Local Bus Trip to Hokuriku (Part 1)

Japan Hour

Japan Hour - Summer
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Local Bus Trip to Hokuriku (Part 1)

Our next adventure is a bus trip across four prefectures in the Hokuriku region. We will start from Takada Castle in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture, and pass Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures, before heading to our goal of Tojinbo in Fukui Prefecture. We will travel a total distance of 260km during the three-day journey. We are also given a taxi budget of 10,000 yen for the three days. If we succeed in reaching Tojinbo by the end of the third day, we will be rewarded with a luxurious meal of Hokuriku specialities at a high-end hotel, featuring dishes such as Wakasa beef, rockfish and Echizen crab.

Our aim for Day One is to reach Uozu City in Toyama Prefecture, 100km away from Takada Castle. We begin by taking the 9.05am bus from Takada Castle and heading north to Naoetsu Station. From there, we plan to travel west along the Sea of Japan towards Itoigawa. We are advised to go to Nou from Naoetsu Station and then switch buses to go to Itoigawa.  

We visit the information centre at Naoetsu Station and find out that the bus to Nou will only leave two hours later at 11.55am. We decide to do some sightseeing in the meantime. We take the 10.20am bus from Naoetsu Station to Umigatari, an aquarium. We later realise we can take the 12pm bus from the bus stop near the aquarium and head to Nou from there too.  

The main attractions of the aquarium include 120 Magellanic penguins, a species from Argentina, and beluga whales. We also enjoy a hearty lunch of pizza, carbonara and chicken cutlet curry at the aquarium, before taking the bus to Nou. The bus advances along the coastline of the Sea of Japan and we arrive at Nou’s information centre in 50 minutes. At 1.10pm, we board a bus bound for Itoigawa Hospital, which is about half an hour away. At Itoigawa, we make enquiries about westbound buses and are told to take a bus to Osawa, the terminal. 

We board the Osawa-bound bus from Itoigawa Hospital at 2.50pm and ask the driver for possible routes to head west. He suggests we alight at Omi Teramachi, which is near Omi Station. It is also the closest stop to Oyashirazu Koshirazu, which we need to pass to enter Toyama Prefecture. However, there are no buses at Oyashirazu, which is a precipitous cliff. We get off at Teramachi, walk to Omi Station and then call for a taxi, which comes in about 10 minutes. We want to alight at Ichiburi Station, passing Oyashirazu along the way. However, Ichiburi is an unmanned station and there are no bus stops nearby. So we end up getting off at a bus stop called Tamanoki - 15km away from Omi Station - at 4.25pm. As a result, our taxi fare comes up to more than 5,000 yen. 

Unfortunately, although there are buses to Tomari Station from Tamanoki, the last bus of the day left about 30 minutes ago. So we start walking towards Tomari Station and successfully cross the border and enter Toyama Prefecture. We walk along the coast and reach Tomari Station at 7pm, 2.5 hours after we left Tamanoki.  

After making enquiries, we finally decide to take a community bus which leaves from Tomari Station at 7.05pm. We assume the bus is bound for Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station but it is actually heading towards Unazuki Onsen, a hot spring town in the mountain, which is far from the Kurobe city centre. We get off at the last stop and ask around about buses which will take us back to the coastline and closer to Uozu. A driver tells us there are buses from Nyuzen Town which go to Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station. But we first have to take a bus from the Unazuki Shimin Service Centre to Nyuzen Station, which is next to Tomari Station. As it is already 7.30pm, we plan to catch the 7.25am bus from the service centre the next morning and head towards Nyuzen Station.

We start looking for places to stay in Unazuki Onsen. We drop by the fire department to ask for help and we get the phone numbers of some hotels in the mountain. It is 8pm by now, so many hotels are no longer taking calls at this hour. We finally manage to book rooms at the Unazuki Grand Hotel, but we have to pay 2,000 yen extra as it is quite late. The hotel sends a car to pick us up and we reach the hotel at around 9pm. While having our buffet dinner, we decide that we will aim to reach Kanazawa on the second day. We have travelled 93km from Takada Castle in Niigata Prefecture to Unazuki Onsen in Toyama Prefecture on the first day.


Tips:

1)    A must-see attraction at the Umigatari aquarium in Joetsu is the exhibit of 120 Magellanic penguins
2)    Some hotels may charge an extra fee if you make a last-minute booking