Immerse Yourself in the Peaceful Time Flowing Through the Harbor, Where Fishing Boats Are Parked on the Riverbank. ~A Trip to Toyama’s Shinminato Uchikawa Area to Enjoy Delicious Seasonal Food~
Toyama Prefecture faces the Sea of Japan. Many port towns that have developed since ancient times along the coast, but the fish you can catch, the scenery you can see, and the culture that has been cultivated are different in each region.
The best way to learn about each unique port town is to ask the locals. In this article, Hiroyuki and Aoi Akashi, a couple who run a cafe and hotel along the Uchikawa River in Imizu City, will show you around the Uchikawa area.
Toyama Bay, also known as a "natural fish tank," offers a wide variety of seafood that is in season from fall to winter. Why not go to a port town for seasonal delicacies and unique experiences?
Red Snow Crab Heralds the Coming of Autumn in Toyama
Shinminato Fishing Port in Imizu City is one of the leading fishing grounds in Toyama Prefecture. The port is blessed with delicious seafood throughout the four seasons, with a large variety of fish landed and a large catch. Because the port and fishing grounds are close to each other, fresh fish can immediately be sold wholesale at the market, and the port is famous for its "noon auction," a rare occurrence in Japan.
It’s especially popular from September to May, the season for catching red snow crabs. The sight of red snow crabs being landed and lined up like a red carpet is a spectacular. Recently, red snow crabs caught in Toyama Bay have been branded as "Koshi no Akagani," attracting even more attention.
If you want to try red snow crab, go to "Shinminato Kittokito Market," which is right next to the Shinminato Fishing Port. You can purchase fresh seafood unique to Shinminato each season, such as red snow crab and glass shrimp delivered directly from the fishing port, and you can also enjoy sashimi and rice bowls at the restaurants.
Spot information: Shinminato Kittokito Market
A Nostalgic Port Town with a Homey Atmosphere
The town of Uchikawa has prospered through maritime transport and fishing. Here, the Uchikawa River runs approximately 3,420 meters from east to west, parallel to the coastline near Toyama Shinko Port. The Uchikawa River has long been deeply integrated into people's lives as a boat canal, earning the town of Uchikawa the nickname "Venice of Japan.”
The many fishing boats moored along the river, the wooden buildings lining the river, and the twelve unique bridges make for a picturesque scene no matter where you look.
Sandwiches and Coffee by the Uchikawa River
Hiroyuki and Aoi Akashi, your guides in this article, moved from Tokyo to Toyama. When they saw the scenery of Uchikawa for the first time, they were blown away and wondered, "Such a wonderful place exists?”
"During our time in Tokyo, our work involved visiting rural regions in Japan, so we’d seen many waterside landscapes and old townscapes. But even so, the scenery of Uchikawa was unique to us, and we were simply moved,” Hiroyuki recalls.
In 2013, they opened "cafe uchikawa Rokkakudo" in a renovated former tatami mat shop that they fell in love with at first sight. From there, Hiroyuki and Aoi were able to start their respective community-building efforts based in Uchikawa.
At the two-story cafe, you can spend time in peace while enjoying the view outside. Also, the cafe uses organic ingredients as much as possible for the drinks and meals they serve, and no artificial seasonings or preservatives are added, so you can rest assured.
Several years have passed since its opening, and "cafe uchikawa Rokkakudo" has become a cafe frequented by the locals. Then, in the hopes of attracting more visitors from other prefectures to Uchikawa, the couple opened Minka Hotels in 2019. The hotel concept and operations are handled by Hiroyuki's company.
The building was originally a fisherman's townhouse and was renovated. The two buildings, "Kamome'' and "Umineko,'' both face the Uchikawa River, and each can be rented out in its entirety. The interior of the fully renovated inn is clean and comfortable but still retains the traditional architectural features that are unique to old private homes in Japan.
In addition, the couple also shared their recommended spots in Uchikawa.
Stroll Through Narrow Alleys
Hiroyuki recommends strolling through the alleys. Walking along the river, you will find narrow alleys between narrow but deep townhouses. The surface of the Uchikawa River, as seen from the alleys, is a unique and wonderful sight. If a fishing boat passes by at the right moment, it makes for a great photo opportunity.
Furthermore, if you walk carefully through the alleys, you may also meet cute stray cats that add to the atmosphere of the port town.
Hiroyuki says, "Alleys are interesting places where you can see the old atmosphere of Uchikawa and the way the locals live.” You can get a sense of the atmosphere of the town only by walking around the area and enjoying the chance encounters.
Aoi also loves the scenery of Uchikawa at night. One bar she recommends is BRIDGE BAR, run by Steven Knight – a Hawaiian who was fascinated by Uchikawa's laid-back atmosphere.
"We invite you to take a stroll to the BRIDGE BAR and enjoy the view at night,” says Aoi. When the light from the street lamps reflects on the black, ink-like Uchikawa River, it creates an otherworldly, dreamlike atmosphere.
From inside the bar, housed in a renovated 70-year-old private house, you can also enjoy the night views of Uchikawa. The bar has a counter, tables, couches, and more seats on the mezzanine and second floors, each nook with a slightly different vibe, allowing you to choose a comfortable place according to your mood or the people you are visiting with.
BRIDGE BAR has an extensive lineup of drinks, including choice original cocktails and American whiskey. They also have original mocktails, so even people who don't drink much can enjoy the bar experience. Please enjoy Uchikawa at night in style.
*Information as of September 21, 2021. Due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, changes in business days and hours are expected. For the latest information, please visit the official website or contact the facility directly.
*Prices include tax unless otherwise specified.
Born in Onomichi City (formerly Innoshima City), Hiroshima Prefecture. After graduating from Tama Art University with a degree in product design, he joined a consulting firm specializing in urban development. He moved to his wife's hometown in Toyama Prefecture in 2010. His experience renovating an old private house into a cafe in a fishing town awakened his interest in creating places like “secret bases.” He then launched the "Machizai no Oto" project and has been working on urban development in Toyama, focusing on designing and producing such “secret bases.”
Born in Kyoto Prefecture, Aoi resided in Toyama Prefecture from the age of 5 to 18. She moved to Tokyo to attend university and, after graduation, worked for a community development think tank, where she worked on the development of community revitalization centers and public-private partnerships throughout Japan. In 2010, she returned to Toyama. After working as a resident concierge in Toyama Prefecture, she founded an urban development and design company in 2011. In 2016, she moved her office to an old private house in Uchikawa, Imizu City. She helps discover and disseminate everyday charms that lie in the local community on a daily basis.
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