In Search of Echizen Crab...
Most of this day was consumed with taking the Shinkansen to Fukui, but since there was no direct line, I had to get off at Maibara station and take a private JR line to Fukui Station. My friend, Caroline, was recently accepted into the JET Program, which is an international teaching initiative that brings people from all over the world to different parts of Japan in order to instruct Japanese natives to focus on English learning and teaching. It's actually quite difficult to get into, but I'm glad that she was afforded the opportunity to go overseas and venture out to Japan. Unfortunately, they stationed her nowhere near Tokyo... but Fukui. It's a nice area, but if you've never been here, it is quite far up. Not only that, but this prefecture borders the sea of Japan, so the temperature drop is noticeable and intense!
All in all, it took about 5 hours starting from 10 AM to get here.
I missed the train from Maibara, so it delayed my route about 45 minutes. Factor in the blistering cold and I was starting to get antsy and anxious. Once I boarded the train, I made sure I needed to get to where I needed to go. If I slept on this train, I would easily miss a stop. On these smooth riding and quiet trains, it is incredibly easy to fall asleep.
Once I got to Fukui, I was immediately picked up by Caroline and we decided that before dinner, we would try and cover as much ground before it got dark. Around the station was a park called Murasaki Shikibu Park. From what I read, the park was built to commemorate the famous female Japanese author of the Tale of Genji. She spent one and half years in this area when her father was the governor of Echizen during Heian Period. In this park, there is a traditional Japanese building in the Shinden-zukuri style.
This is the only building reproduced in this style throughout Japan. Although this park is well-known among local people, when I visited here in late November, there were only a few people enjoying this beautiful park. Very beautiful place to take pictures!
Within driving distance was the Gotanjo Temple, which happens to be well-known for its plethora of feline residents. It’s unofficially been dubbed “Kitty Temple” by visitors and local residents. The monks feed and care for the cats, who spend their days either lounging around on top of the omikuji (fortune) stands or trotting after the monks hoping for a tidbit.
Just as the sun set, we were able to make it to Nishiyama Park, which is famous for beautiful autumn leaves, gorgeous azaleas, and it also has a small zoo which is itself famous for two pretty red pandas loved by kids from Fukui and all over Japan.
Since we got there pretty late, there was no way we were going to be able to see them... but nevertheless, we enjoyed the night walk through the park and it was just enough time to work up an appetite.
After stopping into a local mall and buying some stuff, we headed out to find a restaurant that specialized in Echizen Crab. Something we didn't realize was that most of the restaurants close after 8 PM on weekdays, so a lot of the places that we originally had in mind would be closed. We headed into Fukui-shi to find a place that would still be open, which was actually quite far from our original location. Eventually we found a restaurant that was open called Yanagimachi which served a kaiseki style meal with crab. From just eating the best kaiseki meal that I've ever had, I had no qualms about doing another one over again.
The meal itself was wonderful and the portions were perfect, and if I had to do it all over again, I would probably have ordered more food!
By the time we were finished with dinner, it was 10 PM and already everything was closed. Our original plan was to hit up another hot springs facility, but they were either closed or under construction. It's the risk you take when you go out this late... but I was completely satisfied with how the day turned out. Since I had a little less than 12 hours, I was going to make the best out of my stay here... so in the morning, our goal will be to make sure that we do as much as we can before I take off.