Winter in beautiful Toyama: Tasty seafood, wintry scenery
A little known fact about Toyama Prefecture (富山県 Toyama-ken) is that it has historically been the number one producer of pharmaceutical products in Japan, and remains a manufacturing powerhouse even now. In spite of its industrial reputation, Toyama is a feast for both the eyes and stomach, especially in winter. Its location on the coast of the Sea of Japan (日本海 Nihonkai) gives it access to some of Japan’s best seafood, as well as a snowy climate that promises powdery ski slopes and sparkling white snowscapes.
Beni-zuwai crabs and hiruseri at Shinminato Port
Toyama’s famous beni-zuwaigani. (Image credit: Toyama Tourism Organization)
The hiruseri auction, or afternoon auction, at Shinminato Port (新湊漁港) is where you can get to witness all kinds of tasty things from the sea getting auctioned off. Usually, fish auctions in Japan start before the sun even rises, but here at Shinminato Port auctions are held twice a day—once in the morning and once more slightly past noon. Fun fact: Toyama Bay (富山湾) is nicknamed “Nature’s Fish Tank” for its steep sloping sides mean that prime fishing grounds are a mere 20 minutes away from the ports. This is the secret behind Toyama’s extraordinarily fresh seafood.
The star of these auctions in winter is of course the beni-zuwaigani (紅ズワイガニ) or red snow crab, a beloved winter delicacy in Japan. In order to preserve the crab population, fishing is only allowed between autumn and winter each year, making the beni-zuwaigani a rare and much-anticipated treat. Known for its succulent flesh and savoury flavour, the beni-zuwaigani is a must-try if you’re visiting Toyama in winter!
Shinminato Fishing Port (新湊漁港の昼セリ)
Address: 1-1100 Hachimanmachi, Imizu, Toyama, 934-0025
Nearest tram stop: Higashi Shin-minato Station (東新湊駅)
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00 (The hiruseri auction generally starts at 13:00 and is closed on Sundays and Wednesdays)
Admission fee: ¥100 (Reservation is needed)
Tel: +81 766-84-1233
Himi kanburi and Himi Banya-gai
Freshly-caught kanburi from Himi ready to be auctioned off. (Image credit: Himi City)
Himi City (氷見市 Himi-shi) in Western Toyama is famous for its kanburi (寒ブリ), or winter yellowtail. Yellowtail, or buri (ブリ), is exceptionally delicious in winter due to the huge amount of food they consume as they swim southwards to spawn. This makes their flesh so fatty and smooth that you could almost be forgiven for mistaking kanburi for marbled wagyu!
You can feast on this winter delicacy at Himi Banya-gai (ひみ番屋街), a market which is modelled after traditional fishermen’s huts. Within the facilities are stores specialising in local products, restaurants serving up the freshest of the day’s catch, as well as a farmers’ market dealing in local produce. Next to Himi Banya-gai is a hot spring facility, Himi Onsenkyo Soyu (氷見温泉郷総湯). Its healing waters are said to be able to relieve you of all your aches and pains. Why not stop by for a refreshing dip after all that feasting and shopping?
Himi Banya-gai also happens to be located near the stunning Toyama Bay, so do take this chance to enjoy the breathtaking view as you eat, shop, and soak.
Himi Banya-gai (ひみ番屋街)
Address: 25-5 Kitaomachi, Himi, Toyama, 935-0004
Nearest station: Himi Station (氷見駅)
Opening hours (Fresh fish/merchandise facilities): 08:30–18:00
Opening hours (Food and beverage facilities): 11:00–19:00
Opening hours (Rotating sushi bar): 10:00–21:00
Opening hours (Eat-in corner): 8:30–19:00
Tel: +81 766-72-3400
Tateyama Sanroku Kamakura Festival
Kids enjoying the colourful snowscape. (Image credit: Toyama Tourism Organization)
The Tateyama Sanroku Kamakura Festival (立山山麓かまくら祭り Tateyama Sanroku Kamakura Matsuri) will make you feel like you have been transported to a magical world filled with gently glowing candles and lit-up snow huts, or kamakura (かまくら). The festival is held annually on the picturesque ski slopes of the Tateyama mountains, a popular destination for ski enthusiasts.
The adorable kamakura are Instagram-worthy both in the day and when illuminated at night. Kids will love the giant kamakura, which are built like igloos that the public is free to enter. By night, glowing kamakura and coloured tents dot the entire snowscape for a mesmerising panorama. You can also look forward to live performances and firework displays!
Tateyama Sanroku Ski Area (Paradise Slope/Raicho Valley) (立山山麓スキー場 (極楽坂・らいちょうバレー))
Address: 55, Hara, Toyama, 930-1454
Nearest station: Tateyama Station (立山駅)
Opening hours: 08:00–16:30 (Weekdays), 08:30–17:00 (Weekends & Public Holidays) (Festival takes place in mid-February)
Tel: +81-76-482-1311 (Oyama Tourism Development Co., Ltd.)
Toyama Snowpiad White Illumination
One of the stunning displays you can see at Toyama Snowpiad White Illumination. (Image credit: TOYAMA-CITY KANKOU ASSOCIATION)
One of the largest light-ups on the Western coast of Japan takes place each year in Toyama City (富山市 Toyama-shi). After sundown, the 1km stretch from JR Toyama Station (富山駅 Toyama-eki) all the way up till Toyama Castle Park (富山城址公園 Toyama Jōshi Kōen) is lit up, transforming the ordinary city streets into an ethereal wintry paradise at night. Installation art pieces within the lit-up area are also illuminated, lending the entire scene a surreal feel.
If you happen to be in Toyama City, the Snowpiad White Illumination (ホワイトイルミネーションとやま White Illumination Toyama) is an excellent reason to go out for a walk in the cold. The light-up follows a different theme each year, and even featured Hello Kitty this year. You might very well get to see your favourite character this year!
Toyama Snowpiad White Illumination (ホワイトイルミネーションとやま)
Period: Early December to mid-February
Address: Multiple locations around Toyama Station South Gate area, the area in front of CIC, Toyama Castle Park (southern area), Joshi Street
Nearest station: Toyama Station (富山駅)
Tel: +81-76-443-2072 (Toyama Municipal Office Tourism Promotion Division)
Takaoka Nabe Festival
Serving nabe from a giant cauldron. (Image credit: Toyama Tourism Organization)
A winter highlight in Takaoka City (高岡市 Takaoka-shi), the Takaoka Nabe Festival (日本海高岡鍋祭 Takaoka Nabe Matsuri) is the city’s unique way of using up its bounty of delicious ingredients that the region produces each winter. It is also a mouthwatering way to stay warm during Toyama’s freezing winters.
If you have never tried Japanese nabe (鍋), or hotpot cuisine, be prepared for a feast! Toyama is known for its fresh seafood, which takes centre stage during this festival. You can look forward to tasting Toyama’s tastiest ingredients cooked the traditional way in gigantic cast iron or bronze cauldrons.The warmth and excitement of the festival staff as they dish out bowl after bowl of savoury goodness will certainly put a smile on your face.
Do check out the astounding variety of nabe that is available during the two-day long festival, ranging from the traditional miso-based broth or chicken and dashi-based chanko (ちゃんこ), to more international flavours such as borscht!
Japan Sea Takaoka Nabe Festival (日本海高岡鍋祭)
Address: Suehiromachi, Takaoka, Toyama, 933-0023
Nearest station: Takaoka Station (高岡駅)
Opening hours: 11:00–16:00
Admission fee: ¥300 per daily ticket (2 tickets for ¥500 if bought beforehand)
Tel: +81 766-20-0555 (Japan Sea Takaoka Nabe Festival Committee)
If you’re looking to explore a different part of Japan in winter, Toyama is definitely a great choice. Delicious seafood, fun festivals and beautiful scenery—need I say more?
Header image credit: TOYAMA-CITY KANKOU ASSOCIATION
Writer's profile: Jodie is a trilingual freelancer who's constantly on the lookout for interesting projects. She spent 5 years in Japan for university and counts exploring the quaint alleys of Kyoto as some of her best memories ever. When not at work, cooking or crafting, she likes to sit back and watch the world go by.