More About Toyama's History

Amazing Toyama: Gateway to the Northern Japan Alps

TOYAMA, the city “rich with mountains” (“tomi” rich, “yama” mountains), offers stunning views of the Japan Alps for its 420,000 residents and for visitors. With two major rivers flowing through the city to the sea, and crisscrossed by canals fed by alpine snows, and Toyama stretches from the historic shipping port of Iwase on the Japan Sea - home of Toyama’s highly prized premium sea food - southward along both sides of the Jinzu (“path of the gods”) River, to the famous mountain town of Yatsuo and the 3000 meter (9840 feet) crest of the Northern Japan Alps. Located 250 km (155 miles) from Tokyo, Toyama is an international city facing Korea, China and Russia across the Sea of Japan.

IN THE FEUDAL PERIOD the castle town of Toyama was strategically important and the rich Toyama Plain, dotted with castles, was often a battlefield. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Toyama became the center for medicine distributed throughout Japan, was celebrated for paper making (washi), and became the arrival point for religious pilgrims coming from all over Japan to participate in the famous Buddhist mountain worship at Mt. Tateyama. Even Basho, the founder of haiku poetry, visited the region on his trip to the “deep north”.

TOYAMA CASTLE, built in 1543, was surrounded by inner and outer moats on three sides with the Jinzu River on the fourth, enclosing a large area of 2.5 square km (1 square mile). Renowned as the Castle which “floated on water”, after 1581 it was the keep of the powerful samurai Narimasa Sassa. In 1585 Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the great samurai lord of western Japan, attached the castle with 100,000 troops and destroyed it. In the 1600’s, Lord Masatoshi Maeda rebuilt the castle twice and his family ruled Toyama until the Meiji restoration in 1870 when the extensive buildings were dismantled. Remains of the stone walls incorporating 5 massive stones at the south entrance indicate the power and wealth of the domain lord. The imposing wooden Chitose gate at the eastern entrance dates from 1849. The castle grounds include an extensive Japanese garden and tea houses, a large bronze statue of Lord Masatoshi Maeda, and a memorial to those who died in the August 1, 1945 air raids.

THE FAMOUS EDO PERIOD BRIDGE OF BOATS across the Jinzu River behind the castle was the largest in Japan, aiding commerence and travelers along the Sea of Japan and capturing people’s imagination in works such as Hiroshige’s wood block prints. One of the numerous stone lanterns (d. 1799) which lit the bridge for night passage survived the bombing of August 1, 1945 and can be seen on the south side of the river behind castle grounds.

WORLD WAR II After the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and modernization of Japan, Toyama’s abundant water from the Northern Japan Alps – which have the highest recorded snowfall in the world – and the area’s massive productin of hydroelectric power supported the development of heavy industry. Producing specialized steel and ball bearings, Toyama became the most totally bombed Japanese city in WW II. After being used as a practice target for four huge “pumpkin bombs” as a rehearsal for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 99% of city center was destroyed on the night of August 1, 1945 in a massive incendiary raid by 173 B-29 bombers. The city center was reduced to ashes. More than 100,000 people were directly affected, 8,000 were injured and 2700 lost their lives.

The WW II Peace Reconstruction Memorial in Castle Park was erected on August 1, 1974. At the center is a statue of a Tennyo, or Buddhist celestial maiden, to commemorate the hard work, great sacrifices, and enduring love of those citizens who created today’s vibrant city from the ashes of war. Wreathed in traditional ribbon-like scarves, the Tennyo stands on the celestial clouds holding an open red lotus flower in the left hand to symbolize compassion and purity of heart and, with a young child, lifts up a prayer for world peace.

AFTER TOYAMA’S AMAZING RECOVERY from the ashes of WW II, it has become a leading ecological city with Japan’s first complete light rail system, clean high tech and pharmaceutical industries, the largest glass artist community in Japan, and numerous parks, shrines, temples and museums. Toyama serves as a gateway to the mountains where Japanese alpine climbing originated and the famed Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine trekking route begins.

In 2012 Toyama was designated one of Japan’s eleven eco-friendly cities of the future, and OECD recognized Toyama – along with Melbourne, Paris, Vancouver and Portland – as having one of the world’s most advanced environmentally friendly compact city policies. In 2013 Toyama was awarded the Monde Selection Grand Gold Medal in Stockholm for the exceptional quality of the city water. And In 2014 Toyama was selected by the United Nations as the only Japanese city for the new “Sustainable Energy for All” (SE4ALL) global initiative partnership, and also in 2014 Toyama was selected as the only Japanese city to join the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities of the world initiative.

Today eco-friendly Toyama offers the visitor a uniquely harmonious balance between the traditional and the modern, and the city and nature. We invite you to come visit the real Japan.