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.


(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.


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)


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.



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


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


Here is a nice cafe attached to the village shop.

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


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


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!


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.

The best way to soba up!

Ironically the night a friend threw a toga party, it snowed. My friends and I gleefully watched as it surreptitiously covered our cars in a foot of the white, fluffy stuff while we partied in our badly-tied bed sheets. At 1am I traipsed back to my apartment in my bed sheet and welly boots and had forgotten about the next morning’s event; soba making in Ikeda-cho. Soba is a popular type of Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour and is famous in this area. Ikeda-cho is in the middle of nowhere. Snuggled in my bed I secretly hoped that the event would be postponed so I could sleep off the effects of the party. But, it wasn’t. So we drove into the snowy wilderness to make soba.


The small town of Ikeda is nestled in a low mountain range, east of Echizen and usually takes about an hour drive to get there from Fukui city, but on this day it took two. I’d been there before but it looked completely unrecognisable with a blanket of heavy snow. We drove past many elderly men and women who were shovelling buckets of snow from their driveways and gardens. Their wise, wrinkly faces looked liked they’d seen a lot worst weather than this. They seemed amused to see a convoy of wide-eyed foreigners driving through their little town.




Beautiful scenery but horrendous driving conditions.

This was an ALT event planned by someone whose JTE was also a Soba Master. This man was kind enough to show us the way to the soba-making centre, as the roads were indistinguishable from the rice fields! He had only been learning how to make soba for two years but he looked like he’d been doing it for much longer.

The ten of us who had signed up to the workshop were mostly first-years in Japan and hadn’t seen this amount of snow before nor had driven in it. Unlike in England where the snow settles for a few days and is thought of as a novelty, in Fukui the snow settles for two or three months! Here the novelty of the snow is lost on most people except for young children and ALTs who are still excited by the prospect of snowball fights, snowmen making and sledging!

When we finally arrived at the soba-making centre, we got to work straight away. The three Soba Masters who had part-time jobs or were volunteer staff at the centre, helped us all turn flour and water into tasty noodles. Here is the general process but not an exact recipe!

Step 1. Take a beautiful old bowl, a sieve and about a kilogram of buckwheat flour (3 parts buckwheat, 1 part plain flour),


Step 2. Pour in about 300ml of water and mix it in with your fingers. Add about 150ml more water and continue to mix until it has a breadcrumb-like texture. IMG_0313Step 3. Draw the mixture into a ball and knead it, like you would clay. (My partner Laura had expert skills in this part.) Once thoroughly kneaded turn the ends of the dough inwards so it looks something like a flower.

IMG_0316Step 4. Take a metre long rolling pin and start thinning your dough out. Place your hands in the middle of the rolling pin and gently push them outwards as you roll over the rough. Keep turning the dough until you get a circle shape.


Step 5. Then for the tricky bit, wrap the dough around the rolling pin and roll it in one direction three times. Unwrap and see your dough is turning square shaped! Repeat until your dough is as square shaped as it can be.

IMG_0323Step 6. Fold your dough in four and flour each side before you overlay it.


Step 7. Then rest a cutting board on top of the folded layers and find a big knife! Tilt the knife slightly to push the board away and make a sharp precision with the knife. Repeat until you’re left with a board full of noodles!


Eat and enjoy! This dish is called oroshi soba and very popular in Japan. The soba are boiled for two minutes and then blanched in cold water. It is served with a thin dashi-stock and toped with daikon (grated radish), fish flakes and spring onion.


So did I like it? The subtly sweet taste of the stock, the sharp taste of the daikon and the strange texture of the fish flakes is a strange concoction. Next time, I’d pass on the daikon but everything else was delicious. It’s not my favourite dish but is definitely the most fun to make!

Here a few photos from the back seat of Tom’s car on our journey home.

The view from our table, a frozen pond and a watermill.



Thanks to Tom and Crystal for organising this super event and for getting us there and back safely!