Japan has 47 prefectures that are all blessed by a number of wonderful attractions. Of course, it is hardly possible to cover all of them on a short trip, but if you have your mind set on seeing as much as you can of Honshu in a short period of time, the 7-day Hokuriku Arch Pass is an amazing deal. With this discount train ticket, you can enjoy unlimited travel on train lines that service a large area between Tokyo, Kanazawa, and the Kansai region that includes Kyoto and Osaka. Read more for all about the Hokuriku Arch Pass and a spectacular 7 day itinerary example for optimal use of the pass!
About the Hokuriku Arch Pass
Only available to foreigners in Japan with the entry status of ‘Temporary Visitor’ in their passport, the Hokuriku Arch Pass is so good a deal that the railway companies can’t afford to offer it to everyone! Buying a Hokuriku Arch Pass means that you will have 7 days of unlimited travel on trains and shinkansens of the following lines:
- JR East Lines
- JR West Lines
- Tokyo Monorail
- IR Ishikawa Railway
- Ainokaze Toyama Railway
- Noto Railway (between Nanao and Wakura onsen stations)
These lines cover Narita (airport), Tokyo, parts of Nagano, Kanazawa, Fukui, Kyoto, Osaka, and even more cities in between. You have to use the pass consecutively, so once you activate it, it is valid for the next 7 days. Travelers aged 12 and up pay 25,500 JPY per pass, while for kids between 6-11, it is 12,750 JPY. Children under 6 travel for free as long as they don’t need an extra seat.
It is a very good idea to reserve all seats that can be reserved on your first day of travel. If you make a list with the dates, places you want to visit, and approximate times you want to travel, it will be a breeze to make all necessary reservations when you visit any JR ticket office in one go. The most convenient JR ticket offices to do this at are those at Narita Airport or Tokyo Station. Now, let’s have a look at a fun and varied itinerary that you can do in 7 days using the Hokuriku Arch Pass!
Day 1: Tokyo to Karuizawa to Nagano
On the first day, you will first head for Karuizawa, a picturesque resort town that is a favorite getaway destination for many Tokyoites. Visit the charming Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Shopping Street, the town’s oldest church Karuizama Shaw Memorial Church, and the modern Harunire Terrace shopping complex. By the end of the afternoon, hop back on the train to Nagano City, where you should not skip the famous Zenko-ji temple and enjoy a delicious local soba dinner.
Day 2: Nagano to Tateyama Alpine Route
Next, it is time to go to the mountains and enjoy some of the most beautiful vistas that Japan has to offer. The Tateyama Alpine Route has several highlights that can be enjoyed on the same day. The first destination on this popular mountain route is the Kurobe Dam, the tallest dam in Japan that regularly releases large amounts of water between June and October, which is a spectacular sight.
The Tateyama Snow Corridor in Murodo is next, with impressive walls of snow that you can walk through between mid-April and late June. More natural beauty awaits you in Midagahara, a wetland area with alpine plants in the spring and summer and colorful foliage in the fall. In the late afternoon, it is time to head for Toyama city.
Day 3: Toyama to Gokayama to Toyama
You may have heard of Shirakawago near the mountain town Takayama, as this is one of Japan’s most famous tourist destinations. The traditional village is also known as a ‘fairytale village’ because, especially during the winter, the town looks like it belongs on a Christmas postcard. Of course, a destination like that tends to get rather crowded, so why not visit a village that is very similar in look and feels but without the tourist crowds? Gokayama is such a town that, just like Shirakawago, boasts beautiful traditional folk homes made in the gassho-zukuri style with thatched roofs. In Gokayama, you can still see the truly traditional Japanese style of yore in a quiet atmosphere.
Day 4: Toyama to Kanazawa
In the morning, the first stop is at Amaharashi Beach, where you can see one of Japan’s most beautiful sights. This is one of the few places in the world where you can enjoy an impressive view of a crystal-clear blue sea with high, snowy mountains in the background. The view is best during the winter months but is impressive year-round. Then, it is time to head to Kanazawa, a city that prospered when they started producing a large percentage of all gold leaf in Japan.
This is also why you can find ice cream and other snacks and drinks that incorporate edible gold leaf and make for a great photo opportunity! But first, be sure to check out the seafood market to enjoy some of the freshest sushi and kaisen-don for lunch. After that, it is time to discover the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden that belonged to the most important family of Kanazawa, the Maeda clan, and the nearby Kanazawa Castle to get a feel for the town’s history.
Day 5: Kanazawa to Fukui
Today there is more time to discover Kanazawa’s treasures. Make sure to take a stroll through both the Nagamachi Samurai District, where you can enter the Nomura Clan samurai house, and the scenic Higashi Chaya district, where many traditional tea houses still stand. It is also a good spot for souvenir shopping, especially if you’d like to buy something made with local gold. If you like modern art, you can’t miss Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, with various installations from Japanese and foreign artists. If you prefer a more quiet place with contemplation spaces in a beautiful minimalist building, the D.T. Suzuki Museum is a good place to visit for you. In the late afternoon, it is time to head to Fukui city.
Do you want to make sure that you won’t miss any of the best spots that Kanazawa has to offer? In that case, booking a private day tour with a local guide will assure you of an interesting, fun day. You can also opt for a group tour of the Omicho Market and Higashi Chaya area that’s focused on food.
Day 6: Fukui
What will be the best activity for you to do in Fukui will depend on the season during which you travel and your interests. Dinosaur friends and anyone who is interested in natural history can’t skip the Fukui Dinosaur Museum, one of the three largest dinosaur museums in the world! If you prefer a more quiet outing, you should visit the historic Eihei-ji temple, where monks have been practicing Zen Buddhist meditation for many centuries in the middle of an ancient forest. If you come to Fukui between late June and early September, you should visit Suisho-hama Beach or Mizushima Island for a gorgeous blue ocean and white sand that is strongly reminiscent of Hawaii.
Day 7: Fukui to Osaka
On the last day that your Hokuriku Arch Pass is valid, nightlife city Osaka is on the program. Admire traditional architecture around Osaka Castle, and see the contrast with the magnificent modern design of the Umeda Sky Building. Go to Universal Studios Japan(USJ) for a day of fun in its beautiful rides based on famous movies and games. See some of the country’s most interesting shrines, such as the Namba Yasaka Shrine. Or eat your way through what is also known as Japan’s Kitchen. There is so much to choose from in Osaka that it will be hard to make a choice! So if you want to immerse yourself in this lively city and can’t decide what to do, why not let yourselves be taken by the hand by an experienced local guide for a tour of the best of Osaka.
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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