It’s an outrageous understatement to say that Japan is a country full of natural diversity. From the snow-capped peaks of Hokkaido’s mountains to the tropical islands of Okinawa, for a nation whose landmass is relatively humble, it doesn’t matter how many times you visit, there will always be something new to discover.
Case in point Himi, a coastal city, tucked up in the western corner of Toyama Prefecture. Unless you’re ultra-conscientious about researching every inch of the map, it’s a place you’ll most likely only come upon by happenstance, but when you do, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. If you’re on the hunt for a tourist-untouched Japan, and a place where stunning ocean scenery, and incredible – and affordable – seafood is found, add a Himi visit to your next itinerary. Here’s everything you need to know.
So, where is it?
Himi sits in the far northwestern part Toyama Prefecture, just on the turn of the Noto Peninsula. The city is flanked by Ishikawa Prefecture on one side and the Sea of Japan on the other. For context, it’s just about a one hour drive from Kanazawa and two and a half hour journey from Tokyo by bullet train. For foreign guests, Toyama is best located in terms of its proximity to Nagano, which is its neighboring prefecture. But given the rugged mountainous landscape of this part of Japan, to get between central Nagano and Himi in Toyama, a long, but scenic drive along the coast is necessary. Looking out onto the sea, the Toyama Bay is backdropped by the Tateyama Mountain ranges, which on a clear winter day looks like the most incredible scenic painting come to life.
In short, incredible food, more specifically unbelievable seafood. Himi’s location along the coast is incredibly advantageous when it comes to catching fresh, delicious seafood, and it seems like everyone here is in on it.
The best place to see all the action is over at Himi Fishing Port. In fact, ask any respectable fishing expert, and they’ll tell you this is one of the best fishing spots in Japan. Throughout the year, the port is home to a large community of fishermen and women, and the catch is abundant and varied all year round. In spring, sardines are the top pick, while summer it’s tuna and in winter it’s seriola. On the second floor of the fishing port is where you’ll find the best viewing platform to watch the fish market in action. The market is open from 6:00 AM to 7:30 AM.
If you’re not a massive seafood fan, there’s still plenty of other ways to enjoy the stunning coastal area, and one such place is at the Himi Seaside Botanical Garden. Not super well known outside of the Toyama area, the garden boasts an eclectic and expansive collection of coastal plants from all over Japan. From the outside too, it’s a rather impressive structure standing tall in its brutalist, concrete, almost modernist glory. But the highlight is definitely the greenhouse filled with mangroves and Japanese seaside plants.
The Amaharashi Coast, however, is the shining star of Himi. Like an almost-to-perfect painting come to life, this sweeping coastline balances picturesque scenery and untamed natural in equal measure. Its most fascinating feature though is the combination of the Sea of Japan backdropped to the often snowcapped North Japan Alps sitting tall on the horizon. In winter when the air is crisp, and the mountains at their most snowy is the best time of year to admire the view, but if you’re by the sea in the warmer, much hazier months, if you try hard enough you’ll be able to see the faint outline in the background.
Given the city’s affinity for seafood, both aspiring chefs, and the kitchen-adverse should consider signing up for a seafood cooking class if you have the time. It’s an incredible experience, not only because the food is guaranteed to be some of the best when you’re in Japan, but also because it’s the ideal way to get out and make connections with the local people.
From full-on fish gutting and cooking to less squeamish kamaboko (fish cake) decorating there’s something for everyone. For more information on available cooking classes in Toyama, visit the online information centre.
Finally, the best way to really fit in all the views of Himi is to hop aboard Toyama’s iconic red train which runs along the Himi Line. Traveling the rocky coast and cutting through seemingly endless lush green agricultural fields backdropped by rugged mountains, it’s the perfect farewell tour through the area before continuing on your next adventure rural Japan adventure.
All photos taken by Lucy Dayman.