Let’s head away from the city of Japan for the meantime and head for the coast towards Fukui Prefecture! It has a number of sightseeing spots such as a huge temple called Eiheiji (which I will cover in a future post), but for today let’s head to Tsuruga which is home to the Symbol Road for anime fans, and Tojinbo which is named after a monk who fell to his death (how morbid).
Geared towards people who are big fans of Leiji Matsumoto’s works, such as Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato, the port city of Tsuruga located in Fukui prefecture is a good place to visit on your next Japan trip. Located 3 hours away from Tokyo or an hour away from Nagoya, Tsuruga is home to numerous bronze statues of characters from Matsumoto’s series which line the 1.2km path from Tsuruga station called the symbol road. These statues were placed along the road in 1999 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Tsuruga’s Port.
You may wonder, of all the places to give homage to Matsumoto’s works, why choose Tsuruga? This is due to the reason that Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato both share themes of railways, science, ports, and the future, and the first city on the Sea of Japan to build a railway is none other than Tsuruga. Once, the Europe-Asia International Express ran from Tokyo to Paris through the Tsuruga Port Station. Tsuruga was the first city to implement full electric trains through alternating currents in 1957, and half a decade later, the Hokuriku Tunnel which was at the time the longest tunnel in Japan was opened. Tsuruga was then known as a a notable port and railway city due to its strategic location for transportation along the Sea of Japan. With that said, Tsuruga’s vision of the future is to be a city of science, a port city, and a railway city, fully embodying the themes of Matsumoto’s series.
Tsuruga is located on the Obama line (cue jokes about President Obama, but the line is actually pronounced quite differently) and aside from the symbol road, there are other things to explore in this quaint little city.
The symbol road begins when you step out of Tsuruga station with this statue of Maetel from Galaxy Express 999.
The whole stretch of road takes around a total of 90 minutes to traverse. 45 minutes going forward, and another 45 minutes going back. For those who are interested in seeing what statues adorn the symbol road but can’t make it to Tsuruga, I have compressed all 27 statues into 3 collages so it won’t be too image heavy. The statues depict a number of memorable scenes from Matsumoto’s masterpieces.
Right as you reach the end of the U-turn back towards the station, you can make a quick stop at Kehi Jingu Shrine, which is the largest shrine in the area and is one of the most iconic shrines in the Hokuriku region since it was established in 702.
Walk past the main Tori gate and you can enter the shrine proper. One thing that is of note inside this little shrine is a water basin called the Power Water of Longevity which is said to promote good health and long life. You can also find Matsuo Basho’s statue in the premises, who is a famous Edo period poet.
Once you’ve taken your well-deserved rest and paid your respects, you can continue on the road back towards the station, taking the other side of the road this time for more statues. Once in a while, this Yamato themed community bus passes by.
The last statue then takes us back to Tsuruga station. After all that walking, I’m sure it will leave some people hungry so another good place to stop by in Tsuruga is their fish market called the日本海さかな街 (Nihonkai Sakana Machi), which is natural since this is a port city after all. The fish market is 10 minutes away by taxi and is filled with fresh seafood straight from the port.
You can find all sorts of seafood here, escpecially the giant crabs everyone was offering for sale.
Of course, I had to try out their maguro sashimi with a side of udon which cost a little over Y1,000 so the prices aren’t too steep. Since we were in Tsuruga, Maetel joined us for lunch as well after viewing different statues on her in the symbol road. The fish was pretty good but the fish from Kanazawa seemed a bit fresher. Not too bad though.
After we had out bellies filled, we still had a bit of time to explore another area in Fukui prefecture: 東尋坊 (Tojinbo), which is a one kilometer stretch of rugged basalt cliffs along the sea of Japan.
To get to Tojinbo, we had to go to Mikuniminato station which is around an hour away from the main Fukui station. From Mikuniminato, you can ride a bus for 5-10 minutes to Tojinbo. The buses don’t appear frequently though so you might end up waiting for the bus longer than the actual ride. The bus schedules are available in the station. Once you get to the bus stop, the road leading to Tojinbo is lined with different shops selling food and souvenirs.
We were a bit hungry, so we headed into one of the stores and had a seafood feast. The egg cooked inside a crab shell has a very unique taste and you should try it out while you’re here! It costs around Y1200 but the taste just melts in your mouth. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves on how good the seafood here is 🙂
You can also see Tojinbo Tower which offers spectacular views of the area but not the cliff, so we felt it was a lot better to walk up to the cliffs themselves.
The views of the cliffs were breathtaking, but it’s not for the faint of heart. There isn’t a proper trail to go down to the bottom of the cliff, so you have to do some balancing and climbing among the hexagonal formations to get down. Moreover, Tojinbo is named after a monk who fell to his death here so be careful not to fall! The coarse, pillar-shaped rocks with hexagonal and pentagonal rods in Tojinbo are said to be the only one in Japan, and can only be seen in 3 spots in the world so it’s quite a rare geographical formation. To the south of Tojinbo is a the port of Mikuni, which is known for the Echizen crab, Amaebi, and Buri.
From Tojinbo, you can also spot a red pedestrian bridge which leads to Oshima island, which has a shrine, but it was getting dark and we had to go back before the last bus left. We didn’t leave until we got a view of the sunset though.
Seeing the sunset gave a perfect end to our day. There’s still a lot to be seen in Fukui, so I’m pretty sure I would go back here again (and I actually did, so watch out for my post about this place again!). I hope this post would encourage you to give this prefecture a visit!