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.
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! 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. 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. 4. Make soba (buckwheat noodles) or mochi (rice cakes)
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. 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!
7. Climb Mt. Kanmuri (1257m) Only 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.
9. Try strange flavoured ice cream – 300Y each from the village shop.
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.
Find out the locations of these places by looking here. The 100 Hometown Views of Fukui Website.