This article is contributed by Fukui Prefecture.
Home to the largest Zen Buddhist training site in Japan and one of the world’s most-acclaimed dinosaur museums, Fukui has something in store for absolutely everyone to enjoy. Located right between Kyoto and Kanazawa along the Japan Sea, this idyllic corner of the Japanese countryside is best known for its sumptuous cuisine, its elegant traditional crafts, and the countless samurai-era sites you can explore around the prefecture to this day.
A part of the country’s snowy ‘yuki-guni’ region, it also happens to be a great place to visit in the colder months. Today, we introduce a few things to do around this winter wonderland!
Originally built around 1580, the Echizen Ono Castle appears to be floating on a sea of clouds when the right weather conditions align, from October to late April. The mystical site is now home to a museum introducing its fascinating history and that of the region since feudal Japan.
At its foot lies the castle town of Ono, established some 400 years ago. Samurai residences and as many as 16 temples of nine different Buddhist sects ― a rare sight even in Japan ― line the streets of this ‘little Kyoto’. The best way to take it all in might just be through an old-timey rickshaw ride given by local volunteers!
The launch of crab season every year on November 6 is a huge deal around here. The cold season in Fukui is synonymous with snow crabs as people from all over the country come over to get a taste of this ‘king of winter delights’. Look out for that yellow tag!
Echizen Gani crabs ― a title only the finest male specimens caught off the shores of Fukui can aspire to ― are even deemed exquisite enough for the imperial family and sent their way every year as an offering. A well-kept secret among locals, however, is its female counterpart, the Seiko Gani; smaller in size but highly praised for its delicious ‘uchiko’ roe, it also comes with a more affordable price tag.
To enjoy winter like a true local and get your fill of this ‘star of the Japan Sea’, we highly recommend staying at one of the many ‘ryokan’ inns lining up the coast.
Speaking of lavish traditional inns, a trip to the hot springs is always a great way to get to know Japanese culture better. The Awara Onsen resort of northern Fukui welcomed its first guests in 1883 and has since been popular with writers and artists alike for its timeless, refined elegance. Conveniently located near the Kansai region’s world-famous cities of Kyoto and Osaka, the onsen town is an ideal stop for some peace and quiet.
You’ll find as many as 74 hot springs around town, each one boasting its own unique set of health benefits. Some 20 ‘ryokan’ inns with onsen baths, filled with the good stuff, offer a world of blissful relaxation. The ‘rotenburo’ open-air baths are simply divine!
A short walk from the train station and the inns will take you to ‘ashiyu’ foot baths, all of which are free to use. At night, head over to the nearby glowing red lanterns and you’ll find a warren of old-school food stalls awaiting your visit.
Each small eatery has room for only a few patrons, so pull up a stool and strike a conversation with locals as you chow down on some ‘kushikatsu’ skewers, ramen noodles, ‘gyoza’ dumplings and various other Japanese street food staples.
Boasting a total of 14 trails spread over three mountain parks, Ski Jam Katsuyama ― the largest resort in western Japan ― has it all: ski and snowboarding lessons on a 5,800-meter-long trail (available in English!) and full rental of not only skis and snowboards, but also of snow jackets & pants, goggles, gloves, hats… everything you might need for an awesome time on the trails.
It was also the first ski resort in the whole world to introduce a rental service of Step On strapless bindings; they’re perfect for beginners, as you just need to hop on the snowboard and the heel of the boots will click into place. That way, you can get into the action the moment you get off the lift!
You may already know that Japan has its share of beautiful flowers (who doesn’t love cherry blossoms?), but did you know that some of them even bloom in the icy cold of winter? Or that one of the three largest hosts of daffodils in all of Japan is right here in Fukui?
Daffodils, the prefecture’s official flower, come into bloom from December through March. During peak season, you can admire over six hectares of daffodil fields unfolding before your eyes along the Echizen Coast, the perfect location for a scenic drive.
The 15 million or so delicate flowers swaying in the wind against the rough waves of the sea in the background are definitely a sight to see.
That’s it for our list of fun things to do around Fukui during the colder season.
Take a limited express train to the JR Fukui Station (45 minutes from Kanazawa) or the JR Tsuruga Station (90 minutes from Kyoto/Osaka)
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