The Charm and Elegance of Mikuni, Fukui
A city lost to the erosions of time but still has the charm and delight to amply please any traveller who visits. Although it is now merged with nearby towns Harue, Maruoka and Sakai and is now called Sakai, Mikuni, a small port town in Fukui prefecture is such a place. In the Meiji era, it was a flourishing port-town on the Kitamae-bune shipping route, with bustling crowds of traders and just enough geishas to entertain them. As the trade routes and times changed, the crowds dwindled and the town settled down into a peaceful charm skirting the Kuzuryu River. Even now years later, it manages to hide the inelegance of development under a veil of historic machiya homes and lantern street lights.
In the midst of all this nostalgic warmth lies Tsumesyo, a renovated machiya turned inn. As part of Eastern culture researcher Alex Kerrs’, machiya restoration project, Tsumesyo was built from an old town pharmacy. In a well-executed attempt to keep its history alive, the inn is decorated with the original wooden sign boards of the medicine store, the cabinets that they used and some beautiful old lacquerware and pottery. The inn is able to accommodate 2 groups at a time. Divided by a wall, the two separate homes are called Koun meaning running clouds and Ryusui meaning flowing water. Each of them are well equipped with everything you would need to spend a relaxing evening in a townhouse. A furnished kitchen with coffee beans and a grinder to go with them and a tea set for those who don’t crave the early morning caffeine hit. A luxurious bath tub to wind down at night and a spacious sitting room. Each house also has its own little garden space to enjoy some of that fresh air the city always seems to have.
For food, one option is to buy some local ingredients and cook a meal for yourself, the kitchen has some lovely china to eat off of. An alternative that many travelers take is buying some take out. As in most parts of Japan, the restaurants here close quite early, so it's best to pick up supplies and food before sundown. Right around the corner from Tsumesyo lies the little French take away restaurant called Half Moon Bay.
Walking around town can be fun, but rental bicycles are also available at the little town hall. In the neighborhood the must see sights would be the Mikuni Shrine and the old Morita bank head office. As the sun begins to set, looking at the sky change in color by the harbor and/or the aptly named sunset beach is something you shouldn’t miss.
A bit further out are the famous Tojinbo Cliffs that are about a 15 minute drive away. Characterized by their rugged pillar shapes, these basalt cliffs are a spectacular sight to see. Their obscure shape comes from years of molding from the sea below. Eateries, ice cream stores and souvenir shops pave the way from the main street to the cliffs. Boat rides can be taken in the water below. Nearby is a red bridge that crosses over to Oshima Island. Small enough to trek around, the island sports a shiny, white torii gate and a few more cliffs.
All in all, Mikuni is a great getaway from the city and a town worth seeing.
Access to Mikuni from Tokyo:
To get to Mikuni, you first have to get to Fukui station. This can be done via 2 routes.
- Hokoriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa. Change trains to the Shirasagi to Fukui station
- Tokaido-sanyo shinkansen from Tokyo to Maibara. Change trains to the Shirasagi to Fukui station
From Fukui station take the Echizen Railway Awara line to Mikuni station (around 50 minutes).
Tsumesyo is about a 5 minute walk from Mikuni station.