A Tiny Village in the Japan Alps

Torigoe is one of my favorite places in the world. A charming little town nestled into the foothills of Mt. Haku and the Japanese Alps, it is full of stunning natural beauty, grandmas and grandpas tending to their rice fields and vegetable gardens, and a whole tribe of wild monkeys! These are some of my favorite sites, including a few places in neighboring towns.

Tedori River

Flowing from the Japan Alps all the way out to the Sea of Japan, the Tedori River is the main attraction. There are a ton of different places to catch a glimpse of it. You can walk along it at this roadside rest but my favorite view is from this bridge. There’s generally not to much traffic so you can take a minute to appreciate the view.

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Tedori Gorge

Another spectacular spot along the Tedori River is the Tedori Gorge, home to a stunning waterfall (and lots of wild monkeys!).

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In winter, the gorge is covered in snow and you can see monkeys playing along the steep sides of the river. On a snowy day it’s a truly magical place.

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Abandoned Cycling Park

You can access this Haikyo (or abandoned building site) via a lovely bridge from Yoshino Auto Campground. A few years back it was an open recreation/theme park, Bird Humming Cycle Land. Go check out the buildings, now being overgrown by plants, and muse on how the were ever used. On the theme park end of the bridge, there is a super overgrown lookout tower. Brave the spider-y stairs for a spectacular view of the river valley.

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Torigoe Castle

Rather Torigoe Castle Ruins. You can hike (or drive) up to the very top of Shiroyama, a hill overlooking Torigoe and see what remains of the castle, it’s really only wood set in the ground marking out the separate buildings, and one stone gate in place. However the site of the ruins does have a spectacular view over the village, broken up by rice fields.

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100 Waters Well

This well is also known as Koboike or Kobo Pond. Known as a sacred and pure source of water. Some devotees will drive every few weeks from Kanazawa to stock up and exclusively drink water from this fresh mountain spring. Stop by for a cool (and free!) drink while exploring Torigoe.

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Skiing

The foothills of Hakusan host two separate ski areas. Nearer to Torigoe is Seymour Ski Area. I checked it out last winter on a day trip to Torigoe. It was full of skiers and several different lifts, including a ski lift that ascended directly into the clouds. The other site is Ichirino Ski Area, further up into the foothills and surrounded by onsen. If you’re brave, take the lift to the very top of the mountain and you can ski down on a winding bath that twists down the back of the mountain. The views are spectacular and the run lasts at least 20 minutes. Unless you’re a pro, you’re guaranteed to be passed by at least one 3 foot tall child whipping down the hill like they were born skiing.

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Events

Torigoe and its neighbors are home to several incredible festivals. Check out Fuji Festival (Fuji is Japanese for wisteria) over Golden Week to enjoy music underneath a ceiling of cascading purple flowers. Or head over to Tsurugi in the fall for Horai Festival, which includes massive, elaborate floats. Photos below were taken at the 2016 Horai. Deeper into the mountains, Shiramine is another tiny mountain village. Every year they host a Snowman Festival, the whole town is full of snowmen. Some tended to the creative, others to the less professional. There are plenty of candles on display. AND you can try wild boar curry at one of the food stands.

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Onsen, eat, camp

If you’re looking for an onsen in Hakusan’s foothills, you have about a million to choose from. Directly in Torigoe, Bird Humming Onsen sits near the Tedori River and has a colorful mosaic facade. For campers, Yoshino Auto Campground is impeccably maintained with car camping sites, tent sites near the river and tons of grilling set-ups. While in the area, you can’t miss trying Tedorigawa Sake (and you can tour the factory!). Cafe Detza is a cute lunch spot right in Torigoe. The region is known for soba, so make sure to stop into a homemade soba shop for a heart-warming meal.

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