Fukui is a prefecture located in the Chubu region on the main island of Honshu. It borders Ishikawa prefecture on the north, Gifu on the east, Shiga on the south, and Kyoto on the southwest. The capital and largest city is also called Fukui, and is accessible by flight and train. While Fukui prefecture has many attractions worthy of a visit, in 2019 (before the Covid-19 pandemic) it was ranked second last according to JNTO’s visit rate ranking by prefecture. Being a lesser-known region, especially among foreign travellers, Fukui is a great place to discover to avoid big crowds (like in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka) and still enjoy all the range of quintessentially Japanese experiences a traveller may desire.
Fukui prefecture is easily accessible from major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Kanazawa by either flight or bullet train (the Hokuriku line of the Shinkansen will be extended to Fukui in 2024).
Tokyo (Hokuriku Shinkansen) → Kanazawa (Limited Express Train) → Fukui (About 3h 20min)
Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen) → Maibara (Limited Express Train) → Fukui (About 3h 30min)
Osaka (Limited Express Train) → Fukui (About 1h 50min)
Kyoto (Limited Express Train) → Fukui (About 1h 20min)
Nagoya (Tokaido Shinkansen) → Maibara (Limited Express Train) → Fukui (About 1h 40min)
Kanazawa (Limited Express Train) → Fukui (About 50min)
Haneda Airport (Flight) → Komatsu Airport (Shuttle Bus) → Fukui (About 2h)
Public transport in Fukui
Public transport in Fukui prefecture is provided by West Japan Railway (JR), Fukui Railway, Echizen Railway, and Keifuku Bus.
The Japan Rail Pass can be used on the JR lines, while Fukui Railway, Echizen Railway and Keifuku Bus offer discounted 1-day passes.
What to do
Fukui prefecture is renowned for its thriving Zen philosophy and Japan’s biggest dinosaur fossil excavation site. However, it offers so many other attractions yet to be discovered by foreign travellers.
Temples & shrines
Zen Buddhism is divided into the Soto school and the Rinzai school. In Fukui prefecture, you can experience and practice zen meditation at Eiheiji Temple and Daianzenji Temple. Seidaiji Temple has been gaining popularity on Instagram for its 17m Echizen Big Buddha statue and 1,281 smaller Buddha simulacra placed on the walls. Heisenji Hakusan Shrine is a famous moss temple with an intriguing history.
One of the leading dinosaur museums in the world is located in Fukui prefecture. At Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum you can admire various skeletons, fossil samples, and other dinosaur related exhibits. There is also a field station on the excavation site where you can try your luck at excavating an actual dinosaur fossil.
Traditional arts & craftsmanship
Five traditional crafts have been created and still exist in the modern days in Echizen city: Echizen lacquerware, Echizen washi paper, Echizen knives, Echizen pottery, and Echizen chests. Special techniques used to create these handicrafts have been passed down from generation to generation. You can try your hand at creating your own handicraft at some of the workshops.
Castles & other monuments
Fukui is also home to two standing castles and two castle ruin sites, as well as several interesting monuments to be visited.
There are several places where you can enjoy beautiful views of seasonal flowers: cherry blossoms and azaleas in spring, water lilies in summer, red leaves in fall, and white snow in winter. Within a predominantly unspoilt natural environment, you can also enjoy the beautiful scenery of several renowned waterfalls or cliffs by the sea.
What to eat
Fukui prefecture is mainly known for the abundance of fresh seafood and their own version of buckwheat noodle dish called Echizen oroshi soba. However, there are several other local specialties that you can enjoy. We will introduce you to 4 local popular foods you definitely cannot miss when you visit Fukui!
Echizen oroshi soba
Echizen oroshi soba is a buckwheat noodle dish in soy sauce with grated white radish (daikon oroshi in Japanese), bonito flakes and green onions on top. It is typically served cold. The dish was named Echizen oroshi soba after the Showa Emperor had this dish during his visit to Fukui prefecture in 1947. He told a close aide that the soba noodle he ate in Echizen was very delicious. You can find Echizen oroshi soba at many restaurants in Fukui.
Yakisaba (grilled mackerel) sushi is not like the typical sushi known by everyone, which makes use of raw seafood. It is a pressed sushi topped with grilled mackerel, traditionally served in mid-summer. In old times, it was hard to preserve raw seafood, especially during the hot summer period, so the mackerels were grilled to extend the preservation. Therefore the local people started making sushi from grilled mackerel. Nowadays, it is available and can be consumed all year round.
Heshiko is a fermented fish, especially mackerel, salted and then pickled in rice bran for more than half a year. It is a traditional food that was made and eaten at fishermen’s villages along the coast of the Sea of Japan in Fukui Prefecture as preserved food during winter days when the sea was too rough to go fishing. The Wakasa area of Fukui Prefecture is famous from ancient times for its mackerel; it was carried all the way to Kyoto, the imperial capital. As the heshiko mackerel of Wakasa has a savoury and rich umami taste, it goes well with sake and rice when sliced and heated. Nowadays, it is served in sandwiches, spaghetti and various side dishes with vegetables.
Check out Miki Travel for more info.
Author: Deb Davad