Toyama #5: Kurobe Dam (黒部ダム)

On the Nagano side of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, a trolley bus through a tunnel will take you to Kurobe Dam. I was able to see the dam when I visited the Alpine Route (see my last post), but the dam is really at its nicest around June on when the snow melt feeds the lake, and water is released from the dam like in the above picture. Since I went in April, the dam is quiet. Also as I mentioned before, I forgot my postcards, so I couldn’t get a picture with the card and the dam anyway. Guess that means I have to go back in June…

The dam from the viewpoint above it, quiet without the release of the water

Walking across the dam, looking down toward the lake

The lake, still low until the snow starts melting in earnest

Toyama #1: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (立山黒部アルペンルート)

Two weeks ago, I traveled the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route to view the famous Snow Walls at Murodo. The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a series of many different modes of transportation taking you from Nagano’s Omachi area to Toyama through some of the spectacular mountains of the Japanese Alps. I began my journey waking up at 3:30AM and leaving my home at 4:00AM, driving to Nagano, and beginning the ascent up to Murodo on the first available departure. The Route starts with a trolley bus, then a cable car, a ropeway, and another trolley bus up to the highest point of the route. Heading down towards Nagano, you ride on a regular bus then a train, although I returned back the way I came to Nagano. You can read more about the route and my experience here.

Being a total idiot, I forgot the folder which had the postcards for Toyama and Nagano ready to go. So there are no postcard pictures this time. In my defense, it was EXTREMELY early when I left, so I was just a little tired.

Bus and people and snow walls

Past the pedestrian walkway

The highest point was 13 meters, not very tall this year unfortunately

Still, if you aren’t used to snow, it is pretty cool

Official information

Rather disappointing altogether, to be honest. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go back in a year when there is not only more snow, but also nicer weather!

Toyama #2: Tulips (チューリップ)

Spring is in full bloom here in Japan, and among the many varieties of beautiful flowers to see, Toyama Prefecture’s tulips should be on any “must-see” list! From mid-April through early May, Toyama, the number one cultivator of tulips in the country, bursts into color with these bright blossoms.

My one trip to Toyama two years ago was a bit late for most tulips, but a snapped one nicer picture of some pretty orange flowers!

If you’re in Toyama during tulip season, the Tonami Tulip Gallery is recommended. It is Japan’s largest tulip fair. Around Tokyo, the Hamura Tulip Festival or the Flower and Green Festa in Odaiba can get you your tulip fix.

Toyama #3: Hotaru Ika (ホタルイカ)

This postcard’s so pretty, isn’t it? The third postcard from Toyama Prefecture features hotaru ika. Hotaru means firefly in Japanese, and ika is squid. Firefly squid?! That’s right! These unique and beautiful squid are something special around March to May, as thousands of them converge along the coastline to breed. These small squid have photophores, light emitting cells, all over their bodies, and as they come close to the surface in spring to breed, we get to witness a wonderful spectacle as the water along the beach seems to glow blue!

This video, while showing just pictures, gives you a good idea of what the coastline looks like around this time. You can see them as I said above from March to May, whether along the beach, out on a tourist boat to watch the fishermen bring in a catch of them, or at the Hotaru Ika Museum (English) Hotaru Ika are also considered a delicacy, and herald spring. So even if you can’t make it to Toyama to see them out in the water, you can try some at sushi restaurants around Japan, or in the shape of crackers and other foods from Toyama.

When the hotaru ika arrive, Spring has finally come!