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Hello Hokuriku! Holidaying around the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension’s new stops

Hello Hokuriku! Holidaying around the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension’s new stops

Have you been to Hokuriku (北陸)? Commonly referring to the three prefectures of Toyama (富山県), Ishikawa (石川県), and Fukui (福井県) (but sometimes including fourth prefecture of Niigata (新潟県)), the Hokuriku Region is located on the north-western part of mainland Japan, along the Sea of Japan. 

 

The Hokuriku Region is often overlooked by foreign visitors to Japan, who often directly go from Tokyo to Osaka, but if you have the time, I highly recommend taking a detour through Hokuriku to explore the diverse sights it has to offer.

 

Extension plans for the Hokuriku Shinkansen. (Image credit: JR West)

 

With the opening of the first extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen in March 2015 to Kanazawa, access to the region from Tokyo became quicker and more convenient. Come 16 March 2024, the next phase of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension is set to open, and will serve 124km across six stations, making access even better. A trip from Tokyo to Fukui will take less than 3 hours, and a trip from Tokyo to Tsuruga will take slightly over 3 hours.

 

The six stations set to open along the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension are:

  • Komatsu Station (小松駅)
  • Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
  • Awaraonsen Station (芦原温泉駅)
  • Fukui Station (福井温泉駅)
  • Echizen-Takefu Station (越前たけふ駅)
  • Tsuruga Station (敦賀駅)

 

In this article, we’ll briefly introduce these six new stations, as well as the sights and highlights to take note of if you’re planning a holiday to Hokuriku!

 

① Komatsu Station (小松駅)

Komatsu Station. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Komatsu Station is located in Ishikawa’s Komatsu City (小松市)―the prefecture’s second largest city―a city known for its proximity to beautiful nature. The station’s exterior features a three-dimensional (3D) geometric design that aims evoke the image of a snow-covered Mount Haku (白山 Hakusan), one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. From the shinkansen platform, passengers will be able to enjoy the view of the actual Mount Haku through the glass.

 

Natadera Temple

Autumn is the best season to visit Natadera. (Image credit: 石川県観光連盟)

 

One of Komatsu’s must-visit spots is Natadera Temple (那谷寺), a temple built on a rocky mountain. With a history said to date back to 717, this temple has origins in mountain worship (山岳信仰 Sangaku shinkō), and worships Mount Haku. The temple grounds are a great place to view autumn foliage, with trees erupting in shades of red, yellow, and orange.

 

Natadera Temple (那谷寺)
Address: 122 Natamachi, Komatsu, Ishikawa 923-0336 
Access: 45-minute bus ride from JR Komatsu Station (小松駅)
Opening hours: 09:15–16:00
Admission fee: Visit website for more info

 

Motorcar Museum of Japan

So many vintage cars inside the museum. (Image credit: 石川県観光連盟)

 

Attention all automobile lovers: if you love cars, then you need to check out the Motorcar Museum of Japan (日本自動車博物館). This is Japan’s largest car museum, and showcases over 500 vehicles from the 1900s to 1970s, spread over three levels.

 

Motorcar Museum of Japan (日本自動車博物館)
Address: 40 Ikkanyama, Futatsunashimachi, Komatsu, Ishikawa 923-0345
Access: 15-minute taxi ride from JR Komatsu Station (小松駅)
Opening hours: Visit website for more info
Admission fee: Visit website for more info

 

② Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅)

Kagaonsen Station. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Nestled between Mount Haku and the Sea of Japan, Kaga Onsen (加賀温泉郷) is a 1,300-year-old hot spring resort made up of four hot spring towns: Yamashiro Onsen (山代温泉), Yamanaka Onsen (山中温泉), Katayamazu Onsen (片山津温泉), and Awazu Onsen (粟津温泉).

 

Hot springs

Kaga Onsen is made up of four hot spring towns. (Image credit: 石川県観光連盟)

 

You can experience something different in each of the four hot spring towns: Katyamazu Onsen is located on the shore of Lake Shibayama, so you can soak in the waters while gazing at the lake scenery; Yamanaka Onsen is located in the mountains, and has beautiful surrounding scenery; Yamashiro Onsen has buildings that evoke a Meiji Era atmosphere; Awazu Onsen is home to the Yukokuni no Mori craft village, which offers fun activities for the whole family.

 

Kutaniyaki porcelain

Kutaniyaki porcelain. (Image credit: 石川県観光連盟)

 

The region around Kaga Onsen is famous for its kutaniyaki (九谷焼) porcelain, which is characterised by delicate hand-painted designs using five vivid colours: yellow, red, green, blue, and purple. Originating 360 years ago, kutaniyaki got its name from the village of Kutani, where it was first produced.

 

Try hands-on activities at Yunokuni no Mori. (Image credit: 石川県観光連盟)

 

If you want to try your hand at kutaniyaki, you can visit Yunokuni no Mori (ゆのくにの森) in Awazu Onsen, which offers a variety of hands-on local craft experiences, including pottery-making and ceramic-painting.

 

Yunokuni no Mori (加賀 伝統工芸村 ゆのくにの森)
Address: Na-3-3 Awazu Onsen, Komatsu, Ishikawa 923-0393
Access: 30-minute bus ride from JR Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Opening hours: 09:00–16:30

 

③ Awaraonsen Station (芦原温泉駅)

Awara Onsen. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

Venturing out of Ishikawa, the next four stations are located in Fukui Prefecture. Located on the northern coast, Awara Onsen (あわら温泉) is Fukui’s ultimate relaxation destination, being one of the prefecture’s most famous hot spring resorts. Even if you’re not staying overnight, you can enjoy one of the many free foot baths (足湯 ashiyu) scattered across the area. Be sure to check out Yukemuri Yokocho (湯けむり横丁) for delicious snacks and food! 

 

Tojinbo Cliffs

Tojinbo Cliffs. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

Spanning 1km of Fukui’s coastline, the ruggedly scenic Tojinbo Cliffs (東尋坊) is a sight to behold, with dramatic cliffs made of blocky hexagonal columns. You can take a sightseeing boat ride to get a look at the cliffs from below, or take a thrilling, heart-pounding walk over the cliff rocks.

 

Tojinbo Cliffs (東尋坊)
Address: 64-1 Mikunicho Anto, Sakai, Fukui 913-0064
Access: 45-minute bus ride from JR Awaraonsen Station (芦原温泉駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: Free

 

Echizen Crab

Echizen crab dishes. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

You cannot visit Fukui’s coastal regions without trying Echizen crab (越前がに Echizen-gani), one of Japan’s tastiest and most sought-after crab. Only available during winter from November to March, this meaty and succulent crab is individually tagged to certify its authenticity, and is exclusively caught from the coast of Fukui. Be it raw, grilled, steamed, or boiled, it is said that once you’ve tasted Echizen crab, you will crave it again and again.

 

④ Fukui Station (福井駅)

Fukui Station. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

The next station, Fukui Station, is the largest hub in Fukui Prefecture. Take one glance at the station’s exterior and you’ll instantly notice the tremendous amount of dinosaur motifs.

 

Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum

Any dino-fans? (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

Fukui is the undisputed dinosaur kingdom of Japan, with more dinosaur fossils having been unearthed around Fukui than any other place in Japan. If you love dinosaurs, you cannot miss out on a visit to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum (福井県立恐竜博物館 Fukui Kenritsu Kyо̄ryū Hakubutsukan), where details exhibits with excellent English explanations are spread over four storeys.

 

Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum (福井県立恐竜博物館)
Address: 51-11 Terao, Muroko, Katsuyama, Fukui 911-8601
Access: From JR Fukui Station (福井駅), take the Echizen Railway Katsuyama Eiheiji Line (えちぜん鉄道勝山永平寺線) to Katsuyama Station (勝山駅), then take a 15-minute bus ride to the museum.
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00
Admission fee: Visit website for more info

 

Maruoka Castle

Maruoka Castle in spring. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

Built on a small hill in the town of Maruoka, Maruoka Castle (丸岡城) is the only original castle (現存天守 genson tenshu)―castles which have a main keep (天守 tenshu) that was built in the Edo Period or earlier, that remains intact since its original construction―in the Hokuriku region. It is also referred to as "Mist Castle" (霞ヶ城 Kasumiga-jō), as legend has it that a mist would descend to hide and protect the castle in times of battle.

 

Maruoka Castle (丸岡城)
Address: 1-59 Kasumicho, Maruokacho, Sakai-shi, Fukui 910-0231 
Access: 40-minute bus ride from JR Fukui Station (福井駅)
Opening hours: 08:30–17:00
Admission fee: Visit website for more info

 

Sauce Katsudon

Fukui’s soul food: sauce katsudon. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

Aside from Echizen crab, Fukui is also known for its soul food, sauce katsudon (ソースカツ丼): a fluffy rice bowl topped with pork cutlet (カツ katsu) coated with a tasty Worcestershire-based sauce. The pork cutlet is crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Regular katsudon can be found all over Japan, but Fukui’s sauce katsudon is well-loved for its tasty sauce.

 

⑤ Echizen-Takefu Station (越前たけふ駅)

Echizen-Takefu Station. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

Next up is Echizen-Takefu Station, the only one of the six stations that was newly built and will not connect to local lines.

 

Echizen knives at Takefu Knife Village

Echizen knives are some of the sharpest in Japan. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

The region of Takefu has a 700-year history making knives, and Takefu Knife Village was started by local knife-sharpeners, blacksmiths, and craftsmen to promote and attract more people into the industry. Here you can witness how knives are made, try your hand at making knives and learn knife-sharpening techniques, as well as shop from a large selection of kitchen knives.

 

Takefu Knife Village (タケフナイフビレッジ)
Address: 22-91 Yokawacho, Echizen, Fukui 915-0031
Access: 10-minute taxi ride from JR Echizen-Takefu Station (越前たけふ駅)
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00

 

Echizen Oroshi Soba

Echizen oroshi soba. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

You have probably heard of or eaten soba (そば buckwheat) noodles before. In Fukui, there’s a local traditional version eaten with grated daikon (大根) radish, known as Echizen oroshi soba (越前おろしそば). It may sound simple, but the addition of the grated radish adds a depth of flavour, and is a must-try while in Fukui. For a special experience, you can try your hand at making your own soba noodles at the Echizen Soba Village.

 

Echizen Soba Village (越前そばの里)
Address: 7-37 Makaracho, Echizen, Fukui 915-0005
Access: 5-minute taxi ride from JR Echizen-Takefu Station (越前たけふ駅)
Opening hours: 09:30–16:00

 

⑥ Tsuruga Station (敦賀駅)

Tsuruga Station. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Finally, the last of the six stations on the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension is Tsuruga Station. Tsuruga is a historic port city located along the Kitamaebune route, a major shipping route which stretched from Osaka to Hokkaido, used in the Edo Period.

 

Kehi no Matsubara

Kehi no Matsubara. (Image credit: 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟)

 

For a scenic spot along the coast, head on over to Kehi no Matsubara (気比の松原), a park full of pine trees located along the coast of the Wakasa Bay. Spanning 1km with an area of 340,000sqm, the dazzling contrast of the blue sea, white sand, and lush green trees have made this spot one of Japan’s Top Three Pine Groves (日本三大松原 Nihon Sandai Matsubara). 

 

Kehi no Matsubara (気比の松原)
Address: 33 Matsushimacho, Tsuruga, Fukui 914-0801
Access: 15-minute bus ride from JR Tsuruga Station (敦賀駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Admission fee: Free

 

Hop on a shinkansen to Hokuriku!

Hop on the Hokuriku shinkansen. (Image credit: photoAC)

 

Hokuriku is filled with rich traditions, tasty food, fantastic hot springs, and so much more. With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension next week on 16 March 2024, access to the Hokuriku Region from Tokyo has become even more convenient, so start planning your next holiday there! 

 

Header image credit: photoAC, 公益社団法人福井県観光連盟, and石川県観光連盟

 

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