By Tamás Tom Cserép
Fukui may not be at the top of tourists’ lists, however the Prefecture offers more than what meets the eye. The region is a palaeontologist’s paradise as it accommodates the largest dinosaur museum in Japan and it is the location of the country’s most important palaeontological sites. Locals are proud of their region’s heritage; visitors are greeted with animated statues of dinosaurs as they step out of Fukui City station and dinosaur memorabilia are dotted around the city. The Prefecture offers a break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities such as Kyoto and Osaka for both foreign and domestic visitors.
On the surface Fukui is a sleepy Prefecture on the coast of the Chubu region that is experiencing a rapid decline in its youth population. Fukui is home to 14 nuclear power plants, which is more than any other Prefecture in Japan. Their planned closure could lead to heavy job losses, which could have a considerable impact on the local economy.
To explore wholly the area, visitors are recommended to either start in the outer cities of the Prefecture – such as Wakasa, Obama or Ono - and make their way to the other side over the course of a couple of days or stay in the centrally-located Fukui City and go on day trips to the different parts of the region.
The two most famous landmarks of the Prefecture are the stunning Tojinbo Cliffs and the Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama, located in West and East Fukui respectively. They can both be covered comfortably if one only has a day to spend in the area.
The Dinosaur Museum can be accessed by a shuttle bus service which runs between it and Katsuyama train station. The train ride from Fukui City to Katsuyama offers a view of typical mountainous Japanese rural landscapes.
The museum itself is perched on a hill, offering breath-taking views of the surrounding scenery and the town of Katsuyama nestled in the valley of the Kuzuryu River. The exhibition has two parts – one dedicated to Earth Science and the other to Palaeontology. Visitors can see enormous dinosaur skeletons from both local sites and from around the world. Beautiful rocks are also displayed throughout the exhibition.
If visitors have time, Katsuyama marks the starting point of numerous trails for keen hikers of all abilities.
The easiest way to access Tojinbo cliffs is to catch a train to Mikuniminato station, from where tourists may catch a direct bus to them. However, visitors could opt for a 30-40 minutes walk, which would be along a road with a view of the sea and its beaches.
While these two sites are a must-see, Fukui has plenty of other attractions, including the following
Echizen Ono Castle:
Echizen Ono Castle is described as “the Castle in the Clouds” due to its position on top of a mountain. It can be accessed from Ono station by bus or a 40-60 minute walk. It is also worth exploring the historic town of Ono itself.
Eihei-ji temple is an important local Budhhist church. Its location within the mountains offers a serene and peaceful environment for believers and non-believers alike.
Marouka Castle is halfway between Fukui City and the Tojinbo cliffs. It is the oldest surviving castle of its kind in the whole of Japan.
The Mikata Five Lakes:
The Mikata Five Lakes in Southern Fukui is ideal for the more adventurous visitors. The area offers hikers wonderful trails and breath-taking views of not only the lakes, but the surrounding mountains as well. While in the area, it is worth wandering out and about the historic streets of the town of Obama and trying the local cuisine.
This is a very brief overview of Fukui, covering only a fraction of the things that can be done. Even though it is not on the itineraries of most tourists coming to Japan, it is a Prefecture that visitors should definitely consider if they want a peaceful and quiet break from other tourist hotspots of the country.