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New Bullet Train Zips to Japan’s Timeless Life

July 5, 2014 Destination North Asia No Comments Email Email

Of all Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train routes, the newest one that will open in spring of 2015 to the Hokuriku region is most likely to appeal to international travelers interested in culture art traditions.

The new Shinkansen Bullet Train to Hokuriku

The train will cut across the Japan Alps to the coast of the Sea of Japan. One of the major stops on the Hokuriku Shinkansen will be the coastal city of Toyama, which nestles along Toyama Bay. Attracting both cold- and warm-water fish, Toyama Bay is a very fertile marine resource for seafood that covers the entire sushi menu. In response to the growing popularity of sushi in the international market like the United States, the local government launched a branding campaign for Toyama’s seafood products in 2011 called Toyama Bay Sushi.

What sets Toyama Bay Sushi apart is the sustainability of its fishing methods. Of the more than 800 varieties of fish and shellfish that thrive in the Sea of Japan, 500 of them can be found in Toyama Bay, where about 200 varieties are caught by local fishermen for food. In Himi City, the epicenter of Toyama’s fishing industry, local fishermen employ a fishing method called set-net fishing that was invented about 400 years ago and which is both eco- and people-friendly. With this method, fishermen can work closed to shore, fish are caught live, and only about 20% of the fish caught in the net are retained. By allowing 80% of the fish return to the ocean, the practice reduces overfishing and sustains the marine environment.

What makes this especially exciting for international travelers is that Himi’s fishermen welcome curious visitors to come on board, observe their fishing methods and then return to the local fish market to pick a sushi lunch right away. The Toyama Bay Sushi network also serves local sushi restaurants, allowing them to serve simple yet incredibly fresh sushi meals with locally caught seafood and bowls of seafood broth soup.

Toyama Prefecture is also known for its annual snowfall, averaging 383cm (150 inches). In the mountains, snow accumulates tens of feet deep. The best place to appreciate this is along the famous alpine scenic Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, which snakes through the northern Japan Alps. It is completely inaccessible in winter, but when spring finally arrives, snowplows free the highway above altitudes of 3,000 meters, carving virtual valleys and creating snow walls as high as 20 meters (over 65 feet) on both sides of the highway. The Japan Alps is also famous for the World Heritage Sites of Shirakawago and Gokayama, where the steep thatched-roof farmhouses from past centuries have been “trapped” in time. Surrounded by mountains and isolated through much of their history, the villages maintain a traditional lifestyle that’s mirrored in their elaborate yet organic architecture.

Toyama Prefecture is also known as an epicenter for Japan’s metal-casting industry, with a history stretching more than 400 years. Takaoka City is famous for traditional metal works such as Buddhist alter parts, copper and bronze bells for Buddhist temples, and items used in traditional tea ceremonies. Takaoka’s metalwork techniques have been passed down for generations, though over time products have evolved to reflect more contemporary designs, like the craftwork produced at such historic studios as NOUSAKU.

In short, Toyama and its surrounding regions are famous for spectacular scenery and for producing the best sushi in the world. Only about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Tokyo, Toyama is poised to inspire more foreign travelers more than ever before beginning in the spring of 2015. For travelers in search of exciting new destinations, the Hokuriku Shinkansen Bullet Train will serve as the link to a different Japan experience.

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