Even though it’s the happiest place in Japan, Fukui has not made it onto the international travel radar. Tucked between Kanazawa and Kyoto, the prefecture has a lot to offer — including misty castles, sea-sculpted cliffs, and dinosaur fossils. The newly extended Hokuriku Shinkansen makes it much easier to explore.

Read on for the best things to do in Fukui. We also cover how to get there, and where to stay.

Tip: Also check out our Hokuriku itinerary if you want to extend your adventure.

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Fukui is known as the dinosaur kingdom
Welcome to the dinosaur kingdom of Fukui. | Photo by Misty Fujii

1. Go to the Dinosaur Museum

Roar into the world of prehistoric wonders at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama City. As the epicenter of Japanese dinosaur research, this museum is the nation’s largest, and a beacon for dino education.

The museum spans four floors and features a main stage with 40+ dino skeletons, including local celebs like the Fukui-raptor. Plus, meet the jaw-dropping, life-like T-Rex that lurks …

2. Visit Japan’s oldest wooden castle

Maruoka Castle is Fukui’s petite powerhouse and the oldest standing wooden castle on Japanese soil. The castle, built in 1576, faced the wrath of the Great Fukui Earthquake in 1948. But it emerged triumphant, rebuilt with 80% of its original materials.

Maruoka Castle, Fukui, framed by cherry blossoms
Photo by Misty Fujii

Nicknamed the “Misty Castle”, it harbors a legendary shield: a thick mist that supposedly shrouds the castle when enemies approach.

3. Find Zen at Eiheiji Temple

The quiet town of Eiheiji bears the slogan, “Zen, do you feel it?” as if daring visitors to come and feel any other way. Surrounded by forested mountains, it’s easy to find the sprawling temple grounds where over 100 monks devote themselves to Zen Buddhism.

Eiheiji Temple in Fukui
Photo by Misty Fujii

Eiheiji Temple has been one of Japan’s most honored temples since its founding in 1244. Tour the epic hall with its art-covered ceiling, the majestic gold Butsuden (Buddha Hall), and more at this temple where a young Steve Jobs once dreamed of becoming a monk instead of a millionaire.

Read more about Eiheiji Temple and what it takes to spend the night there like a monk.

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4. Explore Tojinbo Cliffs and Oshima Island

Natural wonders intertwine with eerie tales at Tojinbo Cliffs and Oshima Island. The kilometer-long cliffs, sculpted by volcanic forces millions of years ago, stand as a mighty sight jutting out from the sea. Dig into lore surrounding this area, from ghost sightings to ominous island-walking rituals, or stick to admiring the area’s beauty.

Sunset at the Tojinbo Cliffs in Fukui Prefecture, Japan
Photo by Getty Images

For a lofty perspective, ascend Tojinbo Tower, offering panoramic views of the cliffs, Oshima, and Mt. Hakusan. Then, venture to Oshima, a mystical island believed to be the dwelling place of sea deities. Connected by a red pedestrian bridge, Oshima unveils its secrets with a shrine, a lighthouse, and an opportunity to complete a tranquil island loop in an hour.

5. Daydream at Lake Kuzuryu

Named after the nine-headed dragon Kuzuryu, this mountain lake, cradled by a scenic forest, transforms with kaleidoscopic hues throughout the seasons. October unveils a breathtaking spectacle, painting the lake in a palette of gold, orange, and red, while the pink blossoms of the sakura take over each April.

Lake Kuzuryu in Fukui
Photo by Misty Fujii

The Hakogase Bridge, fondly dubbed the Bridge of Dreams, gracefully spans the lake, adding an ethereal touch.

6. Soak in Awara Onsen

With over 130 years of history, Awara Onsen is a legendary spot where you can soak up the healing vibes of its geothermal waters. By day, immerse yourself in the therapeutic benefits of over 70 hot springs scattered around the town.

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Then, as the sun sets, chase the glow of red lanterns leading to a charming yokocho alley, where nostalgia meets delicious local eats, especially the renowned Echizen crab.

Pro tip: For a pocket-friendly escape, dip your toes into the free foot baths.

7. Feel awe at Echizen Daibutsu

Behold the Echizen Great Buddha at Shindaiji Temple, a marvel towering at 17 meters, outclassing even Nara’s famed Buddha as one of the biggest in Japan.

Echizen Daibutsu
Photo by Misty Fujii

The colossal Buddha presides in a hall alongside a legion of smaller Buddhas artfully embedded into the walls. The temple’s grounds also host a jaw-dropping five-story pagoda, said to be the biggest in the country.

8. Indulge at the Japan Fish Market

Step aside, Tsukiji and Toyosu: meet the Japan Fish Market in the heart of Tsuruga City. Since 1994, it’s been the grand poobah of fish markets along the Sea of Japan.

crabs on a plate at the Japan Fish Market
Photo by Misty Fujii

With over 50 shops flaunting an ocean of freshly caught delights, you can sink your teeth into a feast at the market’s eateries, or snag some ocean treasures to go.

9. Time-travel to the Ichijodani Asakura Clan Ruins

The samurai era reigns at the Ichijodani Asakura Clan Ruins, a time capsule from over 500 years ago when the Asakura family ruled the area. History buffs can explore partially reconstructed samurai residences, merchants’ homes, and artisans’ workshops, offering a vivid snapshot of life back then.

colorful cloths and umbrellas at the Ichijodani Asakura Clan Ruins in Fukui
Photo by Misty Fujii

The Ichijodani Asakura Family Site Museum, a newly opened trove near the ruins, displays artifacts and features a detailed diorama of the prosperous castle town.

How to get to Fukui

Fukui is easily accessible from most major cities, making day trips a snap. You can take the train to JR Fukui Station directly:

  • From Tokyo: Via the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station in about 3 hours.
  • From Osaka and Kyoto: Via the Thunderbird Limited Express train from Osaka, Shin-Osaka, and Kyoto stations in 90 minutes-2 hours.
  • From Nagoya: Via the Shirasagi Limited Express trains from Nagoya Station in 2.5 hours.

There’s a bargain with the Hokuriku Arch Pass, a 7-day unlimited train ticket that lets you travel between Osaka and Tokyo through the Hokuriku region. You can buy the Hokuriku Arch Pass online for ¥30,000. The only catch? The pass is for foreign passport holders visiting Japan, not residents or citizens.

Fukui Station diorama
Photo by Misty Fujii

Hotels in Fukui

The hotels aren’t fancy, but there are several convenient options around JR Fukui Station, like Hotel Keifuku Fukui Ekimae and Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae.

Alternatively, you can rest monk-style at Eiheiji Temple, or live locally in a ryokan (like this one near Eiheiji) or homestay. For more luxurious accommodations, there are options around Awara Onsen.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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