When tourists think of visiting Japan, more often than not, the first places that come to their minds would be Tokyo (東京), Kyoto (京都), or Osaka (大阪). Sometimes, however, others prefer not to visit the mainstream tourist spots in the country. Japan has 47 prefectures all of which offer an abundance of tourist spots. Some prefectures are visited more than others. In this article, I introduce to you Fukui (福井), a beautiful but underrated prefecture.
Fukui Prefecture can be found in the Chubu region (中部地方) on Honshu Island. The prefectural capital is Fukui City (福井市). It may be one of Japan’s smallest prefectures, but this place is full of beautiful and cultural places to visit.
The prefecture boasts tourist attractions such as Eiheiji Temple (永平寺), a Zen temple nestled in the mountains. It also has a very unique museum, the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum (福井恐竜博物館). Aside from tourist attractions, the prefecture also possesses rich natural resources; and since it faces the Sea of Japan, there is an abundance of wakasa puffer fish (若狭ふぐ), amaebi (sweet shrimp – 甘エビ), and Echizen crab (越前ガニ).
1. Enjoy the view at Tojinbo Cliffs (東尋坊)
Designated as a national treasure, a visit to Tojinbo Cliffs is definitely a must. Here, magnificent rock formations stretch for about 1 kilometer along the Sea of Japan. To look down on the sea and the waves crashing onto the rocks is a magnificent sight to behold.
2. Sign up for the Cabin Cruiser Tour around Sotomo
Located at the tip of Uchitomi Peninsula (内外海半島), Sotomo (蘇洞門) refers to the openings at the bottom of a cliff that was created by sea erosion. The bigger opening is called “Daimon (大門)” (right on the picture above) and the smaller opening is called “Shoumon (小門)” (left on the picture above).
Through the Cabin Cruiser Tour, you can enjoy a 50-minute cruise around the Sotomo area and appreciate the wonders that nature created. Aside from Sotomo, tourists can also enjoy the view of the magnificent cliffs and oddly shaped rocks in the sea.
3. Appreciate the beauty and history of Ichijodaki Waterfall (一乗滝)
The Ichijodaki Waterfall is a 12-meter waterfall that is located in the upstream area of the Ichijoudani River that runs through the Asakura Clan Ruins (朝倉氏遺跡). Aside from its amazing natural beauty, the waterfall also has its own share of historic events. This waterfall is said to be the place where Kojiro Sasaki (佐々木小次郎) invented “Tsubamegaeshi (燕返し),” his own swordplay. Renowned Nara period monk Taicho (泰澄) also worshiped the Hakusan Daigongen (白山大権現) deity here and built the Joukyouji Temple (滝水山浄教寺).
4. Visit Eiheiji Temple
Eiheiji Temple is just outside Fukui City, located on a mountain surrounded by cedar trees. It is a large temple complex and is an active monastery. In 1244, Dogen (道元), the scholar who introduced Soto Zen (曹洞宗) to Japan, founded this temple.
Since it is an active monastery, there are about 250 practicing monks living in the grounds and they spend up to two years of training and studying Zen Buddhism in the temple.
5. View cherry blossoms at Maruoka Castle (丸岡城)
Chosen as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom viewing sites, you must visit Maruoka Castle during spring. Surrounded by 400 Yoshino cherry trees, the flowers add a subtle elegance to the magnificent castle. Maruoka Castle was built by Katsutoyo Shibata (柴田勝豊) in 1576. It is the oldest keep (donjon) in Japan and is considered as one of the important cultural properties by the government.
6. Take a stroll around Yokokan Garden (養浩館庭園)
Yokokan Garden is a circuit-style Japanese garden with a pond at the center. This garden was the second residence of the Matsudairas (松平家), the domain lord of Fukui in the Edo period. It is a garden that was considered a representation of the mid-Edo period.
Unfortunately, the traditional buildings were all burnt down during an air raid in 1945. Extensive restoration was made possible in 1982 when the government recognized the garden as a place of natural scenic beauty.
7. See how bamboo dolls are made at the Echizen Bamboo Doll Village (越前竹人形の里)
In the Echizen Bamboo Doll Village, locally called as “Echizen take-ningyo no sato,” tourists can view displays that contain bamboo dolls and other handicrafts that were made from different Japanese bamboo. The subjects of these dolls do not only come from local teachings and stories but also from Kabuki, Noh, Kyogen, etc. The museum also has a workshop where you can observe the artisans while they are making the bamboo dolls.
8. Appreciate artworks at the Kanaz Forest of Creation (金津創作の森)
The Kanaz Forest of Creation, locally called as “Kanazu sousaku no mori,” is a place where artists can display their art to share with other people and to express themselves. The main facility called Art Core is aimed at art exhibition and creative activities. What makes this place unique is that the artworks are exhibited in a natural setting, which adds an air of serenity to the exhibit.
9. Eat Wakasaji Gozen (若狭路ご膳) lunch
After hours of traveling, a tourist has to take a break and replenish lost energy! The Wakasaji Gozen lunch is a special lunch served in the western part of Fukui Prefecture, in the Wakasa region. It consists of fresh seafood collected from the sea of the said region and fresh ingredients gathered from the mountains.
10. Visit the wildlife at Echizen Matsushima Aquarium
This aquarium is located in front of Echizen Matsushima (越前松島水族館), a rock formation similar to Tojinbo Cliffs but smaller. There are about 400 species of marine life in the aquarium, from penguins to dolphins and sharks. The aquarium is not that big so one can take their time and enjoy their interaction with the animals.
11. Explore Yukemuri Yokocho (湯けむり横丁)
Also called the “Hot Spring Steam Alley,” this place is filled with lots of restaurants. It is located in front of the Echizen Railway Awarayunomachi Station (あわら湯のまち駅). When you pass through, you will see that the restaurants are decorated with red paper lanterns.
Here, you can eat a variety of food from soba, oden (stewed ingredients in a soy sauce-based soup), gyoza, to horumonyaki (skewered pig innards seasoned with salt and pepper).
12. Stay at the Awara Onsen (あわら温泉)
After a long day of traveling, tourists can stay at the Awara Onsen. Built in 1883, it is considered as a representative onsen (hot spring) resort in Fukui. Aside from its relaxing ambiance, its elegant architecture has made it known as “a romantic hot spring resort town.” Tourists can take it slow and take a dip at the hot springs to get rid of the day’s fatigue.
The Fukui tourism website lists several ways on how you can get to Fukui. They suggest to either travel by train, plane, or bus.
If you will be coming from Tokyo, then the easiest way to get to Fukui would be through riding a train. You have two options: the JR Tokaido Shinkansen or the Hokuriku Shinkansen.
On the other hand, if you will be coming from Osaka, you would want to ride the JR Thunderbird. If you opt to travel by bus, you will have to ride the Wakasa Liner from Itami (伊丹) to Fukui.
For further information, you can visit Fukui Tourism Guide’s “How to get to Fukui” page here.
I have said in a previous article that I prefer to travel to places that are not so well known and I put them on top of my travel list. With Fukui, there is that same sentiment. I really do think that a traveler should visit a place that is not that popular with tourists so that they can enjoy the place and create an unforgettable experience.
I, myself, have not been able to visit Fukui yet. I have only seen articles and watched videos online that showcase the beauty of this underrated prefecture. I personally think that tourism in these quaint places should be promoted so that people can explore more of what Japan has to offer and also help boost local tourism and economy.