Think of Fukui and the first thing that comes to mind are dinosaurs. And anybody who has ever visited Fukui’s famous dinosaur museum will be very aware of how popular an attraction it is.
But, another location in the same area well worth a visit are the Ichijodani Asakura Clan Castle and town ruins (parts of which have been reconstructed).
Just over four hundred and forty years ago Ichijodani was a bustling Muromachi Period castle town. The home of the powerful Asakura Clan, ruled by Yoshikage Asakura in its final days, it was both a military and civilian center with a population of over ten thousand. During the 15th century Onin War, many of the Kyoto elite fled the imperial capital and settled in Ichijodani as a safe refuge. In the summer of 1573 though, the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga had the castle and its adjoining town razed to the ground after defeating the Asakura Clan in the Battle of Tonezaka as part of a campaign to unite the country. The town and castle apparently burned for 3 days and nights and was abandoned by the populace.
Today the location has become a less commercially known place in the area though still attracts interest with both history buffs and sightseeing visitors alike wanting to take in the beauty of the surrounding countryside whilst learning some of the history of how this once-important and busy town fell to ruins.
In the 1960s archeological excavations began on the site and later work started on reconstructing one of the streets as it would have been in its heyday. Evidence that the people of Ichijodani lived well and enjoyed an educated and recreational life has been found in Buddhist scriptures, educational manuscripts, ink stones, inkwells, dolls, boats, dice, and shogi pieces found in the excavations. Each residence was also found to have their own well, unlike Kyoto and Edo (modern Tokyo), where wells were shared.
The reconstruction includes the homes of samurai, merchants, and craftsmen along a 200 meter long street. Take a stroll through the period houses and gardens and you’ll see the tools that people used in their work and lives and also watch as actors in period costume perform social interactions of their day.
A small visitor’s center houses a replica model of how the whole town originally looked and on occasion there are events such as the May Japanese Tanka poetry festival, the Sengoku and lantern light-up festival in August, as well as musical performances using traditional Japanese instruments.
A short walk and over a small river you’ll find yourself climbing up the mountainside and through the ruins of the castle. The stone foundations and flooring are still clearly visible and the view from here is breathtaking.
Visitors can download a smartphone app giving an audio guide to the town in both Japanese and English, and for a virtual tour a tablet is available to rent on site at a cost of 500 yen, also in Japanese and English. There are also a number of associated Asakura sites in the locale and it would be easy to make a full day of touring these. See the official website for touring routes.
Ichijodani can be reached by train, bus or car. By train take the JR Kuzuryu Line from Fukui to Ichijodani Station (15 minutes, departures every 2-3 hours) from there it’s a ten minute walk to the entrance. By bus from Fukui Station bound for Jokyouji (浄教寺) to Bukeyashiki-mae (武家屋敷前) bus stop (35 minutes, departures every 1-3 hours).
Ichijodani has car parking and is about a 20 minute drive from Fukui Station.
Entrance fee & Open hours
Open: 9:00–17:00 (Admission until 16:30)
Entrance Fee: 210 yen/person (tax incl.); a group discount is available for the parties of 20 or more
Closed: During the New Year holiday (December 28th–January 4th)
Places other than the restored townscape are free and open year round.