By Bryan Baier
As with quite a few places in Japan I visited, Murakami was a spontaneous visit. I’ll admit, I decided to get off the train at Murakami Station because of a contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, and it was a great decision.
Murakami boasts an ancient castle whose ruins remain at its original hilltop location. There are a few different routes leading to the pinnacle of Murakami Castle and is an easy ascent largely composed of gentle slopes. The stone walls that once fortified the hilltop fortress are all that is left to support its existence.
Overlooking the town of Murakami and the Sea of Japan, Murakami Castle offers spectacular views. Majestic mountains standing directly opposite Murakami Castle form a protective barrier along the northern side of Murakami. Running horizontally across and following the shape of the mountain base as it advances and recedes is Miomote River, which feeds into the Sea of Japan. To gawk more comfortably at the beautiful town below and rest your legs a little, take a seat at one of the benches by the railings and drink in the sight.
After enjoying Murakami town from above, why not take a leisurely stroll along Miomote River towards the Sea of Japan and conveniently enough, Murakami Station. But before you leave, pay a quick visit to the shrine at Murakami Castle, and make sure to thank the gods for the splendid view!
The riverside is tranquil and beautiful, lined largely by residential houses and an abundance of forestry. I walked to the nearest bridge, which can be seen in the photograph of Murakami with the full mountain range in view taken from Murakami Castle. With Miomote River on my left, I strolled from the bridge along the highway road running next to the river, and found a footpath that diverged to the right off the highway. Indulge in the music of the river running its course as you walk through the shade of the trees. Every now and then, you will also catch sights of the opposite riverbank through the foliage.
The end of the footpath reconnects to the highway. If you intend to catch a train at Murakami Station, turn left onto the highway towards Murakami Castle and the bridge. The fastest route to Murakami Station is through local residential areas, so it would help to follow Google Maps. Alternatively, there should be road signs guiding you to Murakami Station. If you wish to continue towards the coast of the Sea of Japan, turn right onto the highway and walk till the road runs out.
Murakami may not be the hottest tourist destination, but its lesser known status makes it all the more refreshing. Dare to wander off the beaten track a little and return with a collection of photos you are less likely to also find on Google. I highly recommend a visit to this peaceful town if you have the chance. And a huge arigatou to Murakami-san. I have you to thank for a day very well spent!
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