Toyama Pre­fec­ture

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TONAMI TULIP PARK: WHERE IT’S SPRING ALL YEAR ROUND

This idyl­lic mu­nic­i­pal­ity where tulips bloom av­er­age a full blos­som for three to seven days in spring, but at the Tonami Tulip Park in Tonami City, the flow­ers bloom all year round with the help of ad­vanced cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques. By freez­ing and warm­ing the bulbs at pre­cise tem­per­a­tures, the fa­cil­ity is able to make tulips bloom any­time, any­where. With its tulip his­tory go­ing way back to 1918, the city of Tonami re­mains Ja­pan’s premier tulip pro­ducer. The two-week long Tonami Tulip Fair held at the park yearly from late April to early May show­cases an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of three mil­lion tulips in 700 va­ri­eties. Sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties, cen­tred on a theme which changes an­nu­ally, await vis­i­tors at the fair. Amongst these in­cludes a flower fash­ion show, where mod­els dressed as ‘tulip princesses’ walk the run­way; a hands-on flower ta­pes­try event, where you cre­ate your own mo­tifs us­ing tulip pe­tals; float­ing flower beds; a wa­ter wheel gar­den and more.

FUJIKO F. FUJIO HOME­TOWN ART GALLERY: THE MAN BE­HIND JA­PAN’S FAVOURITE RO­BOTIC CAT

In the neigh­bor­ing city of Takaoka, fans of the wildly pop­u­lar manga se­ries Do­rae­mon will de­light in the Home­town Art Gallery ded­i­cated to the life and work of one of the se­ries’ co-creators, Fujiko F. Fujio. Housed in the Takaoka Art Mu­seum, the ex­hibit pro­vides an insight into the child­hood and life of the artist and dis­plays many of his orig­i­nal art­works. It is said that the cre­ator of Ja­pan’s most iconic manga char­ac­ter drew in­spi­ra­tion from his child­hood days in Takaoka for his work. Although the write-ups are mainly in Ja­panese, vis­i­tors can ad­mire the aes­thet­ics of the artist’s iconic works at the ex­hibit. While you’re roam­ing around Takaoka, hop on the one and only Do­rae­mon tram in the world! The tram started its ser­vice in Septem­ber 2012, mark­ing a 100-year countdown to Do­rae­mon’s birth­day in the se­ries, 3rd Septem­ber 2112. A ride on the adorable tram will def­i­nitely lift your spir­its and ex­cite the young ones.

TEA GAR­DENS OF KOKYUJI TEM­PLE

Whilst in Takaoka, take a small de­tour to Himi City and visit the tea gar­dens of

Kokyuji Tem­ple, which have ex­isted for sev­eral cen­turies. The gar­dens uses a pop­u­lar tech­nique in Ja­panese gar­den land­scap­ing, known as “bor­rowed land­scapes”, where the

forests in the back­ground of the tem­ple blend in to form a har­mo­nious pic­ture with the minia­ture gar­den. Ja­panese tea gar­dens serve as med­i­ta­tive spa­ces for one to ac­quire the in­ner har­mony needed to ap­pre­ci­ate chanoyu, the art of tea.

MOUNT TATE: GI­ANT AMONG GIANTS

In the heart of Toyama Pre­fec­ture lies one of Ja­pan’s most revered peaks – the enig­matic

Tateyama. At 3015 me­tres high, Mount Tate is one of the few moun­tains in the Ja­pan Alps with glaciers, and is no­to­ri­ous for its steep cliffs and snowy passes. More than a few have lost their lives mak­ing this treach­er­ous as­cent, but climbers con­tinue to be drawn to the peak for its nat­u­ral beauty through­out the sea­sons.

LEG­END OF THE BEAR: MYS­TI­CAL ORI­GINS OF THE HOLY PEAK

An­cient leg­ends tell the story of a boy who was hunt­ing a hawk in the moun­tains when he came across a bear and wounded it with his bow and ar­row. Af­ter fol­low­ing the blood­ied traces of the bear, the boy ar­rived at a cave in the Hida Moun­tains, where he saw the great Amitha Bud­dha, with an ar­row in the chest right where he had shot the bear be­fore. There­after, Tateyama was wor­shipped as a sa­cred moun­tain in­hab­ited by gods, and Bud­dhist monks and pil­grims were the only per­sons al­lowed to scale it.

TATEYAMA KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE: ONE OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD

That changed in 1971, when the Tateyama

Kurobe Alpine Route, an alpine pass that tra­verses across the Ja­pan Alps from Toyama City in Toyama Pre­fec­ture to Omachi Town in Nagano Pre­fec­ture, was es­tab­lished. The route opened up the re­gion’s stun­ning scenery to the rest of the world. Ev­ery year, one mil­lion vis­i­tors jour­ney across the route which em­ploys six dif­fer­ent types of trans­porta­tion, in­clud­ing the ca­ble car, tun­nel trol­ley bus and rope­way. The 1.7-kilo­me­tre long Tateyama

Rope­way, also the long­est one-span rope­way in Ja­pan, is es­pe­cially worth men­tion­ing as it pro­vides a cap­ti­vat­ing bird’s eye view of the sur­round­ing alpine scenery. On Murodo

Peak, the high­est point of the route, stands Ja­pan’s high­est ho­tel, Ho­tel Tateyama. Other ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, such as moun­tain huts and camp grounds, are also avail­able at Murodo. A range of hik­ing trails at Murodo caters to both sea­soned hik­ers and vis­i­tors who are con­tent with a leisurely walk. In sum­mer and au­tumn, it is also pos­si­ble to hike down to the nearby

Jigoku­dani, or Hell Val­ley, where vol­canic actvity can be ob­served. The trails are how­ever closed when there are high con­cen­tra­tions of vol­canic gases in the area.

The snow cor­ri­dor on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is the most pop­u­lar at­trac­tion in spring, and for very good rea­sons. Pic­ture your­self walk­ing in the mid­dle of two solid, tow­er­ing walls of snow, some 20 me­tres high. It’s hard to think where else on earth you could ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing like this. Dur­ing win­ter, when heavy snow­fall char­ac­ter­is­tic of the re­gion oc­curs, snow piles up around the up­per sec­tions of Mida­ga­hara and Murodo. Snow­blow­ing trucks and back­hoes are then brought in to clear a path through the ac­cu­mu­lated snow. The end-re­sult is an im­pec­ca­bly “sculpted” snow cor­ri­dor.

KUROBE DAM: MON­U­MEN­TAL PROJECT OF THE CEN­TURY

Yet an­other high­light on the route is the

Kurobe Dam, an at­trac­tion in its own right. At 186 me­tres, the dam is the na­tion’s tallest. The con­struc­tion of Kurobe Dam, whose pur­pose was to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the Kan­sai re­gion in post-war Ja­pan, took seven years and 10 mil­lion peo­ple to com­plete. Be­cause the project was a per­ilous un­der­tak­ing at the time, over 170 peo­ple lost their lives in the process. Ev­ery year be­tween late June and mid Oc­to­ber, there’s a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of wa­ter be­ing re­leased through the gates of the dam – do not miss it! To ad­mire the scenic views of Kurobe Lake and its en­vi­rons close-up,

BOT­TOM Climb up to the ob­ser­va­tory deck on Kurobe­daira for a 360-de­gree panoramic view of the moun­tains

TOP Mount Tate is one of Ja­pan’s three holy peaks, along with Mount Fuji and Mount Haku

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