(The only) 10 things to do in Ikeda

Ikeda is the Narnia of Fukui. Where is it? Follow the signs from Echizen, Sabae or Fukui City and once you’ve gone through some incredibly dark tunnels you emerge in the valley of Ikeda-cho. You’ll find that the average age of the people increases by 20 years, the average height of the people decreases by a foot and there are no combinis in sight. Instead you’ll see egrets resting in rice fields and rivers, and crumbling old houses dotted against the forested hillsides. Look beyond the fields and you’ll find a village working to preserve its cultural heritage, in making soba and Noh masks, and promoting its natural beauty with rafting trips down Asuwa river.

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The view back to Imadate and Echizen on Route 417.

P1070068 P1070074 P1070102 1. Ryusogataki Waterfall As one of Japan’s 100 Most Beautiful Waterfalls, one of many official lists they have, be ready to be wowed by this waterfall! This is a 60m high waterfall, where a gentle stream glistens down a sheer rock face, creating rainbows on its way. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Fukui, and as my friends found out, it’s a perfect place for a water fight! IMG_323210309600_10152191391757815_2540151608691489341_n 2. Kazurabashi – Wild Vine Rope Bridge Like something out of the Lord of the Rings, this bridge is pretty darn awesome. At 12 meters above the river, it’s not for the faint-hearted! It’s 300Y to cross, unless you try to get away with being a junior high school student, then it’s 200Y. Or you could just not make it all the way across, then you don’t have to pay at all (but I didn’t tell you that!) Once crossed, or not crossed the bridge, enjoy the peaceful walk along the river back to the Noh Mask Museum. IMG_3255 3. Go ‘not-so-white-water’ rafting! I can’t imagine this is going to be the extreme kind of rafting, but whatever the height of the river, it looks fun! Details: 4 person boat 6000Y, 6 person boat 8000Y for 90 minutes of rafting down a 2km stretch of river, starting at 9, 11, 13:30 or 15:30. Offered from April to September. Call 0778-44-7755. P1070132 4. Make soba (buckwheat noodles) or mochi (rice cakes)

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This mountain-vegetable tempura oroshi soba was delicious!

Learn how to turn buckwheat flour and water into de-ri-cious soba. Or do as I did and make something that looked a bit like tagliatelle pasta. However it looks, it still tastes good, and you can eat it afterwards. Details: it takes 1 hour, from 10am, 13:30 or 15:00, for 6 or 7 people it costs 2600Y. To make mochi, 2500Y. Call 0778-44-6878. If you can’t be bothered to put the work in, just go there and try oroshi soba for 550Y.

5. Take to the slope at Shinbo Family Ski Resort I went on a weekday and my host mum and I were the only people there! But beware, it’s called ‘Family’ for a reason, this is a great place for beginners, but you may get bored with the one and only slope, yet it’s a great place to practice your skills before hitting up Ski Jam. You can also rent equipment there, or if you have your own gear, it’s only 1500Y for a half day, and 2000Y for a full day. Open from late-December to mid-March. Call 0778-44-7787. IMG_2262 IMG_2263 6. Noh Mask Museum Noh Theatre is what Ikeda is famous for. For 750 years a Noh performance has taken place on February 15th at Ukan shrine in the forest. My friends who went, reported back that it the strangest dance they’d ever seen, and after the first half they were all ready to leave. But the Noh Mask Museum may be of more interest to the average foreigner who knows nothing about this tradition. I stumbled across this mask-making workshop and found a roomful of men entranced in their work. The friendly master-Noh maker there showed us round and even gave me a sake cup as a souvenir! IMG_3265IMG_3258 IMG_3261

7. Climb Mt. Kanmuri (1257m) imagesOnly accessible in summer, this is one of “Japan’s 100 Nature Spots to be preserved in the 21st Century”. I haven’t climbed it, but it must be good if it’s on the list!

 

 

8. Buy fresh locally-grown produce at the one-and-only village shop.

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Ikeda is known for its organic farming techniques. So the vegetables may not look perfect, but they probably taste great!

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I can vouch for both the pudding and the chocolate cake.

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Here is a nice cafe attached to the village shop.

9. Try strange flavoured ice cream – 300Y each from the village shop.

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From top left: goat’s milk, mugwort (?!), wild sesame seed, tomato or soybean flour.

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If you’ve ever wondered how Heinz Tomato Soup would taste frozen, you should try this.

10. Try wild boar meat!  At Keiryu Onsen, Kanmuri. First, bathe in a mountain stream hot spring known for its healing powers, then try wild boar ! Here is Jessie’s experience of eating wild boar nabe.

Chainsaw art - a bear riding a wild boar!

Chainsaw art at the Ikeda Festival in May. It’s a cute bear riding a wild boar!

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Who’d have thought there was so much to do in Ikeda!

Find out the locations of these places by looking here. The 100 Hometown Views of Fukui Website.

A sign of spring

When I wake up to the sound of silence, I know it has snowed. The white shines through and around my curtains, until I throw them upon and see the landscape changed into a snowy paradise. Over a steaming cup of tea I contemplate how to spend the day. It’s only February but the season for Echizen daffodils is nearly over. The narcissus is a winter-flowering plant that somehow thrives on the windy western coast of Japan in January and February. Thinking that the coast couldn’t be as snowy as outside my window, I decide to head to the sea.

Narcissus in the snowSunshine and snow

With Zoya and Julia as passengers, I drive carefully down the winding roads to the coast. We get out of the car at Cape Echizen Daffodil Land and it is still snowing. Soft fluffy snowflakes settle for a mini-second, then shrivel on the salty surface they’ve landed on. We watch as snow drifts race towards us across the sea, whilst the sun pitifully tries to melt them away.

Wrapped upA scatter of narcissus and snow

There is a not ‘A host, of golden daffodils’ as Wordsworth described in the English Lakes, but instead a spotting of the rare yellow flower, the winter narcissus. We laugh at another overrated tourist attraction in Fukui! Yet ‘Daffodil Land’ has a strange charm to it, with its white lighthouse and lullaby music being played to the struggling daffodils.

As we drive further up the coast we see wild and cultivated daffodils blowing in the breeze, far more than at the designated spot for seeing them. Our destination is a much-anticipated cafe that is famous for clam chowder, authentic chocolate cake and ocean views. We weren’t disappointed.

Cafe Mare ''a place for interesting people to meet'' says their sloganThe clam chowder in bread bowl, with real crab legsJelly latteSweet smelling narcissus

After warming-up inside, we went for a walk on the beach. As well as beautiful rocks, pebbles and driftwood there were lines of colourful plastic containers, old rope and the odd shoe that had been washed up on the beach.Some say the rubbish makes the beach look untidy but I like wondering the story behind each sea stolen item.

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It wasn’t a particularly spectacular sunset but we were all happy to be next to the ocean and reminisced about beach combing in our own countries.

SunsetPeace and crab sign at the same time!

For 100 yen we each bought a bunch of sweet-smelling daffodils which are a subtle reminder that spring is on its way, even if it is still snowing outside.