Takaoka is the second biggest city in Toyama Prefecture after the capital Toyama City with a population of 160,000. You may not have heard of this city, but it attracts a lot of Japanese tourists because of its beautiful scenery on the coastline, unique history as a town of poetry, and the production of metal products (especially copper).
Takaoka City of Poetry
Takaoka appears in the history books from the 8th century. The provincial government was seated here at the time and the government official and waka poet Otomono Yakamochi was sent here in 746 as a governor for five years. He was one of the editors of the Manyoshu, which is the oldest poetry book in Japan. There are 4,516 poems in this book and 473 (more than 10%!) were written by him. 220 of his poems were composed here in Takaoka. There are more than 50 monuments to his poems in Takaoka and the surrounding cities. In the Takaoka Manyo Historical Museum, you can learn more about his life and read his poems.
In the 16th century, Takaoka became a part of the Kaga Domain that was governed by the feudal lord Maeda. The main city of the Maeda Family was in Kanazawa, but Maeda Toshinaga, the second lord, built the Takaoka Castle and started to live there in 1609 after he retired. There are unfortunately no castle buildings left today, but the castle site has become a nice park and you can still see some of the original stone walls that remain of the castle.
Toshinaga had a town built around the castle, and this became the base of the development of present-day Takaoka City. He named the city Takaoka after a Chinese poem that contains the line “A phoenix sings up on the hill”; Takaoka literally means high hill.
City of Foundry
To promote Takaoka’s industry, Toshinaga invited craftsmen of foundries (workshops or factories that cast metal) from suburban areas to start foundries in the city. In the beginning, they mainly cast iron products, but then they switched to mainly copper products to meet the demands of the local people. In 1868 the Meiji Restoration occurred and the time of the samurai had finished. Because of this big societal change, swordsmiths lost their jobs and they became copper craftsmen instead.
Still today, Takaoka is regarded as a city of foundry and they produce 95% of the copper products in Japan. Not all of them are products for everyday use; they also produce the big bells of the Buddhist temples and Rin (standing bell or resting bell) used for Buddhist altars.
When you come to Takaoka you can visit some of the workshops and even try to make foundry crafts by yourself. There is an area called Kanayamachi where you can find many small workshops and souvenir shops in traditional-style houses. Nosaku is one of the manufacturers who allow you to visit their factory and they can give you a hands-on seminar. It is good to note that Nosaku produces modern products.
Great Buddha of Takaoka
The big statue of Buddha in Takaoka is regarded as one of the top three great Buddhas in Japan together with the ones in Nara (Todaiji Temple) and Kamakura (Kotokuin Temple). The statue’s height is 7.5 meters which makes it a little smaller than the other two Buddhas, but the Buddha in Takaoka is said to be the most handsome one.
Originally, the Buddha was made of wood 800 years ago. The statue was burned by fires several times and the one you can see now was made in 1933, taking 26 years to finish. You can say that it is an embodiment of the city’s copper casting technology. You can go into the hall under the Buddha and they exhibit the head of the old statue. There are also exhibitions of Buddhist paintings of historical figures and a scary hell!
Access: 10-minute walk from Takaoka Station
Zuiryuji is a beautiful Zen Buddhist temple designated as a national treasure. It was constructed for Maeda Toshinaga by his younger brother, Toshitsune who became the third lord of Maeda in the early 17th century. The composition of Sanmon (high gate), Butsuden (Buddha hall), and Hatto (Dharma hall) is really beautiful.
Access: 10-minute walk from Takaoka Station
Entrance: 500 yen for adults / 200 yen for junior and senior high school students / 100 yen for elementary students
Hours: 9 am– 4.30 pm
The Amaharashi Coast is regarded as one of the most famous viewpoints of Toyama Prefecture. The most amazing thing is that you can see the Tateyama Mountain Range rising behind the ocean with its 3,000-meter-high mountains. The rocks in the ocean topped with trees add a special extra accent to the scenery. You can see the view from the coastline or you can take a sightseeing boat to appreciate it. Toyama Bay was selected as one of the members of the World’s Most Beautiful Bays Club. Only 44 bays in the world have the honor to have been selected!
Takaoka City Museum
The history of this museum began in 1951 when an industrial exposition was held. The museum building was one of the pavilions of this exposition, and it was the first public museum that was established after WW2. Their main collections are metal works and Japanese paintings. Later they added the Fujiko F Fujio Gallery in 2015 to exhibit his works. Fujiko is known as the animator of the famous anime Doraemon. He was born in Takaoka City, and his co-worker Fujiko Fujio was born in Himi City which is located next to Takaoka. You can see Doraemon statues in several places in Takaoka and Himi.
Access: 20 minutes’ walk from Takaoka Station
Entrance: Entrance fee varies depending on the exhibition.
Hours: 9.30 am – 5 pm
Takaoka Mikurumayama Hall
A ‘mikurumayama’ is a float that is used for the Takayama Mikurumayama Festival, which is listed as an Intangible Cultural Asset of UNESCO World Heritage together with other 32 festivals from all over Japan. In this museum, they exhibit one of the real floats that are used in the festival. You can see what the festival’s atmosphere is like in the video that is shown in the theater room. The museum is located on Yamamachisuji Street which is famous for its many traditional storehouse buildings.
Access: 12-minute walk from Takaoka Station
Entrance: 450 yen for adults / free for kids under junior high school age
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm (closed on Tuesdays)
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including guides who can tell you all about the history and sightseeing spots in Takaoka City and the surrounding area. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!
Access: From Toyama Station, it takes 20 minutes to Takaoka by Ainokaze-Toyama Line.
From Tokyo Station, it takes 2 hours 50 minutes to Shin-Takaoka Station by shinkansen (bullet train).