The lost world of Fukui
Discover dinosaurs and the art of Zen in fossil-filled Fukui!
Located on Honshu’s western coast between Kyoto and Ishikawa, Fukui’s attractions span millions of years. For starters, Fukui loves dinosaurs. Four dinosaur species have been excavated in the prefecture as recently as 2016. The capital is also home to one of the most prominent dinosaur museums in Asia.
Ancient Eihei-ji temple laid the foundations of Soto Zen Buddhism in Japan, while the Ichijodani Ruins were the powerful Asakura Clan’s regional stronghold. Head to the Echizen Coast to see the Tojinbo Cliffs, craggy basalt pillars carved by centuries of ocean erosion, and witness a 360-year-old underwater tug-of-war on the shores of Lake Hiruga.
Dinosaurs and Zen Buddhism
Fukui city makes an excellent base for exploring the rest of the prefecture. Less than an hour away but secluded among moss and cedar hills, Eihei-ji temple is one of two headquarters of Soto Zen Buddhism, attracting pilgrims from all over the world to learn the art of Zen.
There are short programs available to foreign visitors where you can accompany the 250 or so monks-in-training through a rigorous prayer and meditation schedule. The temples’ atmospheric wooden covered walkways and relics are worthwhile for just a day trip – you’ll leave with your spirit lifted.
Anyone who’s seen Jurassic Park will appreciate the informative Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. The museum is the largest of its kind in Japan. There are four floors dedicated to the incredible discoveries made in the surrounding Katsuyama area, which were the pre-historic the stomping grounds of the Fukuiraptor and Fukuisaurus.
The Tojinbo Cliffs and castles
Japan history buffs would be remiss not to visit Maruoka Castle in Sakai. The castle claims to have the oldest keep in Japan. Nearby is the 16th-century Ichijodani Asakura Clan Historic Ruins. Although still under excavation, it’s possible to wander the partially reconstructed samurai district and old town foundations.
Along the Echizen Coast, you can hike the basalt pillars of the Tojinbo Cliffs for a spectacular view during sunset. Towards the north, Echizen Ono Castle rises above the former castle town of Ono. When the weather is right, a thick blanket of fog covers the entire town, leaving only the castle visible.
At the opposite end of the prefecture around Tsuruga is Obama and Lake Hiruga. In January, local young men take part in an epic inter-village tug-of-war. The festival, called Hiruga-no-Tsunahiki Gyoji, takes place in an icy cold canal connecting Hiruga Lake the Japan Sea.
In March, sacred water is taken from a well in Jingu-ji Temple in Obama to a river that flows to Nara as an offering to Buddha. Locals in holy garb march from the temple in a large crowd carrying flaming torches. Visitors are free to watch and even participate.
Plan your trip to Fukui with the links below!