Top 3 places you must see if you are ever in Fukui | Japan's Zen Capital

Updated: Sep 19



About Fukui


Bordering the Sea of Japan and a part of the island of Honshu is the Fukui prefecture. Fukui is a place where history comes back to life. It is not like most cities of Japan such as Osaka and Tokyo, and although you might not find major tourist attractions here, I feel like it has many interesting historical places in the forested hills and the rocky coastlines outside of the city, which must be visited at least once if you are ever in the area. I will introduce my top three picks for these unique locations of Fukui in this article and an additional two locations if you wish to go there.


How to get to Fukui


Fukui can be reached easily via JR express trains from Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Kanazawa.

You can also take a highway bus or drive up there. I drove from Nagoya to Fukui, it took us around 3 hours to reach (including the highways). I personally recommend renting a car instead of doing tours, because then you can do things at your own pace.



Tōjinbō cliffs


Along the coastline of Fukui is this picturesque scenery of massive columnar cliffs created from ancient volcanoes millions of years ago and the slow and steady coastal erosion of the Sea of Japan. This is my first pick because it is said that there are only three examples of such geological features ( columnar joints) around the world, the most famous one is the Basalt Columns & Pillars in Iceland.


You can actually climb down the cliffs and enjoy the view of the magnificent cliffs from the bottom as well as the roar of the crashing waves. However there are no safety railings at the extreme ends, so its best to be careful at all times since the cliffs are pretty sharp. There are cruises available as well if you wish to see the cliffs from far away in full view.



Tojinbo has no entrance fee and can be visited anytime. The sunsets from the cliffs are a view that simply just cannot be missed. The cliffs are pretty vast and one can easily find their spot to take great pictures.

If you have time you can visit the little island of Oshima as well, north of Tojinbo.

There are usually few tourists in this area and you can easily walk around the island and enjoy the rock formations from afar.


Ichijōdani Asakura Family Historic Ruins



During the Warring States era, this region was ruled by the influential Asakura clan with a bustling town just outside the castle of the lord. Ichijodani was a large city that spread out over the whole mountainous area with a population in excess of 10000 people, booming with commerce and culture.



The clan and region were burned down to flames in the year 1573 when the Asakura Lords spurned the wrath of Oda Nobunaga. In 1967, an archaeological investigation was launched in the area and a small part of the town was reconstructed using excavated stone walls and other excavated articles.

The town includes samurai residences, townhouses of ordinary citizens and other structures of the townscape restored just like they were in the Sengoku era.


The restored town's business hours are 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

The site is close from December 28th to January 4th

The town place has an entrance fee of 250 yen (2$)


Special Recommendation

At the end of August every year, a special festival is held to honor the Asakura clan inside the restored town. The town comes back to life with magnificent samurai parades, Echizen Asakura Mantoya the festival where people light up more than 1500 candles in the evening, Japanese martial arts performances, the demonstration of matchlock guns, and much more. If you are around Fukui at that time, Ichijodani should be at the top of your list of travel destinations.



Eihei-ji, a Sōtō Zen temple.


Eiheiji is the head temple of the Soto school, one of the major zen schools in Japan.

Eihei-ji was established in the year 1244 as a place of meditation by a famous zen teacher called Dogen. Dogen was sure that Zen was the truth behind the workings of the human mind. Even today there are about 200 monks that devote their lives to this strict practice established by Dogen.


At Eihei-ji you will be able to sense the zen and the teachings of Dogen not just from the surroundings but by the treatments of Utsui ( monks dedicated to the teachings of Dogen). There is a stillness in everything on the grounds of the temples, and the proud tall 700 old cedar trees add to the beauty and serenity of the location.


All the facilities of the temple reflect the world view of zazen. And the practice of Zen Buddhism is to simply devote yourself to Zazen. Now you might wonder what Zazen is. In simple words, Zazen is the meditative discipline of looking into the nature of existence, the primary practice of the Zen Buddhist tradition. The grounds of the place contains a kitchen, a bathhouse, a lecture hall, a Buddhist hall, and a meditation hall for the monks.


Visiting the Eihei-ji Temple can teach you how everything is one's daily life from cooking to eating and cleaning can be considered an ascetic practice. Along with the Zen practice experience, I can guarantee that this place will make your mind feel cleansed and, you will learn something new about yourself.


Business Hours

Weekends & weekdays ( 8:30 AM ~ 5:00 PM )

Price for Adults: 500 YEN (4$) | Children: 200 Yen(1.5$)


Extras


1. Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum:

If you are into dinosaurs or like the Jurassic Park movie you can give this place a try. This place has a total of 42 dinosaur skeletons and certainly is a fun place for learning about dinosaurs.


2. Maruoka Castle

Maruoka castle actually is one of the twelve castles in Japan that has survived from the feudal age. It is said to be the oldest surviving castles in the country and is a famous place to visit if you are in Fukui during the sakura season.


Food

Echizen Crab

Fukui is renowned for its seafood since it is close to the Sea of Japan. If you are in Fukui make sure to try the Echizen crab. But if you are on a budget, keep in mind that it can get quite pricey according to the size of the crabs. Japanese people apparently come from all across the country just to try this particular delicacy.

Echizen Soba

This buckwheat noodles, topped with radish, spring onion, and a soy-based sauce is one of the famous delicacies of Fukui. I personally like Soba, but if you are not a fan then you can try out the Sauce Katsu Don, deep-fried meat dipped in a special sauce on rice (another famous local delicacy)

Asakurazen (Ichijodani)

Asakurazen is a place where traditional set meals are prepared by local women that include Gojiro miso soup and 'gomakoro' black sesame seeds and taro which are considered to be local produce. Both its courses include 12 to 13 especial dishes and due to the time needed to prepare them bookings are required in advance. This place surely can't be missed if you are in the area for the ruins.


Conclusion


Fukui Prefecture is popular with history buffs, Buddhist scholars, nature lovers, and those in search of culinary adventures. And if you want to wrap it all up with a day at the beach the coast of the sea of Japan is rife with beautiful crystal clear beaches. If you want to experience authentic Japanese culture and beauty outside the hyper crowded hotspots give Fukui a try.

 

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