Join us for a winter exploration and exploration on the Echizen Railway in Fukui Prefecture. It was founded in 2003 and the locals called it “Echitetsu”. The railway has two lines connecting the northern parts of Fukui and we will be traveling on the Mikuni Awara line. It begins in Fukui and heads north to the Sea of Japan. This local line has 23 stations with a total length of 25.2 km. The scenic route is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Our two-day journey begins at Fukui Station. The single car train departs at 9.10am and we go to Nishibetsuin station first. Enjoying the beautiful snowy scenery outside, we arrive at Nishibetsuin Railway Station at 9:15 am. We are talking to a taxi driver here who tells us that we must visit Nishibetsuin, the largest temple in Fukui. Fukui has the third largest number of temples after Kyoto and Nara. The official name of Nishibetsuin is Honganji Temple Fukui Betsuin. The temple is a branch of Nishi Honganji, the main temple of the Honganji sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. The temple was founded in 1475 and later became the center of Jodo Shinshu in Echizen. The station is also named after the temple.
Next, we’ll take the 10:15 train that departs from Nishibetsuin and head to Nittazuka Station, five stops away. We arrive after 10 minutes and stop by a shop in front of the station that specializes in Taiyaki. It’s popular for its thin and crispy crust. We order one with a sweet potato paste filling and one with chestnut and bean paste inside. The shop staff tells us about Fureai Park, which is illuminated in winter. It’s less than five minutes away on foot. Various seasonal events are held at Nittazuka Fureai Park, making it a place where locals gather and mingle.
After visiting the park, we take the 11:25 train to Taromaru, three stops away. The landscape changes after the train has left the station. The train crosses the Kuzuryu River and heads into the countryside. We are amazed by the sight of the beautiful winter landscape and mountains. The train arrives at Taromaru Station at 11:30 AM. A resident we spoke to recommends that we visit Heartpia Harue and Angel Land Fukui. The latter is a favorite place for excursions among children.
We walk to Heartpia Harue about 15 minutes but it is closed. The huge facility with attached library is a culture hall in Harue Town, Sakai. The multi-purpose hall with 764 seats is used for concerts and lectures. We then drive to Angel Land Fukui, a large children’s center in the prefecture that opened in 1999. It is a popular attraction where visitors can learn about space, science and history in a fun way. We ask some children who attend the center about suggested activities here. They mention the Moon Walker for adults and the Space and Science Mystery Zone, which features a zero-gravity activity and a popular ride called Spaceship, where you can experience space travel.
It’s now 2 p.m. and we’re hungry. We are told about a restaurant called Keyaki that serves set menus. However, it’s quite a long way away. So we decide to go to another restaurant nearby recommended by another resident. This popular eatery is a branch of the famous Yoroppaken restaurant, known for its original specialty dish, the Pork Chop Bowl with Gravy. The dish is served with three slices of schnitzel dipped in Worcestershire sauce. We ask the restaurant staff for directions to the train station. It is recommended to walk to Nishi-Harue Station instead, which is closer to the restaurant than Taromaru Station.
After reaching Nishi-Harue Station, we take the 15:35 train to Nishi-Nagata Station. The train passes through the Fukui Plains and continues north into a rural area surrounded by fields. It arrives at Nishi-Nagata in less than five minutes. We go to a hair salon near the train station to inquire about accommodation. The owner suggests staying at either Grandia Housen or Matsuya Sensen at Awara Onsen, adding that Matsuya has good crab dishes.
So we take the 16:05 train to Awara-Yunomachi station and reach it in 15 minutes. We go to a place with foot baths first. They are believed to be effective for bruises, muscle and joint pain. There are three baths with different temperatures. We try Enman no Yu which has interesting stones at the bottom. The green stones are from Mount Asuwa in Fukui. Typically used for garden paving, the white shakudani stones turn green when wet. Also known as Echizen Aoishi, they are rare stones found only in Fukui. After the footbath, we make our way to the recommended Matsuya Sensen inn.
1) A must-try in Fukui Prefecture is crab
2) Two attractions near Taromaru Station are Heartpia Harue and Angel Land Fukui
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