Sakai Region

SAKAI CITY 坂井市

Is made up of four towns: Mikuni-cho (三国町), Maruoka-cho (丸岡町), Harue-cho (春江町) and Sakai-cho (坂井町)

Town Maps

Mikuni-cho 三国町

Maruoka-cho 丸岡町

Sakai-cho 坂井町

Harue-cho 春江町

HARUE TOWN 春江

Harue-cho 春江町 Harue Town Map and Area Guide

Although it is a small town, Harue has many offerings. Most points of interest are located on the main road, Route 29 a.k.a Awara-kaido. You can find essentials within the town, or venture out to Fukui City for more options. Harue is just north of central Fukui City and about a 20 minute drive or 10 minute train ride from Fukui station.

Transportation

There are two train lines and one tram line that run through Harue.

The JR Hokuriku Line has local trains that stop at Harue JR station on the east side of town. Fukui station is two stops south and takes less than 10 minutes for a one-way fare of ¥190. Trains run from about 6am until about 10:40 pm. During commuting times, there are about three trains per hour but only about one per hour throughout the day.

ECHIZEN LINE

This is the private railway that runs from Mikuni to the mountain areas of Katsuyama. There are two stops on the west end of town.

Facilities

Route 29 is the main strip in Harue and includes: Harue Police Station, the branch office of Fukui bank (with an ATM, open until 9 pm), a post office, gas stations, laundromat, car dealerships, cell phone shops, pachinko, and much more.

Supermarkets & Drug Stores

AMI PLAZA

A one-stop shop. Downstairs there is a supermarket, various boutique shops (clothes, bags, cosmetics, fabric shop, shoes, etc.), bakery, florist, pharmacy, dry cleaner, photo developing, liqueur store, and food court. Upstairs there is a CD shop, ABC bookstore, ¥100 store, kimono fabric shop, kid’s arcade, toy shop, home goods, electronics, some sporting goods and furniture.

BIG MART

This is another big supermarket in Harue.

YAMAYA

On southbound 29 in Harue, this store has a good variety of foreign foods. This is also the cheapest place to buy alcohol. The store has a large selection of Japanese and imported beer, wine, liquor, and some foreign foods.

AOKI

Pharmacy next to Mr. Donuts. It’s great for medical needs, cosmetics, home cleaners, snacks, and small kitchen goods.

GENKY

Across from Ami plaza. It’s another pharmacy/drug store similar to AOKI but with more food and foods you can buy in bulk.

HEARTS

Next to GENKY, Hearts is a grocery store with a great bakery that has a variety of breads.

Music and Video Rental Shops

TSUTAYA

Has an extensive CD collection and rentals. The most recent videos are available and older ones are less expensive.

Pegasus

Down the street behind Mr. Donut’s near Big Mart. Non-new releases on Wednesday are 150 yen for a week! There is a similar discount on CDs.

OZ

This is the third and smallest of the three rental shops in Harue. The price is also reasonable but the selection is very limited except for porn, which seems to be what the shop rents out most.

Medical

HARUE HOSPITAL

It is just off Route 29. Head south toward Fukui and make a left right after Bar Breeze. Go straight and it will be on the left. Hours are from daytime until early evening. During the night there is only one doctor on call, a fracture specialist.

Restaurants

ATOM BOY

This is a fast food conveyor-belt sushi joint. Grab what you would like off the conveyor and pay at the end by plate color and amount. Prices range from \105-500 per plate (indicated by the color of plate). It’s on Awara Kaido, not far from Tsutaya. From Ami Plaza, head north and it will be on your right.

FUGETSUTE

A great okonomiyaki place, it’s between a ramen shop and Katsuki Books. It’s on the left side of the road as you come from Fukui on Awara Kaido.

EUROPA CAFE AND RESTAURANT

In the center of Awara Kaido in Harue, this restaurant has both Japanese and western style food. Prices are reasonable.

YAKITORI SHOP

It’s the small building between the bakery by Mr. Donuts and Big Mart. According to Harue locals, it has the best yakitori (grilled chicken).

MCDONALDS

Next to Big Mart on Awara Kaido.

MR. DONUTS

A chain donut/coffee shop similar to Dunkin’ Donuts. On Route 29 between Aoki and Big Mart.

MOS BURGER

Japanese fast food burger place. It’s located in Ami Plaza’s food court.

Bars

BAR BREEZE

On Route 29, south of Big Mart, close to the hospital. The bar only carries three beers; Miller, Kirin, and Zima. The owners are very cool. They speak minimal English, but are very friendly. This is the only bar in Japan that I know of would order all the ingredients needed to make a Red Devil so that they can satisfy a customer. The bar is small with a few tables and bar seating. Open nightly after 8pm.

Attractions

HEARTOPIA

A modern building surrounded by a huge grass field for picnics, sports games, or relaxation. The main building is a big performance hall for concerts, musicals, and some educational movies. There is a library with free video rental and English newspapers, magazines, and books. It is across the street from Harue gym.

ANGEL LAND FUKUI

This is a science museum in Harue town that is well worth visiting. They have an outdoor park that anyone can use for free and the museum is cheap (100-500 yen). Head north on Route 8 for about 10 minutes from Fukui City and look for the sign on your left.

HARUE GYM

This is probably the cheapest place to exercise in Fukui (only 50 yen). This includes access to weights, two full basketball courts, badminton, and ping-pong. There are also four tennis courts with free rental of nets and balls and a swimming pool.

ACTY 810

On the second floor of Ami Plaza is a full exercise, weight, and aerobics center. The membership is 7000 yen per month. Acty 810 has a heated indoor swimming pool, high low impact aerobics, and a full weight room with freestyle and machine weights.

LUCKY BOWL

This is a computerized, relatively inexpensive bowling alley. There are about 15 lanes and the cost of a game is 450 yen. There is a huge video game arcade with karaoke on the second floor.

JOYLAND

Located behind Big Mart, this is an arcade. It’s not very big but has a number of arcade games, UFO catchers, picture booths, pool tables, ping-pong tables, and an air hockey table.

Fukui Airport

Located in Harue, this is a small airport for gliding and light aircraft. Private and chartered flights only.

Harue Driving Center

This is one of the two centers you will visit to get your Japanese Driver’s License after your first year. Be sure to make an appointment and acquire all necessary documents before visiting the center. The waits tend to be long and the process of obtaining a license difficult for American citizens.

MARUOKA TOWN 丸岡町

MARUOKA TOWN MAP AND AREA GUIDE

Part of Sakai City, Maruoka Town retains its olden splendor as home to Maruoka Castle and endless rice fields. More than 80% of the local industry is related to making clothing labels and there are various other shops in the vicinity. Maruoka has become nationally known for its Brief Messages from the Heart (Ippitsu Keijo) contest and its children’s Kabuki shows are also popular. Other major attractions in Maruoka include:

  • Echizen Bamboo Doll Center
  • Senko No Ie – an Edo era home of a powerful family, and the oldest dwelling in the ken
  • Maruoka Castle – which has the oldest castle tower in Japan
  • The Green Center – botanical gardens, forestry interpretive center, and recreation park

Getting Here and Away

Maruoka is not easily accessible by train. Maruoka Station is actually in Sakai Town, about an hour’s walk, 25 minute bike ride, or 10ish minute car trip from the center of Maruoka. The station has a 100-yen parking lot with no time limit.

Route 8 and the Hokuriku Expressway run through Maruoka. Although buses are available from Hon-Maruoka Bus Station, a car is highly recommended for convenience.

BY BUS

Fukui to Maruoka

From the main bus stop in front of Fukui Ekimae Mr. Donuts, the bus to Maruoka (31 or 36) leaves every 20 minutes, takes about 45 minutes, and costs 640 yen. Buses from 6:50am to 9:12pm on weekdays, and from 7:30am to 9:45 on weekends and holidays.

Maruoka to Fukui

Take the bus (31 / 36) from the Hon-Maruoka Bus Terminal, just east of the Town Hall and Fire Station. Buses leave approximately every 20 minutes: from 6:30am to 8:14pm on weekdays, and from 6:30am to 8:34pm on weekends and holidays. Please be sure to check the schedules.

Buses also go to Fukui University Hospital, Eiheiji and Takeda. The bus to Eiheiji runs once an hour from 7:04am until 7:16pm and costs 750¥. The bus to the hospital also stops at the Green center and Fukui Prefectural Hospital.

The Takeda bus stops at Takekurabe and Ryugahana Dam (a beautiful place to have a BBQ). There is also a Highway Bus direct from Hon-Maruoka to Komatsu Airport.

Groceries

PIAGO

Maruoka’s own mini-mall located on Route 8 heading north. This mall has a nice supermarket with tons of prepared foods, a keitai shop, a bakery, a clothing/home store, and some small food shops. There is a ramen and gyoza restaurant named Ohsho in the parking lot. Open until 9pm.

KAJISO

Located just north of the Maruoka Interchange on Route 17. This supermarket has a great selection of prepared foods and vegetables. Open 9am – 9pm.

HONEY ハニー

This supermarket is open until midnight. Going north on Rt. 8, at the light just after the overpass into central Maruoka, take your first left. It’s across from the Eneos station.

YOUTH ユース

Located just south of the castle between routes 17 and 10, it’s part of the main shopping center for Maruoka. It has a good selection and a nice bakery section. There is an ATM in the parking lot for Fukushin Bank that usually accepts Fukui Bank cards.

MITSUWA みつわ AND MITTA みった

There are two home and garden shops in Maruoka. Mitta is across the street from Youth. Mitsuwa, with a very large selection, is on Route 8, just south of the overpass going into town from Fukui. They carry basically any supplies for your home, including bikes.

Clothes & Furniture

NAKAMURA FURNITURE STORE 仲村家具

Just north of the castle and Kasumi Police Box on Route 17, this home/furniture store It’s a sells higher-end furniture goods. They also have decorative items in a reasonable price range. They also have a full-size wicker motorcycle that is interesting to see.

ROUTE 10 (street)

This street in central Maruoka has all kinds of shops, Fukui Bank, a few bakeries, a kitchenware store, a fabric store, a second fabric/sewing/knitting/crafting store, a bike repair place, some small clothing shops, etc.

SHIMAMURA しまむら

A large, cheap large clothing store. It’s on the same road as Kasumi no Sato Onsen, but closer to Route 8.

Banking

FUKUI BANK (福井銀行–Fukui Ginkou)

The Maruoka branch of Fukui Bank is on Route 10 in Maruoka’s town center.

Post Office

Maruoka’s main post office is located across the road from the west side (rear) of Maruoka Junior High School. The post office handles money-related transactions until 3pm. If you miss a package delivery, you can pick it up at the window. There’s an office near Maruoka’s main temple that deals with post until 5pm, while the main branch stays open until 7pm, Monday to Friday.

Health Care

There are many clinics and small hospitals to be found in Maruoka Town. You can find them on the Google map. Most clinics and hospitals do not require appointments. If you need an English speaking doctor, go to the Fukui University Hospital.

KIM CLINIC

Dr. Kim has a clinic just off Route 8, close to Honey Supermarket. He is very kind and speaks some English.

FUKUI UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL

This hospital is about 15 minutes by car from central Maruoka, but has excellent facilities and doctors who speak some English. No appointment is necessary. Head south toward Fukui City on Route 8 and turn left at the Blue River Hotel. Follow the river until the traffic lights and turn right. Follow the signs until the next set of traffic lights, opposite Matsuoka University and turn left under the bridge. Continue for about 1 kilometer and you’ll see it on your left.

Onsen

KASUMI NO SATO

Very spacious with a rohtenburo (outside bath). The resting rooms are equipped with nice TVs.

TAKEKURABE

Located in Takeda, in the mountains to the northeast of town, it’s a great escape from the concrete jungle of Fukui City.

Coin Laundry

There are two coin laundries in Maruoka. One is on the road to the Maruoka Interchange (the road Maruoka Junior High School is on). Go west towards Rt. 8, it’s on the left just past the little cake shop by the overpass. The other coin laundry is next to Youth between a karaoke-snack bar and a tonkatsu restaurant.

Recreation

MARUOKA FITNESS CENTRE & B&G SWIMMING POOL: known as “sentaa”

This gym is located on the western side of Route 8. The staff is very friendly and helpful and the equipment is great. You must be a member to visit. The initial membership fee is 8000 yen for as long as you want to be a member. In addition, there is a monthly member fee of 5000 yen (for gym and pool) or 3000 yen (pool only). The monthly fee includes classes (aerobics, yoga, abs training, etc). If you don’t frequent the gym, an alternative is paying 600 yen to use the gym and pool, or 300 for pool only, for a single visit. Paying for one visit doesn’t include classes. Maruoka Sports Ground is next to B&G and has soccer pitches and a general recreation area. It’s good for jogging.

Community Center

A good place to learn a bit of Japanese culture. Classes range from Japanese fan dancing to cooking to sign language. It’s a good way to meet people from the town. It’s next to a big elementary school on the road to Takeda from the high school.

MARUOKA PUBLIC LIBRARY

This small, local library is located just east of the community gym across the street to the north of Maruoka Castle.

Attractions

MARUOKA CASTLE

Completed in 1576 as an outpost under the command of Katsutoyo Shibata (nephew and son-in-law of Katsuie Shibata, a famous Echizen Lord). Today, only the main circle and the donjon (tower) remain. Maruoka is the oldest remaining donjon in Japan and is currently designated as an Important National Cultural Property. The castle roof is unique to castle architecture in that each tile is carved from natural stone. Despite being home to so many feudal lords, no battles were ever fought at the castle. According to legend, whenever enemy forces came near, a thick mist enveloped the castle. This is why the castle is also called KASUMI GA JO (Mist Castle). Unlike many castles, visitors can see all of Maruoka-jo. Admission is 300¥ and includes the neighboring museum.

The castle is on the “Top 100 Cherry Blossom Viewing Sites in Japan” list. During hanami, the annual Sakura Matsuri is held on the castle grounds. The brilliant autumnal reds and yellows of the maple leaves (Maruoka’s tree) are also quite beautiful. In the fall, the Kojo Matsuri and parade are held. During these festivals and at New Year’s, admission to the castle is free. English pamphlets are available most of the time. Bilingual pamphlets of the town with a brief blurb on the castle are available at the Town Office.

TAKEDA

Just over 100 years ago, six villages were ordered to become the town of Maruoka. Takeda, while officially a section of town, is still much like a small mountain village. If you want to see what life in a small village setting is like, then this is the place to visit.

SENKO NO IE

This Edo-era home is the oldest dwelling in Fukui prefecture and an Important National Cultural Property. The building is still taken care of by descendants of the Tsubokawa samurai family that originally lived there. There is also a home-made soba shop in the shadow of the thatched roof of Senko No Ie. The woman who cares for the house by day is very friendly and will share a lot of interesting information. Admission is 500 yen. Open 9am to 5pm except Weds. Tel: (0776) 62-2111

Take the Keifuku Bus for Hon-Maruoka from Fukui Station to Hon-Maruoka, then the Maruoka Bus bound for Takeda to Takeda.

Free parking is available for 10 cars.

TAKEKURABE

A spacious park-like site with a camp ground and barbeque site. A great place for fishing in the Takeda river or hiking up Mount Takekurabe. The onsen of the same name is a nice getaway. Baths are open until 8pm. Tel: (0776) 67 2333

RYUGAHARA DAM

Most beautiful in the fall, when the reds and yellows highlight the waterfalls and rivers, it’s a nice place for a hike or a picnic.

A home-made tofu shop, a bright yellow building, is on the road between the onsen and Senko no Ie; it specializes in deep-fried tofu called Aburaage. Take-out is also available. Closed Weds and the 4th Sunday of the month.

GREEN CENTRE

Closer to Matsuoka, the botanical gardens and park area are relaxing. The playground is great for kids. There is also a forestry interpretive center. The distinctive shape of the main building makes it hard to miss. It’s near the University Hospital on the way to Eiheiji and the bamboo doll factory. Entry is free.

ECHIZEN TAKE NINGYO NO SATO (Bamboo Doll Center)

Home to bamboo crafts. There is a display hall of dolls next to the workshop, where visitors can see craftsmen at work, admire beautiful dolls, and learn a few things from the chattier craftsmen. Visitors can even try their own hand at making dolls. Admission to the factory and display hall is 300¥. The attached shop is great for beautiful omiyage and local foods. (0776)-66-5666

Eiheiji

It is a short bus ride from Maruoka terminal, or a short car ride (12 km) up the mountain. From Fukui, take the Echizen Honsen Line from Fukui station towards Katsuyama. Some trains are direct, but you may have to change at Higashi Furuichi. Established by Dogen Zenji, it is one of the two head temples of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism. Surrounded by trees and mountain air, it is a serene and beautiful temple. The name means Temple of Eternal Peace. Admission is 500 yen and English pamphlets are provided. Visitors can also arrange in advance to have an overnight Zen experience. Tel: (0776) 63-3102

Festivals and Events

Beginning of April: Sakura Matsuri: Cherry Blossom Festival held at the Castle. The town marathon also is held here in May.

2nd Sunday in August: Green Road Race: A cycling race that draws international competitors.

14 September: Hyouko no Kome: A festival to celebrate the rice harvest. It’s held at Fukurou Shrine in the Kitayokoji district of the town (south-west of the town center)

22-24 September: Koshi Mahoroba Monogatari: Annual rite and festival marking the death of an ancient ruler. Held at night at the burial mound on the mountain road.

16 October: Maruoka Kojo Matsuri: The town’s biggest festival of the year with performances, a parade of floats, people in traditional dress, and a dancing procession with participants from local groups and school PTAs. It’s a great spectacle to watch and fun to participate in.

Bars and Restaurants

DOTCOM

This is the best local izakaya (Japanese-style pub). There are branch stores in other cities around Fukui, but this one has an authentic mom and pop feel to it. The drink prices are average and there’s an amazing selection of savory food. It’s perfect for group parties of 4-10 and especially fun to drink in one of the rooms beside Japanese groups. It’s located west of the town office and the fire station, across from SoftBank, just off of Route 8.

KADOSO

This is another local izakaya. They have a huge selection of food as well, but the atmosphere isn’t quite as good as Dotcom. However, they can accommodate much larger groups. The sauce katsudon is great. Located on south-bound Route 8 just south of Dotcom.

IPPO

This izakaya, run by a husband and wife, is located next to USV Video Rental. It’s small in size and selection but the husband is pretty funny and knows some English words.

NAGAI RAMEN

This is a tiny ramen shop across the street to the west of the Kunigami shrine (the big one just south of the castle). They have a unique base for their ramen, and are well known for the whole red shrimp they add. It has an authentic, cramped atmosphere.

LINO

Located one block south of Maruoka Castle on a small road, this Italian restaurant offers a variety of dishes.

KAGAYA

This Japanese home cooking shop is just right for a decent, filling, and cheap meal. Everything is written in Japanese, but the staff is very nice. It’s by the Kabos book store near Maruoka IC. There’s a Family Mart across the street.

OOMIYAHTEI

Just north of Kagaya. It has delicious, handmade soba, as well as Fukui specialties like sauce katsudon and Takeda aburaage tofu. The atmosphere is nice.

RAMEN UEDA

Just north of Oomiyatei. The ramen here is characterized by its sizable cuts of meat and a choice of broth. It can also cater to vegetarians / vegans. Closed Mondays

SUMIBIKAN

This is an excellent yakiniku place. To get there, head north of Route 17 and make a left at the light after Kajiso. Sumibikan is a large white building on your left.

NAKANOYA

This Japanese Restaurant is next to the Shinsenkan grocery store. It’s another Japanese home-style cooking place, with huge portions. The quality is excellent. Closed Mondays

YAMABIKO

Going south from the Kabos / Family Mart intersection,turn left at the next light. Continue under the highway until you see it on your right in the rice paddies. Yamabiko specializes in steak dishes.

MILK HOUSE

A good place to satisfy cravings for home-town ice cream and have some coffee. Traveling west on the road with Kabos and Family Mart, it’s on the left about a block before Route 8. Mi-ru-ku is written on it in katakana and the fake cows make it hard to miss.

Located on Route 8

Atom Boy – conveyor belt sushi

8-ban Ramen – chain store ramen / gyoza restaurant

McDonald’s – is an explanation necessary?

Sukiya – chain store with beef-bowls

Yakiniku – next to Kujira-kan video store

HARMONIE

A good Italian place on Route 8. The staff is friendly, the prices reasonable, and they are able to accommodate vegetarians. Going south on Route 8, it’s on the left just past the intersection with Route 108 to Sakai.

MIKUNI TOWN 三国町

Mikuni is a town in the northwest of Fukui. The people of Mikuni are mainly farmers, fisherman and salary men working in the surrounding towns. Explore the old part of the town which runs along the river in a narrow strip from Mikuni Jinja 三国神社(Shinto shrine) through to Sunset Beach. Mikuni holds two festivals a year and is worth a visit.

Getting here and away

BY TRAIN

Mikuni is about northwest of Fukui City. It is not on the JR line but you can take the Echizen train. From Fukui City, the single carriage train leaves track 1 or 2 of the small Echizen station at the back of Fukui JR station. Check the kanji on the front of the train. It takes 42 minutes and costs 860\ to Mikuni Station. Trains leave Fukui from 6: 00 am and run on the hour and 50 minutes past the hour until 8:00pm. Then they run at only 20 past the hour until 10:20pm. Trains leave Mikuni Station at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour until 6:45pm. After that, they leave Mikuni at 7:45, 8:45 and finally at 9:15pm.

BY BUS

Buses are available from Mikuni to Awara Onsen Station (Kanazu) or to Fukui bus station. However, they are slower and more expensive than trains (one way to Fukui is 840\). A one day pass for 1000\ can be purchased at Mikuni Station.

BY CAR

Driving from Fukui, take Awara Kaido, Rte. 7 or Rte.8 and head north, following the signs. Route 5, along the coast, is a scenic alternative. The fastest way to Mikuni from Fukui City is west along Sakura Dori and then following signs to Mikuni / Tojinbo. To get to Katsuyama from Mikuni, follow Route 17 in Maruoka.

Facilities

IZA

This is the biggest shopping complex in Mikuni, complete with a McDonalds and a Mister Donuts. Kabos CD and Bookstore is nearby. It closes at 8pm.

HONEY

A big supermarket and open until 10 pm.

Video Rental

PEGASUS VIDEO is next to a drugstore, down the road from the ALT’s apartment.

There is also a video shop next to the Circle K heading out of Mikuni.

Harue’s Tsutaya video store is a better alternative.

Sports Stores

STEP ONE

The best bike shop for miles is run by Iron Man Banjo-san. He’ll give you a 10% discount off anything you buy if you pay cash, deliver your bike for you, repair it, and give you advice on the best places to cycle. He has a huge range of bikes from “granny bikes” to Tour de France- type models. He has to order most of them, which takes between days and a week.

LA SURFIS

Located at the north end of Sunset Beach, it’s the best place to buy surf and snowboard gear. The owner, Seigo Akado, is an ex- Japan no. 1 (world no. 8) windsurfer and he still makes the Japan top 20 even though he is 40. He and his wife, Chizuko are fluent in English and really cool and they’ll want to be friends with you if you stop by. You can also rent snowboard and surf gear. Lessons are also available for surfing, snowboarding, windsurfing, water-skiing, etc. Seigo also sells kite surfing and kite boarding equipment.

Sports and Recreation

MIKUNI ONSEN

This is located on the south tip of Sunset Beach. It’s a striking round building. A bargain at 500\, it’s a really good place to wind down. The men’s baths face the sea, and have an amazing view of the setting sun, while the women have a view of the sunset and the aluminum smelter; baths are swapped occasionally with only a sign’s warning.

MIKUNI GYM

This is a free gym in the large concrete building opposite the Fukui Bank. It’s stands closest to the main road, the 2nd building from Town Hall. The equipment is quite old, mainly free weights and a few machines. The nearest high quality (and high price) gym is Acty in Harue. There is also Maruoka Sports land in Maruoka.

UNDO KOEN

This is a big sports complex on top of the hill, which includes a soccer pitch, a 50m pool, baseball stadium, running track and a park with a cool 65 m long slide.

Restaurants

TOMATO&ONION

Open until 2am, the food isn’t superb but the beer is quite cheap.

ATOM BOY

A conveyor-belt sushi bar that can cater to vegetarians.

AKIYOSHI YAKITORI

Meat and chicken gizzards on sticks. Fine for a snack, but order rice if you want to leave full and with money in your pocket.

ICHIBAN

An izakaya (eating house) next to the T&O. Cheap and cheerful, Ichiban gets really busy and is a great place to hang with the locals. There is also a good cheap okonomiyaki restaurant above Bar Ichiban.

BIRDLAND

Housed in a log cabin, this pizzeria & café has the best pizza in Japan (seriously) and a light-hearted, comfortable atmosphere. Birdland is run by Manabu and Junko; Manabu studied pizza-making in Naples and will fire up the tastiest pizzas in a real brick oven. The owners are really kind and great to talk to if you speak some Japanese. People come from all over to eat here, and it also has some of the best hot chocolate in the prefecture. Closed Mondays.

CALBEE

A big neon yakiniku joint next to Atom Boy. Cook your own meat on the grill at each table. Good fun, relaxed, but a little expensive. There is also karaoke in the same building.

NUAGE LIBRE

Next to Honey’s, this restaurant is a cute little French cafe. It specializes in drinks and cakes. The cakes are delicious but expensive. They also do a lunch set for about 1000 Yen. It’s sister store, Nuage Volte, is in Fukui City. Open until 8 pm.

SALVATORE

A popular Italian restaurant on the hill near Undo Koen; it’s not easy to find so you may have to ask someone. The owner, Humiya, doesn’t speak English but is really friendly. The food is expensive but really good.

Bars

SANCTUARY COCKTAIL

Drinks are from ¥900. Go past the station, along the road, then over the railway tracks. Turn right at the first turn (Aoba Dori) past a gas station. After that, go up the hill and take the second right. It’s on the right.

SAMA SAMA

This small Balinese style bar is down by Sunset Beach by Mikuni Onsen. It’s run by Koji and his wife; Koji lived in Australia and speaks excellent English. The food is good Japanese and western and they serve cocktails, wine, and beer. It is a really chill bar with a good atmosphere. The local surfers hang out there.

Attractions

TAKIDANJI TEMPLE

A small place with a beautiful little Zen garden. Definitely worth a visit. From Mikuni train station turn right and go straight down the road for a few minutes.

MIKUNI MUSEUM

The Dutch artist M.C. Escher is said to have lived here for a number of years. This onion-domed building was an elementary school by the river. When it was destroyed, the building was rebuilt in its present location. There is a good view from the dome. The museum is just across the street on the north side of Mikuni High School.

MIKUNI JINJA SHRINE

This is in Sanno, the old part of Mikuni. It is very peaceful and old, and it’s an excellent place to explore on a hot summer afternoon. This is the focal point of the Mikuni Festival, held in May each year. To get there, follow Route 5 (the coast road) into Mikuni. Cross Shinbo bridge into Mikuni and turn right just before entering the tunnel. Mikuni Jinja is on your left after a small hill.

SUNSET BEACH

As you approach Mikuni, follow the signs to the beach. The swimming season is limited by jellyfish, but you can surf, wind sail or boogyboard there.

There are a few beaches in the area. The beach near Tojimbo is called Hamaji Beach. To get there, follow Rt.7 north, past Tojimbo and beyond the Aquarium. Takasu Beach, along the Echizen coastline near Mikuni, is also nice.

TOJIMBO

Tojimbo is certainly a sight. Infamous in the Hokuriku area as a suicide spot, it is also a top tourist location. Leading up to the rocks are many shops and fresh seafood restaurants that close early. For about ¥800, there is a boat that goes around the formations and toward Oshima island. To get to Tojimbo, follow Route 7 from Mikuni and follow the signs. There is also a bus available from Mikuni Station.

OSHIMA ISLAND

This tiny island has a Shinto shrine, and is linked to the mainland by a long red bridge. If you do walk around, make sure you go clockwise, not anticlockwise. Folklore says that the bodies of the people who have committed suicide off the Tojimbo cliffs wash up on Oshima and their ghosts haunt the island. Walking around clockwise protects you.

Festivals and Seasonal Attractions

MIKUNI FIREWORKS

This display takes place over the sea every year on August 11th and is pretty amazing. It is very crowded (some several thousand people on a small beach), so be sure to arrive early and hang out on the beach. It is not advisable to drive there; take the train.

MIKUNI FESTIVAL

This takes place between the 19th and 21st of May and is the 3rd largest festival in the Hokuriku region. On the 20th, there’s a procession of floats with huge paper figures of historical Japanese people. These floats are pushed by locals and are impressive. The festival centers around Mikuni Jinja.

SAKAI TOWN 坂井市 

SAKAI TOWN MAP AND AREA GUIDE

Welcome to Sakai. Sakai is a small, rural town of 12,000 people. While Sakai Town is rather quiet and peaceful, it is very close to Fukui City (about 15 min north by car) and forms of entertainment. It hosts two festivals each year, one in late August and one in late May.

Facilities

PLANT 2

Plant 2 is Sakai’s one-stop saving grace. It has everything from home supplies to groceries, and almost anything else inbetween. It resembles Wal-Mart or Super Target. Open 9am to 10pm every day. It’s located on Route 29 near Sakai Junior High School.

LIQUOR WORLD HANA

Located in the car park of Plant 2 and open during the same hours. Good selection.

A-COOP

A grocery store. It has all of the essentials and is just down the street, on the right, as you exit the station. It’s open 9:30am to 7pm but closed on Sundays.

POEM

A bakery between the junior high school and the town office.

Facilities

POST OFFICE

Located on the main road near the train station, next to Fukui Bank. It’s open from 9 am to 4 pm for transactions and until 5 pm for mail.

LAUNDRY

There is a small dry cleaner next to Eneos gas station. Open until 7pm. Others are also available.

ENEO GAS STATION

On the same road as Post Office. Open 8am to 7 pm.

CIRCLE K

A convenience store on the Harue-Kanazu road.

GYM/POOL

The nearest is on the road to Maruoka.

VIDEO / MUSIC RENTAL

Unfortunately, no video stores exist in Sakai. However, Harue, Kanazu and Maruoka have rental stores.

CITY HALL

Found opposite the police box, near the junior high school.

Clothing Stores

There are a few small stores near the station, but Plant 2 has a bigger selection. LPA in Fukui City is a great shopping mall for clothes.

Community Centers

Next to the junior high school. Offers tea ceremony, calligraphy and ikebana classes.

Pharmacies

There is a small pharmacy /cosmetic shop between the bank and the post office. Also, there’s one inside Plant 2.

Hospital

There’s a doctor’s surgery behind Fukui Bank. The nearest real hospitals are in Maruoka.

ATMs

Located at Fukui Bank, in the car park of Plant 2, and between the health center and the town office.

Restaurants

GUSTO

A ‘family restaurant’ next to Plant 2. Open late every night.

TONKATSU

Located beside the Nissan (Plant 2 and Town Office intersection), it has some set meals with large portions but is a little pricey.

Bars

The closest is in Harue. Fukui City has the best selection of bars in the area.

Cultural Facilities

Please inquire at the local kouminkan (public citizen center) if you are interested in any of the following: Ikebana (flower arranging), shodo (calligraphy), touki (pottery). Various martial arts are available at the Budokan, which is next to the junior high school. Inesu-Sakai Rest Area offers various craft displays and occasional classes and workshops.

Transportation

Getting Here and Away

Sakai is conveniently on the JR train line, which makes major cities very accessible. Transportation in local towns, however, is a little more difficult.

TRAIN

Maruoka Station is located in Sakai Town. Although Maruoka Town has a famous castle, the station is not nearby. This station is three stops north of Fukui City (after Morita and Harue) but is not an express stop, so be sure to take the local train! There is a ticket machine and a station attendant for purchasing tickets. There are two tracks: the closest platform is south bound (to Fukui City) and across the bridge walkway is the north bound platform (to Kanazawa). A booklet of the timetable is available at any of the mainline stations; http://www.hyperdia.com is also a great resource. The last train north from Fukui leaves at about 10:30 pm.

BUS

The bus only runs between Sakai and Maruoka. In Sakai, it leaves from outside the train station. The departures are infrequent and a bit inconvenient.

CAR

Sakai is easily accessible from Route 8 or Route 5, just follow the signs. It’s about 30 minutes from Fukui.

To Fukui

The JR train is the fastest, most direct route. By car or bike, go south on Route 29 (Plant 2 road) through Harue. You’ll enter Fukui City on Awara Kaido.

To Maruoka

Take the bus from the train station. By car or bike, go east on the town office road, toward Route 8.

To Kanazu

It’s the next station on the JR train. By car or bike, go north on the Plant 2 road.

To Awara

Take the Echizen train (not the JR line). Go from Shimohyogo or Ozeki station to the west of central Sakai. By car or bike, take the Plant 2 road north and follow the signs.

To Mikuni

The same as Awara, but farther away.