Shinminato is one of the towns of Imizu City facing the ocean in Toyama Prefecture, Japan. There are three main attractions in this off-the-beaten-path destination; a fish market, Kaiwo Maru Park, and the Uchikawa Cruise. All attractions are within walking distance of each other and make for an easy and fun half-day trip.
Kittokito Ichiba Fish Market
Kittokito means ‘fresh’ in the local dialect of the Toyama, and fresh seafood is definitely served on this market! The market is divided into two parts. One is for the professionals such as wholesalers and restaurant owners. Their most famous seafood is red snow crab. You can see the crab auction as a visitor.
Normally, the auctions of seafood take place in the early morning. In Kittokito Market, too, they have an auction at 5.30 am. But interestingly, they have a second auction at 1 pm. The fishing season of the crab runs between September and May. You need a reservation and need to pay 100 yen, but you don’t need to wake up early to see it. The early morning auction is not accessible to visitors. It is interesting to see so many crabs put on the floor in the market.
The other part is for everyone, especially for the tourists. There are restaurants and souvenir shops. Of course, you can eat fresh crab that you just bought from the fish market. You can try many kinds of seafood other than crabs. Toyama Bay is also called a “Natural Cage”. Nutritious river water is flowing into the bay from the 3,000-meter-high Tateyama Mountain Range, and the bay is as deep as 1,000 meters. This means that many kinds of sea creatures can live in the bay. Some stay near the surface while others stay in the deeper parts. Other popular local seafood is yellowtail, firefly squid, and broad velvet shrimp.
Access: From Takaoka Station, take the Manyo Line to Higashi-Shinminato Station. It takes 45 minutes. Then it’s a 7-minute walk from the station.
Kaiwo Maru Park
Kaiwo Maru Park is located near the fish market. The Kaiwo Maru is a sailboat that was constructed in 1930 and was used as a nautical training ship until 1989. It is 97 meters long and 13 meters wide. It has 29 sails and the height of the mainmast is 46 meters. Three years before its construction, training sailboat Kirishima Maru was shipwrecked by stormy winds, and 53 people lost their lives. Because of this accident, the national government decided to build two bigger and stronger ships. The other ship is called Nippon Maru, which you can see in Yokohama.
During WW2, the ship was used to transport coal, and after the war, it was used to bring Japanese people back from foreign countries. It retired in 1989 after it trained 11,190 sailors in 59 years and Kaiwo Maru II took over. Kaiwo Maru II was awarded the Boston Teapot Trophy four times, which is given for the fastest sailboat. It moved 1394 miles within 124 hours in 1995.
Entering the Ship
After its retirement, Kaiwo Maru was moored in Shinminato permanently and the city created a park centering around the ship aptly named ‘Kaiwo Maru Park’. You can go inside the ship. Several times a year, they set the sails as an event. It looks gorgeous with the Shinminato-Ohashi Bridge in the background. You may also see the Tateyama Mountain Range on a clear day behind the bridge. It looks beautiful at night with illumination.
Access: From Takaoka Station, take the Manyo Line to Kaiwo Maru Station. It takes 47 minutes. Then it’s an 8-minute walk from the station. Or it’s a 10 minute-walk from Kittokito Ichiba.
Fee: 400 yen for adults / 200 yen for junior high school and elementary school students
Hours: 9.30 am – 4.30 pm (opening hours vary by the season)
Uchikawa Cruise in Shinminato
Uchikawa is a canal. The beautiful canal and its surrounding area are also called ‘Japan’s Venice’. You can visit on foot, but you can also take a ride on a sightseeing boat. First, the boat cruises in the ocean, and then it enters the canal. The boat passes under 12 unique bridges. One of the bridges has a roof like the one in Madison County. On the riverside, there are many moored fishing boats. You can enjoy nice, nostalgic scenery from the boat. The cruising time is about 50 minutes.
There is one stop on the way. You can finish the cruise there and walk back to the park, or you can continue the ride back to the starting point. I recommend you to get off at this stop to take nice pictures.
Access: The starting point is at Kaiwo Maru Park.
Fee: 1,000 to 1,500 yen (differs per course) for adults / 500 to 800 yen for elementary school students
Hours: From March to November: 9 am – 4 pm
From December to February: 10 am – 3 pm (you need a reservation on weekdays)
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