It didn’t do very well ratings-wise, but during the summer season a Japanese drama (Japanese dramas air along with the season) called Cheer Dan aired on the TBS network. It was set in Fukui City, and in my opinion really put Fukui on the map for a lot of young people not living in the area. It was the sequel to an eponymous movie that aired sometime in 2015/16, I think? Starred the effervescent Amami Yuuki and headlined by Hirose Suzu, so it did really well (especially with young people who also participate in cheerleading activities).
I, however, felt rather proud for already knowing a lot of Fukui lore prior to the airing of this movie/drama pair. I’d come to Japan on the JET Programme, and had three choices to put in my application regarding where I wanted to be posted. I did some research on the internet and found the page for Fukui JETs. They seemed like a really tight-knit community and I was going to be in Japan without friends or much family so I wanted a solid support system; I put Fukui as my second choice (Chiba being my first, because my host family from a previous trip is from there).
While waiting for my JET application to go through, I wrote a short story set in a town called Ikeda, in Fukui Prefecture (but a ways away from Fukui City itself). It was fiction, but the places that I used were all real. I treated it as a way to get to know Fukui better, just in case I was actually going there. I researched a lot about the town and the prefecture, and looked at a lot of pictures of Fukui. I loved how it wasn’t a bustling city, and how culturally rich it was. I’m not that crazy about nature, but I like looking at it (more so than experiencing it) so Fukui further scored points when I saw how much nature it had to offer. Sprawling fields of pre-harvest emerald, temples nestled within quiet mountains promising solace from the scorching heat of summer, mystical waterfalls shrouded amongst the trees. Picturesque. I wanted to go.
So, in the summer of 2013, I went to Ikeda.
Ikeda met my expectations completely. My short story was set there, so I had a special attachment to the place. Apart from Ikeda, I also went to visit the dinosaur museum:
Fukui is famous for dinosaurs because fossils were unearthed there, and somehow paleontology became a big thing in the prefecture, and the dinosaur museum isn’t just for exhibitions but for research. This is one of the most important sites for paleontology in the world. Fukui uncovered bones of the Fukuiraptor and the Fukuisaurus, which is very cool because those are (were?) legit Japanese dinosaurs. I like dinosaurs to begin with, and I like learning about history and the environment, so this museum was very appealing to me. Also, everything on the exhibits was written in both Japanese and English, and there were audio guides as well (I rented them on my first trip (2013) but not my second (2015)). I also recommend this place if you have kids.
Both times I visited Fukui, I visited in the summer. I didn’t go to Ikeda the second time round. My first stop on my 2015 trip was straight from my Kumagaya home to this wonder of a temple, Eiheiji:
I couldn’t get good pictures of the main temple building itself, but one thing that struck me was how simple and connected to nature this temple was. There was nothing ostentatious about it, and the fact that the main place of worship was hidden behind the trees made it all the more special. (This also explains why I couldn’t get good photos.) I strongly recommend this place if you like to check out Japanese temples.
Fukui is also famous for spectacles and sesame tofu, but I won’t touch on those because I wasn’t very into them when I was there XD Our 2015 trip was a lot more fun, I think. We went to all the places we didn’t hit up the last time round:
But it wasn’t just full of new experiences. We also went back to Fukui for its cuisine:
I love going to places like Fukui because they’re often passed over by tourists, so it’s a lot quieter, and a splendid way to take a real break, cut yourself off from the world. For Fukui, it’s relatively easy to move around the city via public transport, but I strongly recommend a car if you’re thinking of visiting.
Oh, and I said I’d talk a little about Echizen Province. Unfortunately, I’m tired after working on this post for the past hour, so you can read more about it here. There are apparently six famous areas for Japanese ceramics and this is one of them. You can find out who the others are here.
Ikeda-cho (Japanese page)
Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum (English page available)
Shibamasa World (English page available)
Echizen Pottery Village (Japanese page)
Hamburgerland (Japanese page, but easy to navigate)
No links for sauce katsu because anywhere you have it is great in Fukui :Db Just google when you’re there!
Hi Lydia! Not sure if it’s too much to ask since you’re already doing the five-part travel series but have you ever thought of writing about your experience participating in the JET programme? I’m sure it’ll be interesting and beneficial for people (like me) who are considering signing up for it.