Top 10 Places to Visit in Fukui

“Fukui? Eeehh! Sore wa doko?” This is the reaction I often get from Japanese people who I meet on my travels outside of Fukui.

The prefecture is almost unheard of in Japan, let alone in the world. Yet Fukui has some fantastic historic, cultural and beautiful places to visit. Here’s my top 10!

#10 Ichijodani Asakura Clan Ruins (between Echizen and Ono) 

I’m no Japanese-history buff, but at this reconstructed settlement I can really feel the history of the area and imagine what the bustling town of 10,000 people would’ve been like 500 years ago. It’s also in a gorgeous valley that would be excellent for cycling.


One of the reconstructed streets from the samurai town that stood here 500 years ago before it was burnt down by Oda Nabunaga.

#9 Maruoka Castle 

Unlike many castles in Japan that have been reconstructed, Maruoka Castle, also known as ‘Kasumiga-jo’ (Mist Castle), has not been changed since it was built in 1576 and is Japan’s oldest castle tower. You can admire it from the outside or climb the steep stairs up to the top to get panoramic views over Maruoka town.


#8 Ikeda waterfall and rope bridge

Ikeda offers serene vistas of rice-terraced valleys, cascading waterfalls and places to try or make delicious soba noodles. Read my post on it here.


This 40 meter long bridge is woven with vines and is suspended 12 meters above Asuwa river and makes for a scary crossing!

#7 Echizen Washi Paper Village, Echizen 

You can also watch masters at work as they make papyrus paper and buy beautiful souvenirs made of washi (traditional Japanese paper). The thatched Okamoto Otaki shrine, one of Echizen’s gems, is a short walk away hidden on the outskirts of a forest and shouldn’t be missed.

Making a mini fan at Echizen Paper Village

A mini fan is one of the many things you can make at the Paper Village.

#6 Tojimbo Cliffs

Tojimbo cliffs are an undeniably strange tourist attraction. The fact that people have committed suicide here in the past, and there is still a nightly suicide watch, has only increased the popularity of these rectangular outcropping rocks. Japanese people don’t like to take photos here in case ghosts of the deceased appear. Despite that it is one of Fukui’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s even a popular place to take a date!


Tanning at Tojimbo. No ghosts in sight.

#5 The mountains, rivers and lakes east of Ono 


“The Watering Hole”, a favourite ALT camping and swimming spot near Ono.

Lake Kuzuryu is also a beautiful place to visit in autumn when the leaves are turning red.

#4 Yokokan Garden, Fukui City

A peaceful Edo Period garden in the centre of Fukui City. Come here to relax and remember you are in Japan.


Take a book and read in the tatami-floored rooms overlooking the pond.

#3 Ski Jam, Katsuyama

Snowboarding, or skiing, are popular hobby for ALTs in Japan. It’s a great way to enjoy winter and meet up with friends on the weekend. Even if you haven’t done it before, after a couple of tries you’ll be standing! Even if you’re on your backside and can still enjoy the stunning views!

Ski Jam has great beginner and intermediate courses

Ski Jam has great beginner and intermediate courses for snowboarders and skiers.  

#2 Nishiyama Park, Sabae

Cherry blossoms in spring, sprinklers to jump through in summer, red leaves in autumn and snow-protected trees in winter. All year round this park has something to offer.

Swathes of azaleas in May

Swathes of azaleas in May.

#1  Eiheji Temple 

This is not your usual tourist destination. You have to change your shoes to enter, walk around quietly and the only souvenirs you can buy are meditation cushions and prayer beads! It lives up to its name, “The Temple of Eternal Peace”, even when there are tourists wandering around.

Founded by Zen Master Dogen Zenji in 1244, it is the largest training centre for Zen monks in Japan today. With grey-robbed monks going about their daily lives, you can witness the harsh mental and physical training regime these men go through to gain monkhood. It’s a privilege to be able to see monks continuing century-old traditions, and one you should definitely visit Fukui to see.


Eiheiji Temple in the snow.

More resources 

More resources

Here is a beautiful video made by Fukui Shimbun about Fukui (only in Japanese). 福井県の魅力を高橋愛さんが紹介する観光プロモーションビデオの一場面

6915889_75x75Former JET Aaron Nathanson made some stunning videos while living in Fukui, check out Yukiguni: Snow Country , Sonotoki: At That Time, Sakura: Cherry Blossom in Fukui.



For Fukui’s Sake is an entertaining read about Sam Baldwin’s time living as a JET in Ono.


Eihei-ji Temple – a place of wonder

When I first watched the Zen Buddhist monks living a life of silence and solitude at Eihei-ji Temple, I thought they must be super-willed special people, different from the rest of us. But at a hostel in December, I met a Zen Buddhist monk in Kobe, who liked drinking, watching films and had a great sense of humour. So now I have even more respect for the men following such a strict way of life at Eijei-ji Temple,as they must want to share a joke, to watch a film or to drink the night away, but they can’t. That’s what makes their way of life impressive; they are just human like the rest of us.


Eiheji Temple is one of the largest Zen Buddhist training temples in Japan, and it is a natural haven for both trainee monks and for visitors. The temple complex is set in a shady valley with tall cedar trees, interspersed between the buildings. It is a place which seems bigger than it is, with a maze of corridors on different levels giving a spacious feel to it. Many of the corridors are open-air, and it feels like you’re walking outside. As well as trees towering above the temples, wood is used everywhere; the floor is made of it, the columns holding up the roof are made of it and the handrails which you can use to guide yourself down steep stairs are made from wood. Every part has been smoothed to perfection, from years of cleaning and years of feet gliding across it.

The monks wear black robes, sandals with no socks and have a shaven head. It was in April when I last visited and I was still wearing thick socks and a woolly scarf. At first, I think they must be cold, but then I looked at their skin and their cheeks were almost glowing. Life in a monastery, working outside and eating only vegetarian food must be a healthy one.

On my last visit here, I was showing my mum around, and she had fallen under the charm of the temple and was taking another look around. I waited on a bench and watched as a man was practising ringing a large gong. The sound vibrated through the air, competing with the sound of rushing water which trickles through ponds and waterfalls. The monastery is just a human-inhabited extension of the forest.

Tourists invade the harmony and peace of the monastery. With brightly-coloured anoraks and children running around, the peace is rippled, but perhaps this daily filtering in of the outside world, maintains the balance of this temple. The monks are reminded of the vices and temptations of the outside. Attractive female visitors must be a test for 120 monks living in celibacy. As I watch tourists cross boundaries to take the best photo, monks walk gracefully in a straight line, turning to bow at an altar in the distance.

They all have just one tatami mat to sleep, eat and pray on. Privacy is only in the mind. I wonder when these monks relax and unwind. I doubt sake is smuggled in, or mid-night binges on steak or sushi are had. Perhaps for the time they are here, they forego the pleasures of the outside and instead opt for having a clear mind, a healthy body and no distractions, apart from a few tourists documenting their life through a camera lens.

Walking around the temple complex, I have the same sense of awe at this sacred place as I do when I walk in a cathedral, or look up at the ceiling of a mosque. Even when you don’t have any religious beliefs, the atmosphere of a religious community can be enough to stir deep thoughts inside of you. This temple is so far from the bright lights and consumerist world of modern Japanese cities, it is like a breath of fresh air for the soul.

I bowed my head at the monks walking past, respecting their choice of life, but I still remember the monk at a bon-enkai in Kobe who drank me under the table.