If you like your sands golden, your waters clear, and your shores uncrowded, then Suisho Beach in Fukui prefecture is the place for you. “Suisho” means “crystal” in Japanese, and the water here is as clear as its namesake. Also blessed with pure white sands and fringed with luscious green pine trees, it’s the perfect beachside getaway from central Japan. You would never believe that it’s just a few hours north of Osaka!
A pair of old-fashioned spectacles lie in their original box at the Megane Museum (‘megane’ means ‘spectacles’ in Japanese) in Sabae town, Fukui prefecture. Eyeglass production began here in 1905, when local farming folk took it up as a way of generating extra income during the snowbound winter months. Fast forward a century, and today 1 in 6 of Sabae’s residents works in the eyeglass industry, and 96% of the eyeglass frames produced in Japan are made here.
Freshly-made sushi sandwiches topped with glistening slices of mackerel, sea bream and other fish lie beautifully presented on a wooden sushi tray at Wakasa Obama Food Culture Museum in Fukui prefecture. This type of wooden tray with feet is known as a ‘geta’, and is also the name for traditional Japanese wooden clogs or sandals that are worn with yukata (cotton summer kimono) or casual Japanese or western dress. The most famous example is the towering ‘okobo’ geta worn by maiko (trainee geisha).
The entrance to an old house in the Sanchomachi District in Obama town, Fukui prefecture. Due to its location on the central northern coast of Japan, in the olden days many travellers used to pass through the town when travelling between China and Kyoto, and it prospered as a result. Take a stroll through the district, admiring the weathered wooden walls, lattice windows and beautifully tiled roof and floors of the old buildings, and you will feel just like you’ve stepped back in time to the Edo period (1603-1868).
A cheerfully coloured Echizen Railway train rolls through the summer fields against a backdrop of clear blue skies in Fukui prefecture. The company operates two lines out of Fukui Station, one that heads north towards the coast, and the other that follows the Kuzuryu River east inland. It’s great fun to explore the places you can get to on local train lines in Japan, from local museums, rivers and shrines to onsen (hot springs), parks and beaches.
It may look like chocolate cake or brownies - but it’s not! This is Echizen-Ono Detchi Yokan, or sweet bean jelly, from the town of Echizen-Ono in Fukui prefecture. Yokan (羊羹) is a thick jelly-like dessert made from red bean paste, agar and sugar, that is usually sold in blocks and eaten in slices like in the photo. One of the most popular traditional Japanese sweets, it was introduced to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks at the end of the 12th century.
Lanterns line a gravelled path on the approach to Maruoka Castle, Fukui prefecture. Built in 1576, it is famous for its central tower or donjon (tenshu), the oldest remaining in Japan. The castle is also known as ‘Mist Castle’, due to the legend that whenever an enemy approaches it, a thick mist appears to conceal it. In spring, the castle grounds are used for cherry blossom viewing (hanami) by the local people.
Maple trees show off their beautiful, bright red autumn colours, known as ‘momiji’ or ‘koyo’ in Japanese, at Murasaki Shikibu Park in Echizen, Fukui prefecture. The park was built to commemorate Murasaki Shikibu, a writer and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period (794-1185), who was the author of the classic Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji. She spent a year and a half living in the area when her father served as the governor of Echizen.
This cluster of pottery items demonstrates the elegant, unglazed finish and simple, muted colour palette of Echizen-yaki (Echizen pottery) from Fukui prefecture. Typically used to make everyday utensils such as bowls and jars, Echizen-yaki is not made using a potter’s wheel. Instead, potters coil strings of clay round and round to gradually build up the sides. For larger items they have to walk round and round the object to apply the new coils to the sides.
Welcome to Fukui prefecture! Join us as we admire the views of the bright orange bridges, autumn foliage and forested hillocks across the calm, clear waters of the pond in Murasaki Shikibu Park in Echizen. The park was built to commemorate Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period (794-1185), who was also the author of the classic Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji. The park is also home to the only Shinden-zukuri style building in Japan.
If there’s one thing that Kanazawa is famous for it’s the city’s thriving traditional arts and crafts scene. Lacquerware (shikki) was first produced in the area in the 17th century, when the ruling Maeda family invited master craftsmen from Kyoto. A standout feature of Kanazawa lacquerware is the decorations, called Kaga makie, which are made by sprinkling on gold or silver powder before the lacquer has dried. If you’re in the market for some Kanazawa lacquerware then head to Nosaku, which has been in business since 1780.
Bright red berries add a welcome splash of colour to the rain-drenched streets of Higashi Chaya-gai (Eastern Tea House District) in Kanazawa. With beautiful old wooden buildings and old-fashioned gas lamp-style streetlights and pavements, the district is equally attractive for a stroll whether it’s rain or shine. P.S. The brown ball in the top right corner is a ‘sugidama’ (杉玉, lit. ‘cedar ball’) - these are traditionally hung outside sake breweries to let passersby know that new sake brewing has been started.
Just as impressive on a cloudy day, this is the Tsuzumi Gate at the east entrance of JR Kanazawa Station. The unusual design is based on the shape of traditional Japanese ‘tsuzumi’ hand drums. Visible behind the twisting pillars and roof of the gate is the curved glass structure of the Motenashi (Welcome) Dome. Completed in 2005, together they are a prime example of modern Japanese architecture.