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Himi City

Gokayama

Originally written for the Vol.7-No.2 edition (October 18, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

With an eye toward the opening of the new shinkansen (bullet train) extension to Toyama in spring of 2015, two new tourist buses began operating this month to make sightseeing spots easier to access.

The “Toyama Buri Kani Bus” (“Toyama Yellowtail Crab Bus”) will do one round-trip between Toyama Station and Himi (in western Toyama Prefecture) on weekends and holidays through March. A one-way trip takes 1 hour 25 minutes and costs 1,000 yen. It is also possible to only go as far as Shinminato (35 minutes) for 500 yen.

Himi is well-known for its fish, and the tourist bus arrives at Himi Banyagai, a mall/market with fresh seafood direct from nearby ports as well as sushi, Himi udon, and Himi beef. There is even a hot spring bath and footbath! On the way, bus passengers will pass over the Shinminato Ohashi – the largest cable-stayed bridge on the Japan Sea side of the country – and be able to enjoy views of Toyama Bay and the Sailing Ship Kaiwomaru. And from Amaharashi Coast on a sunny day, visitors can see the Tateyama Mountain Range towering over Toyama Bay.

Those going to Shinminato in Imizu City can walk around the canals of Uchikawa, visit the fish market at Fisherman’s Wharf, and see Hojozu Hachimangu (Shrine). There are also various reservation-only plans for both Himi and Shinminato that include lunch (3,000 to 5,000 yen total) featuring local specialties such as shiroebi (white shrimp), crab, and yellowtail.

The “World Heritage Bus” does four round-trips between Takaoka Station and Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi) in Gifu Prefecture, with stops in the villages of Ainokura and Suganuma within Toyama Prefecture. As with the “Toyama Buri Kani Bus,” the “World Heritage Bus” will also run weekends and holidays through March. Part of the route uses highways, making travel convenient. For example, it will only take 1 hour 15 minutes (1,200 yen one-way) from Takaoka to Suganuma, and 1 hour 55 minutes (1,800 yen one-way) to Shirakawa-go.

 Ainokura is a village of about 20 buildings in gassho-style, with traditional steep, thatched roofs designed for the snowy winters in this region. (Gassho means “hands in prayer,” and the architectural style resembles that shape.) Suganuma is a smaller village of about 9 gassho-style buildings. Both offer beautiful mountain village settings, and it is easy to forget even the passage of time. These historic villages were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1995.

Another possible stop is Johana, known as the “Little Kyoto of Etchu (the old province before Toyama).”  The traditional streets around Zentokuji Temple are atmospheric, and include a weaving studio and the Johana Hikiyama Museum where you can see festival floats on display all year.

For more information on the “Toyama Buri Kani Bus,” visit the Toyama Chiho Tetsudo website (Japanese only): http://www.chitetsu.co.jp/?p=9362

For more information on the “World Heritage Bus,” visit the Kaetsuno website (Japanese only): http://www.kaetsunou.co.jp/new/sekaiisanbus.pdf

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

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Originally written for the Vol.5-No.9 edition (January 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Kan-buri (literally “cold season yellowtail”) fishing is synonymous with winter in Toyama Bay. This winter, the season officially started on November 26th, and by December 12th, 11,970 fish had been caught. The blue-green spines, fat silvery-white bellies, and stripes of yellow line the fishing areas. They average about 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) each, and some are over 15 kilograms (33 lbs.).

In order to heighten trust that the fish are the authentic famous kan-buri from Himi City, Toyama, certificates of sale by the Himi Fishermen’s Cooperative are stuck on each fish and shipped in blue boxes with a trademarked graphic. These measures were established beginning this season in order to counter the problem of fish falsely being sold as Himi kan-buri. It has now been established that the label “Himi kan-buri” can only be claimed for buri caught by fixed shore net within Toyama Bay and sold for auction at the fish market in Himi. In addition, even fish caught in Toyama Bay may not be certified if they are too small, ensuring a high quality for fish with the “Himi kan-buri” label.

Buri are known as the “King of Toyama Bay.” The Himi coast has the largest continental shelf in Toyama Bay, and is a good spawning ground for fish. Beyond this, there are deep sea valleys rich in plankton. Fixed shore nets are placed on the slopes, and they catch the buri that come here to feed on smaller fish. The buri are then immediately placed in ice to preserve freshness and flavor, and are speedily taken to the fish market to be sold. You could say that the good taste of “Himi kan-buri” is a result of special skills and techniques as well as the dedication of the people involved in the industry.

The buri of Himi has been famous since long ago in history. Maeda Toshiie (1539 – 1599) of the Kaga Domain used to order for the buri to be salted and sent to Kyoto (then-capital city). In the Edo Period, buri was sent to Shinshu (present-day Nagano) and Owari (present-day Aichi) for New Year’s celebrations on what was known as the “Buri Road.”

In Toyama, there is a custom for a new bride’s parents to gift a whole buri to their son-in-law’s family at the end of the first year of marriage. Half of the fish is then returned, and both families enjoy a single buri and wish for good fortune.

In a country famous for seafood, the fish in Toyama is especially well-regarded. We hope that you will be able to try some soon!

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now