Diego heads off to visit one of Fukui Prefecture’s natural treasures: a special place with blue skies above, a wind-furrowed sea below, and long stretches of jagged grey rock in between.
Before anything else, let’s remind ourselves of the present location.
As the morning sky brightened over the city of Fukui, I took a glance outside my hotel room window. The place where I was staying was quite conveniently located right next to the main JR station (that’ll be the long building on the left side of the picture) – a perfect base from which to undertake the short day trips I’d planned out.
After breakfast, I ventured out and entered Fukui Station through its west exit … then left from the east exit moments later. My business today wasn’t with Japan Railways, but with the smaller operator Echizen Railway, which had its own little Fukui Station just metres away from its mammoth JR-run neighbour.
En route to the Echizen Railway platforms, I caught sight of the unfinished concrete viaduct that will bear the Hokuriku Shinkansen when its next phase – which includes a stop at Fukui Station – is finally completed (probably around 2022).
Incidentally, I’ve read that a few months after my visit, the Echizen Railway stop was temporarily relocated onto the unused shinkansen trackbed, where it will remain until work on its own new elevated platforms is completed. Not a bad arrangement, especially since the shinkansen extension isn’t likely to reach Fukui for several years yet.
From here, I boarded an Echizen Railway rapid service and rode it for approximately 50 minutes to Mikuni Station, the penultimate stop on the Mikuni Awara Line.
Next came a short commute on a Keifuku Bus service to my primary destination for this sunny summer morning, a scenic stretch of coastline bordering the Sea of Japan…
…the basalt cliffs of Tōjinbō (東尋坊), in Sakai City.
Now then, time for a brief travel tip corner. For those seeking to make the same journey, there’s an excellent two-way timetable on the Echizen Railway site that lists not just their own schedules between Fukui and Mikuni, but also Keifuku Bus departures that coincide with specific train services – great for planning smooth connections. It’s all in Japanese, but Google Translate does a decent enough job (not perfect though!), and here are a few key points to look out for in case the auto-translated version makes no sense.
If you decide to stay on the train and ride it one more station down, to Mikuni-Minato (三国港) – the very last stop on the line – you can also transfer to a Keifuku Bus bound for Tōjinbō from there. Here’s the transfer timetable for that station, similar to the one for Mikuni that was presented earlier.
All right, that’s done. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
As one might expect for a popular tourist attraction, the road leading up to the scenic location was lined with shops and restaurants, though many were still closed (or just starting to open up) at the relatively early hour when I passed through.
Hey, I’m not one to judge – even extraterrestrial tourists deserve a beer break now and then.
Tōjinbō is the centrepiece of a coastal walking route that stretches off to the north and south, but since my time was limited, I chose to linger in the relatively small area where the cliffs looked their best. It’s possible to walk upon the rock formations themselves, and even climb down to the water’s edge, though one must of course exercise due caution at all times.
Here’s a short video I filmed as I was admiring part of the cliffs from a level stretch of rock near sea level.
Afterwards, I walked back through the shopping street towards the bus stop. More shops were open now, and the scene was a lot livelier thanks to the tourists who were now trickling in from their cars and buses.
From the stop, I boarded another Keifuku bus and returned to Mikuni Station, where I caught an Echizen Railway service back to Fukui Station. My ride was similar to what I’d arrived in that morning: a Type MC6101 EMU.
Much as I love the fast and huge express trains that whisk me from city to city all across the nation, I also enjoy these slower rides on smaller trains serving local lines. Instead of watching Japan zoom by in a flickering blur, one gains the opportunity to lean back and enjoy the sight of quiet tile-roofed towns and verdant rice fields … almost an attraction in itself, really.
To illustrate my point, here’s a short video covering one part of my journey to Fukui, specifically the roughly 3-minute run between Awara-Yunomachi Station and Banden Station.
A quick check of the clock showed that it was only around noon. With hours of daylight left to burn, I allocated time for another scenic spot in Fukui Prefecture…
…which we’ll have a look at in the next post.