The city of Toyama, which sits at the base of Japan’s Northern Alps has a total of seven rivers that run from the foot of the mountains in the south to the north of the city and then on into the Sea of Japan. The rivers criss-cross one another creating an interesting network of waterways, and there are several canals that also connect the rivers at various points too. This results in a city with large stretches of open water in almost any which way one looks.
The History of Toyama and its Waterways
Being a port city with good connections to Kyoto and the south, as well as the Sea of Japan, Toyama played an important role in feudal Japan. Due to its strategic position it was fought over by several feudal lords in the 15th and 16th centuries - the waterways within the city were seen as very useful for shipping an assortment of goods in and out of the area. Later, during the Edo period of Japanese history (1603 – 1868) the city flourished as it became well known across the land as the best place to get high quality medicines – again the waterways played a vital role in getting these goods to and from their final destinations.
One of the rivers that flow down from the mountains toward the city
Today the rivers and canals still remain in Toyama City, but the surrounding landscape and town has changed dramatically, due mainly to heavy bombing in the city during WW2. Almost all traces of Toyama’s rich history were removed in a single day of heavy bombing on August 1st 1945. During a period of rapid reconstruction after the war Toyama rose from the ashes so to speak, and quickly reestablished itself as a modern, exciting city with lots of interesting architecture and an abundance of outdoor spaces.
Taking a walk through the city today allows visitors to enjoy the waterways which still carry a charming feeling of Japan, up close, and also marvel at the modern architecture on display.
Toyama Castle Park reflected in one of the city’s waterways
A canal runs past the grounds of Toyama Castle Park
The sun sets over one of the city’s canals
Fugan Canal Kansui Park
One area of the city that has taken full advantage of the abundance of water and constructed around it to create a space for locals and visitors alike to relax and enjoy, is the Fugan Canal Kansui Park, which is located in the north of the city close to the Jinzu River.
A number of modern buildings have been built along the water’s edge, making for some fantastic scenes as they reflect in the water’s surface. It is especially pretty at night when the area is also illuminated, making it a popular spot for young couples and also photography enthusiasts who want to capture of the beauty of the city’s modern architecture.
Starbucks have also (unsurprisingly) claimed their stake along this popular part of the city, adding their unmistakable large neon green logo to the view of the park. They seem to have an uncanny knack of getting themselves involved wherever there is something nice to see and photograph, some would say ruining the aesthetic of the place, but hey, at least it allows for a hot coffee and a warm place to sit and rest ones legs.
Tenmon-kyo Bridge, Fugan Canal Kansui Park
The view from Fugan Canal Kansui Park looking back toward Toyama City
Yup, there’s always a Starbucks close by in Japan!
River Cruises in Toyama
Another way locals like to enjoy the water in Toyama is by joining a river cruise along the canals. They allow a different view of the city and some also offer the chance to sample fine local foods onboard. The river cruise boats can be booked and picked up from Toyama Matsu River Cruises, which is located on the edge of Toyama Castle Park. Alternatively, information about the cruises can be found at any of the Tourist Information centers in the city. If the weather is pleasant and you fancy an alternative way to enjoy your evening meal these river cruise dining experiences come highly recommended.
View from a Matsukawa River Cruise
A River Cruise Boat complete with local Dining Experience
Sampling Local Cuisine on one of the Matsukawa River Cruise Boats