Gold Leaf ice cream, Dinoland and Doraemon – Japan’s Kanazawa, Fukui and Takaoka

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Gold ice cream!‘ we exclaimed when we saw it along the streets of Kanazawa. Wrapped in a thin layer of gold leaf, it adds an extra layer of glitter that we couldn’t resist even at degrees below 0.

A growing city up north of Osaka, Kanazawa city is popular for 99% exports of gold to other japanese cities. Each of these gold leaf ice cream doesn’t come at an affordable price – 3 times more than usual ice cream but it is worth the virgin try.

Popular as a home base of Geisha, you might find yourself lucky with ladies in traditional kimono and powdered up in thick foundation. Geisha ladies can be found in areas like Kanazawa, Fukui, Gero-Onsen and here in Higashi Chaya district, they can be found performing in restaurants.

The old town is also famous for matcha ‘green tea’ cafes and souvenir shops selling local snacks to take home. Soak in the zen ambience at the Higashi Chaya district and observe rows of Chaya houses flocked with tourists. The place is also designated as Japan’s Cultural Assets which will add on more reasons why you should visit.

SUSHI, really fresh ones under S$10

Omi-cho market in Kanazawa should be a place to check-in for fresh seafood and sushi at low prices. Savour hand-tossed sushi or sashimi at just 1000yen (as above at a local restaurant) or taste gorgeous oysters…..

So Oishii that you can almost taste the freshness of salt-water. Eat it raw drizzled with lemon and slurp it up, all in satisfaction.

Witness top-grade Sake making

The Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery uses premium sake rice and mountain water (which spent them an exhaustive 100years to loop into the brewery) for production of Junmai sakes, the highest grade of sake. You’ll understand alot more about sake brewing and distillation, thanks to the exclusive guided tour of sake cellar which is quite uncommon among the others we went to.

Go behind the scene and discover how fermentation happens at these cellar. Listen to stories on how quality is maintained and controlled before the creation of great sake at the Fukumitsuya sake brewery.

Put on your glasses

For art fantastics, make sure you drop by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa opposite the Kanazawa castle. Admire some of the works by reowned artists around the world on exhibit and one such example is the swimming pool that has an illusion of fully filled form the top when a layer of water only some 10cm deep is suspended over transparent glass.

A private residence of the feudal

The Kanazawa castle is not the main star attraction that we’ll recommend to go inside – as it’s a replica (the original was burnt long ago). Explore further next to it to the Kenrokuen garden, a scenic beautiful garden that once belonged and maintained by the feudal lord who occupied the castle. It has a large compound of statues and garden lake which is best viewed in cherry blossoms and colored foilage seasons.

If you like to see the castle in glory, take a stroll at night and enjoy a lit-up. Do note that lit-up only happens a few times per year at designated period in the night and it’s really gorgeous at the Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park.

*Getting there: Take a shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa direct within 2hours. Hop on a limited express rail from Osaka to Kanazawa within 2hours, which you can use the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass. To visit the places above, 500yen for a day pass on private bus around the city.

DING..DING..DANG

If you’re a big fan of Doraemon, you might be interested to check-out the creator’s hometown in Takaoka. Located in Toyama prefecture, there are many visible traces of how the city commemorates the effort of Mr. Fujiko.F.Fujio, the mastermind behind Doraemon and his friends. Doraemon walkway, Doraemon Tram and an art gallery in Takaoka Art Museum have to be one of your to-dos when in Takaoka.

It is heartening to see that Doraemon creation was an inspiration to many anime designers. In the exhibit, you can witness some original drawings by the creator and a well-kept briefcase that he brought on his migration plans to Tokyo.

One of the main attractions (nearest to Takaoka station) has to be the Doraemon’s Walking Road. With twelve bronze statues of Doraemon and his friends, take the opportunity to grab group shots and keep them as memories.

Grand festivals

Learn more about Takaoka’s cultural festival, Mikuruma-yama. The festival involves large crowds of locals to go on the streets with these beautifully adorned floats for 2 days.

At the Mikurumayama Museum, earn a chance to dress up as paddlers of the floats. *Find out more of the preparations for the festival here.

Also in Takaoka, visit the Butsuden in Zuiryuji temple. Take a glance at the lead plates thatched on the roof and feel the zen of this national treasure built way back in 1659.

*Getting there: Take a shinkansen from Tokyo or hop on board limited express rails from Osaka/Nagoya using your Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

Foot bath for free

Soak in your weary feets for some comforting relaxation at the Awaraonsen town. With temperatures ranging from 38 to 42, you can enjoy these public foot baths for free. It seemed like it is a hotspot for locals as we saw many city dwellers visiting the foot onsen.

There’s also an outdoor foot bath at the awaraonsen town if you love to enjoy it. After feel refreshed, you can slurp up a bowl of ramen along the alley right outside the onsen.

*Getting there: Alight at the Awaraonsen JR station which you can use your Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass.

Happiest place in Japan

Right in Fukui, just mins from Awaraonsen, check into the panaromic Echizen coastline and Tojinbo, an area spectacular for boundless views.

Ranked among the world’s finest scenery, the Tojinbo cliffs is famous for sunset and blissful place as Japan’s happiest place. It is also recognised as a spot for Japan’s 100 most beautiful sunsets.

When in Fukui, taste fresh sea urchin, oysters and crabs. There are many seafood restaurants lined up along Tojinbo cliffs that you can savour freshness.

CASTLE OF MIST

Hike the oldest original castle tower at Maruoka castle. The Maruoka castle is best viewed during sakura seasons and winter seasons for thick fog surrounding the castle.

Jurassic Park

One should never miss a visit to the awe Fukui Dinosaur Museum. Go face to face with some of these rare specimens – real fossils on display right in front of you.

You can view about 40 large-scale dinosaur fossils on display, which only a handful (some 7 pieces) are original and excavated from Fukui prefecture. It is recommended to come visit the prefecture for this lifetime experience.

If you’re lucky, you can view some of the upcoming exhibits done by archaeologists. Explore further within the museum – learn about how coincidental discoveries are made and the tremendous effort required to piece these fossils together.

It is quite obvious how the city prides itself as a dinoland. A large moving dinosaur display stands in front of the Fukui JR station and is easy to spot upon arrival.

Settle for a great fine dining lunch at 開花亭 – sou・an. Authentic yet creative japanese dishes, the restaurant relies heavily on good decorations fused with contemporary heartwarming cuisine. It is located in old town Hama-machi, the route between Fukui Dinosaur musuem and the Tojinbo cliffs.

*Getting there: Alight at FUKUI JR station which is just 1.5hours from Kyoto/Osaka. You can use your Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass for this region exploration.

Tips:

  • Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass has to be your best buddy when you explore Shirakawago, Fukui, Kanazawa, Toyama and Takayama. Enjoy unlimited rides between jr stations on limited express rail or hop onto JR buses in the district.
  • JR pass for Takayama-Hokuriku Area costs 14,000yen for a 5days pass. There’s so much to do and we’re sure you will have even more fun! Check out the guide for a sample trip here.
  • Sy is a guest of Japan Railways Group and its partners.

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