A little-known tourist site in Fukui is Ichi-jo dani Castle, a restored town from the Sengoku and Edo period (around 16th to 17th century). Set in a beautiful valley surrounded by forested mountains and close to Ono, it’s worth a visit for anyone interested in Japanese history. Bring your own guide though, as there isn’t much explanation in English!
The city was built by the head of the Asakura clan and it attracted many people to live there it was called ‘Little Kyoto’. Many priests, nobles and scholars moved to Ichijodani, bringing with them the latest technology and culture from Kyoto. During the 16th century the city had 10,000 people living there, making it the third biggest city in Japan! There was a castle on top of a mountain and gates at either end of the valley. The Asakura clan were defeated by a famous samurai, Oda Nobunaga, who sieged the castle and set it alight. Untouched since its destruction in 1573, some parts of the city have been restored to what it used to be like in the 16th century. Most parts have just been excavated and you can only see the outline of buildings, but the main street has been completely reconstructed.
My friend and I were enjoying exploring the shops and houses. They were dark inside so it took our eyes time to see the life-sized models dressed in traditional costumes. Then, my friend slid open a wooden door to find a man dressed as a samurai smiling back at her! She nearly fell over backwards! We were both wondering why he was dressed as a samurai and waiting in a house to ambush tourists, when he stepped outside and four other people dressed up in historical costumes did so too! Then it clicked, they were working there!
Once we’d stopped laughing, we proceeded to have an awkward conversation in English about the restored city. There were obviously friendly people with lots of knowledge to share, yet we lacked a common language to chat in. Maybe next time I’ll go back with someone who can translate!