Raina's Japan Travel Journal
by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2017/03/21 - A bit of everything in Fukui

Looking across Obama Bay

Short trips are always good to refresh and reset your senses, whenever it feels like the city gets too overwhelming and you need some time away. Beach front vacation rentals, peace and tranquility in the mountains and delicious local cuisine, these are the things I would look for that I know would make a great holiday. Fukui Prefecture checks all the boxes, and I found myself heading back to the prefecture again about a year after my last trip.

On this trip, I visited the towns of Wakasa, Ohi and Takahama along the Wakasa Coast (also known as the Reinan Coast) and dropped by the Echizen Pottery Village before going home. It was a short trip lasting about 30 hours but I managed to squeeze in four meals and visit a number of attractions. The Shirasagi and Thunderbird limited express trains stop at Tsuruga Station, which was my main point of entry. Access from Tokyo to the Wakasa Coast will become faster and more convenient in a few more years when the Hokuriku Shinkansen gets extended all the way to Tsuruga.

Rainy in Wakasa Town
Lunched in a cosy restaurant
The rice was cooked in a kamado, a traditional rice cooker

Renting a car is recommended to explore the region as many of the attractions are not served by public transport. Rental car outlets can be found at Tsuruga and Fukui stations. If you are planning to visit during the winter months, make sure that you are prepared for snowy conditions. The snow had all melted when I was there towards the end of March, but I spotted a few small patches of snow in the mountainous areas.

Wakasa Town was my first stop, and I visited Taiouji Temple after lunch. The temple is famous for its icho kannon, where a statue of the kannon bodhisattva was carved into the trunk of an icho (ginkgo) tree. The temple was really quiet when I was there, and even though I was not trespassing, I couldn't help but wonder if I was. If peace and quiet is what you are looking for, Taiouji should definitely be on your list.

Steps up to Taioji Temple
Icho Kannon
Inside the temple
Lots of bosatsu line the slopes beside the temple approach

Moving on to Takahama Town, I checked out the popular Wakasa Wada Beach which was awarded Blue Flag status last year and possibly again this year. Being a certified Blue Flag beach indicates that Wakasa Wada Beach has met the strict standards which includes water quality, cleanliness, safety amongst others, set out by an international committee. Ramping up their efforts from last year, there are plans to convert unoccupied houses in the area into holiday rentals and community spaces. I cannot wait to visit in the warmer months next time to check out all these exciting new additions.

Crazy clouds at Wakasa Wada Beach

If lounging at the beach is not your kind of thing, the narrow alleyways of Wada just across from the beach may be of interest to you. There used to be about 500 minshuku homes in the stretch of land between the station and the beach back in the day, but their numbers have dwindled down to just around 40 homes that are still in operation. Known as Wada no Roji, going down the narrow alleys that twist and turn are an interesting way to check out the homes that still retain their architecture from the good old days. The Wada de Roji festival is held in mid September every year and empty homes are turned into temporary art galleries for that weekend.

The path twists and turns up towards the beach
You can see lots of jizo shrines in the streets
Lots of instagram worthy backgrounds
Sea peeping out from beyond the alley
Went to an observation deck for a view of the beach and town
Kaiseki dinner of champions, a delicious dinner course for one
Seafood is a must when you're in the Wakasa Coast. This is a sashimi platter served in a wooden boat (funamori)

Since I was in Takahama, it would have been a shame not to visit its main shrine, Sakichi Shrine. The shrine is the center of the "Seven Year Festival" which is celebrated every six years (every seven years according to the traditional way of counting) and lasts for an entire week. The next time the festival will be held is in June 2019. Three mikoshi are kept in the shrine outside of the festival and there are plans for it to be displayed to the public from the middle of next year.

Main entrace into the shrine grounds
I had the opportunity to go into the main hall
A view I hardly ever see from behind the offering box
This mikoshi weighs about a ton and is about 250 years old!
The mikoshi doesn't show its age because it is sent for repairs after the festivals, and the repairs do not come cheap
Looking at the honden at Sakichi Shrine

From there, I headed to Ohi Town, where I visited the slightly curious Koyomi Kaikan. Koyomi, or the Japanese almanac, refers to the cycles of life and seasons in a year, and the Koyomi Kaikan was a museum devoted to explaining the origins of the Japanese almanac and its progression to the Gregorian calendar in use today. Unfortunately, all information in the museum is in Japanese, and it would be very difficult to understand the concepts without any knowledge of the language.

Inside the the museum, visitors can see displays of the ancient Japanese calendar, and modern versions of the almanac from the Edo and Meiji periods. I arrived wondering why was there an almanac museum built almost in the middle of nowhere, but soon found out that Natasho - the place where the Koyomi Kaikan is located - was where a family prominent in almanac studies lived for a period of time. Their graves can be found on a small hill not far from the museum.

The almanac museum has a star for a lightpost
An interesting water calendar
The almanac could also be used to predict your fortune
Walking up the small hill to the tombs
Natasho Yakushi-do, a Buddhist hall, is one of the oldest buildings in the prefecture constructed in the Edo Period

Along the Wakasa Coast in Ohi Town, I spent the afternoon making pearl accessories at Mamiya, using locally harvested pearls from the bay. It was quite an experience, as I have never worked with pearls before, but the process wasn't too difficult and the teacher was very patient in explaining the steps and making sure I wasn't destroying anything.

Accessory making with a view
Can you guess what is being made?
If you guessed earrings, you guessed right!
The Hotel Uminpia was a stone's throw away from the pearl accessory making place
The hotel's design stands out from the rest of the town's buildings

My final stop before leaving Fukui Prefecture was going to the Echizen Pottery Village. Echizen Pottery is one of the oldest types of pottery techniques in Japan and are typically unglazed. I was excited to see and learn more about the traditional pottery style. Located in Echizen Town, the village consists of a pottery park, the Fukui Prefectural Museum of Ceramics, the cultural center and a few shops selling Echizen pottery. Two of the things I also enjoyed was lunch served in Echizen ware and coffee out of my preferred ceramics cup at the cafe in the cultural center, which was a great way to end my trip to Fukui Prefecture.

Echizen Oroshi Soba Noodles has more of a bite compared to regular soba, and is typically served with grated radish on top
Broken jar puzzle that is fun for everyone inside the museum
Echizenyaki jars on display
You could paint ceramics here
Handformed pottery class in session
Pick your favourite cup and get yourself a coffee from the vending machine
My coffee cup of choice

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List of Posts:
2018/10/25 - Tsukiji Outer Market
2018/08/19 - Hello Kitty Shinkansen
2018/05/16 - Cruising Tokyo's waterways
2018/04/17 - Wisteria blossoms in Ashikaga Flower Park
2018/01/18 - Shinanomachi, the Backcountry of Nagano

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2017/10/25 - The 45th Tokyo Motor Show
2017/10/11 - Dipping into the three onsen towns of Yamanaka, Yamashiro and Katayamazu
2017/07/24 - Remote Riches in Toyama
2017/07/03 - Spiritual Chichibu
2017/05/02 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2017/04/14 - Sneak Peek from Ginza Six
2017/03/21 - A bit of everything in Fukui
2017/03/13 - Nikko Toshogu Uncovered
2017/02/15 - Subculture in Ikebukuro
2017/02/07 - Travel to the Goto Islands
2017/02/06 - Nagasaki Lantern Festival

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
2016/10/24 - The way of old on the Kunisaki Peninsula
2016/10/11 - Following the Tadami Line in Oku Aizu
2016/08/27 - Fool's Dance at Koenji Awa Odori
2016/08/16 - The three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan
2016/06/20 - Train travel into the Ise-Shima region
2016/04/03 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2016/03/08 - The hunt for Namahage on the Oga Peninsula
2016/03/02 - Sake Sangria
2016/02/20 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2016/01/26 - Tour de Reinan: Obama, Oi and Takahama
2016/01/25 - Tour de Reinan: Tsuruga, Mihama and Wakasa

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/10 - 48 hours in Tokushima
2015/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kankakei
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2015/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Dazaifu
2015/10/28 - The 44th Tokyo Motor Show
2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West
2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch
2015/10/19 - Navigating the Christian sites in Nagasaki
2015/10/18 - Cosplay at Haco Stadium Tokyo
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2015/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2015/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/09/16 - Nakanojo Biennale 2015
2015/08/19 - Traditional culture and hot springs of the Aizu Region
2015/08/17 - Nature and Hot Springs at Naruko Onsen
2015/08/04 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015
2015/04/30 - Sapporo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/29 - Hakodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/23 - Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/21 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/16 - Sendai Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/09 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/08 - Fukushima Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/06 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/02 - Nara Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/01 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/31 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/27 - Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/26 - Kumamoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/25 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Sendai
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Tokyo
2014/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2014/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2014/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2014/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Karuizawa
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2014/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2014/10/01 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2014/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/06/19 - Toranomon Hills opens in Tokyo
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu-Wakamatsu Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report