen Buddhism
A hurricane struck Fukui the day we visited the Eiheiji Temple, home of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism. Yet still, the place felt incredibly peaceful and somehow the rain only added to that. Hidden within dense forest, the temple is home to grey-robed monks and is surrounded by some of the country’s best vegetarian cuisine.
3. Stay in a traditional Ryokan
If there’s one experience you must have anywhere in rural Japan, it’s staying in a traditional Ryokan. A Ryokan is a Japanese style guesthouse, where your bed will be made on the floor, you’ll bath in an Onsen and be given a kimono to wear around the grounds. It’s a wonderful taste of traditional Japan, and to find out where they are, visit the Japan Ryokan Association.
4. Taste Vanilla Green Tea Ice Cream
A highlight of the Hokuriku region is the lovely town of Takayama, with a well preserved old district full of wooden store fronts selling everything from souvenirs to sake to green tea treats. A personal favourite was the Green Tea and Vanilla Ice Cream found at Cha-no-me. The perfect break in a day of exploring the city!
5. See the gasho-style houses with your own eyes
The UNESCO World Heritage Shirakawa-go Village is something you need to see with your own eyes! The stunning village is located in a valley between soaring mountains full of thick green trees. The thing that makes this village so unique is the gasho-style houses, which are built in a triangle shape, set to mimic a prayer sign. It’s a beautiful place to stroll around and perhaps stay the night too.
6. Make traditional Japanese paper
Also located in Fukui, nearby the Eiheiji Temple is the Echizen Washi Paper Village. It’s the perfect place to try your hand at some Japanese crafts – being famous for making traditional paper. After you’ve seen the process of making paper the traditional way, you can head off to make your own sheet and then have a browse through the local gift shop too!
7. Take the brand new Hokuriku bullet train
The Hokuriku region has recently become much more accessible to travellers thanks to the Hokuriku bullet train which runs from Tokyo to Kawazawa. The train connects the whole region to two major tourist hubs, and it means easy access to some of the more off-the-beaten-track spots in the area!
8. Get lost in a psychedelic universe at the Myoko Happiness Illumination light show
I’m not the kind of traveller who likes illuminations, theme parks or anything too flashy. Yet the Myoko Happiness Illuminations really did impress me! Set on a mountain side, the illuminations are a series of LED light installations, each a little weirder and more wonderful than the one before. Spend a while walking around and be transported into a psychedelic universe!
9. Taste home-made tofu and vegan chocolate truffles in a forest surrounding
I mentioned previously that a highlight of visiting the Eiheiji temple is the range of vegetarian food on offer in the area around. We stopped by Sachiya Restaurant for lunch and it was one of my favourite food experiences in Japan! Not only do they make their own tofu on site, but the restaurant is surrounded by thick forest and the chocolate truffles for desert were to die for!
10. End your night in an outdoor Onsen
Hokuriku is far from the party scene and neon lights of late-night Tokyo. The best way to end your evening in this part of Japan is in an outdoor Onsen, looking up at the clear sky above after a delicious traditional meal!
For more on the Hokuriku region, check out my in-depth review of the region!