Fukui Cosmos fields

Not so many years ago the locals of Miyanoshita in Fukui had to decide what to do with a large piece of barren ground. One of the options was to turn it into a construction site, but the local council made the final decision. Eventually the whole area got turned into a beautiful field ten times bigger than the Tokyo Dome and full of cosmos flowers.

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The reason for choosing cosmos flowers is that it’s a strong flower not in need of much maintenance. They come in a variety of colors and can be left to bloom as is. It was Miyanoshita’s hope that the cosmos field would attract tourists and give the area a relaxing atmosphere. We must confirm that they succeeded, as the whole area looks peaceful with the Mt. Hakusane range as a backdrop.

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During our visit the cosmos weren’t yet in full bloom, but there were already plenty of visitors and kindergartens on school outings to check the earliest flowers. There are separate patches dedicated to single color flowers and there’s an area for the cosmos festival held from mid-october until the end of october. The activities include tractor rides and a fresh market all organized by the locals.

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If you’re in the area during fall, don’t forget to visit this flower field.

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Information

Dates: from the beginning of October until the end of October
Location: Miyanoshita Cosmos Park
Address: 12-16 Goshogaichicho, Fukui, Fukui Prefecture 910-3112
URL: info.pref.fukui.lg.jp (PDF)

Eiheiji, the temple Steve Jobs wanted to study at

In Fukui there are two well known temples, Daianzenji and Eiheiji, that differ very strongly from each other. Eiheiji Temple belongs to the “Soto Zen” school of teaching and its name literally means temple of eternal peace. The founder, Dogen Zenji, adopted Zen practices from China and applied them to his own “way of the Buddha” in Japan. In 1244 he built a mountain temple near Fukui City with the help of one of his most devoted followers, the samurai Yoshishige Hatano. Even though the Rinzai school was more popular with samurai at the time, the Soto school was more straightforward and easier to understand for most people. Because of these reasons Eiheiji and Soto Zen became the “to go” practice for the common folk.

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A Temple School

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More than an actual temple, Eiheiji is a temple school training monks from all over Japan. The strict teachings recorded by Dogen Zenji in his books attract more than 200 trainees who all live in the temple. They each have just one tatami mat measuring one by two meters on which they have to eat, sleep and meditate (zazen). The Soto Zen school teaches that every activity should be a religious practice, so talking and reading is never allowed in the priest’s hall. Because of the strictness and sanctity of most of the halls you are not allowed to take photos or even visit the trainees’ daily living quarters.
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Eiheiji, the temple Steve Jobs wanted to study at

What do priest trainees eat?

PillarWith more than 200 people living under one roof there must be a very complex system for cooking, right? On the contrary, the monks prefer to keep the sober lifestyle dictated by their teachings and still use the same kitchen, Daikuin, as during the old days. Of course most of the equipment has been updated to keep up with the times. These modern appliances are a great help to the eight monks who have to make all the meals every day for everyone else. The cuisine at Eiheiji is strict vegetarian and prepared with local ingredients. Meals are always sober and plain. “Upon flowing into the pure ocean of dharma, there are no such discriminations as delicacies or plain food; there is just one taste, and it is the Buddha dharma, the world itself as it is.”

The kitchen building is a three-story cooking complex with some interesting features. There is a shrine dedicated to swiftness and protection from fire. Praying here will give you the strength to deliver meals quickly and to warn everyone in case of fire…which hopefully won’t happen if you prayed hard enough. The nearby wooden pillar is as old as the temple itself and it’s said that if you rub it three times you become better at cooking. Rub it six times to become better at flattering.
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Holy places

Every hall, room and space in Eiheiji is a place of worship. Even when going to the bathroom one has to respect the rules written in the Senjo, a special chapter in the Soto Zen book stipulating rules for going to the toilet. Some of the other important places include the official entryway with statues of the Four Heavenly Kings who protect the Buddha (sadly, no direct photos allowed of the deities), the main temple called “Hatto” and the mausoleum of the founder Dogen Zenji. This mausoleum is officially called “Joyoden” and not only houses the ashes of Dogen Zenji but also the ashes of several of his successors. They are respected as if they were living teachers. There are living quarters near the mausloeum for the priests who are assigned to maintain this holy area. The framed kanji character means “shouyou”, roughly translates to “receiving the sun”, and was written by the Emperor Meiji.

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Stay overnight

If you want to experience Eiheiji life or start a training like Steve Jobs wanted to do, you can! You can do short overnight stays but if you want to sign up for the real deal you have to be affiliated with the Soto Zen Sect or prove your conviction. Of course there are also day courses to practice zazen Eiheiji style. If you’re interested you can read all about it here.
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Information

Hours:4am – 5pm (5:30am – 4:30pm during winter)
Admission: 500yen
Location: near Fukui City
Access: Timetable for Eiheiji Liner bus
Address: 5-15 Shihi, Eiheiji, Yoshida District, Fukui Prefecture 910-1228
TEL:0776-63-3102
URL: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/shritemp/eiheiji.html

Five Fantastic Fukui Facts

You might not have heard of Fukui but there are many amazing things in this lesser known prefecture. Let WAttention introduce you to some fantastic facts that you can use in your next conversation about Japan.

1) Fukui has one of the few 8K Planetariums in the world

The recently opened shopping complex “Happiring” features a brand new planetarium with an amazing 8K screen. Only a handful of planetariums in the world offer this experience.
Besides the regular screenings the planetarium itself is a fun interactive environment.

Location: Seiren Planet Fukui
Hours: 10am – 6:30pm (Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sun) / 10am – 9pm (Fr & Sat) / Closed every 2nd Wednesday of the month
Admission: 400yen (adults) / Dome Theater 600yen (adults) , 500yen (high schoolers), 300yen (children)
Address: 1-2-1 Chuo, Fukui City
Access: right next to JR Fukui Station
URL: http://www.happiring.com/english/
Planetarium

2) Dinosaurs are everywhere!

The largest dinosaur excavation site in Japan is in Fukui. In fact, they were able to keep digging from 1989 until 1993 and still found dinosaur fossils. Even today they are still trying to find new fossils. Of course the city is extremely proud of its dinosaur museum which is considered 3rd best in the world. The scriptwriter for the movie “Jurassic Park” even came to the museum to give a lecture.

Location: Katsuyama City, Fukui
Hours: 9am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm) / closed every 2nd and 4th Wednesday
Admission: 1,200yen (adults) / 1,000yen (high school and college students) / 600yen (primary/secondary school students)
Address: 51-11 Terao, Muroko, Katsuyama, Fukui 911-8601
Access: from JR Fukui Station, go to Katsuyama on the Echizen Railway Eiheiji Katsuyama Line (1hour). There is a bus from Katsuyama station to the museum (10min).
URL: https://www.dinosaur.pref.fukui.jp/en/ & http://www.fuku-e.com/lang/english/feature/feature-dinosaur_museum.php
Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum(1)

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inside Fukui Station

Outside Fukui Station
Outside Fukui Station. (They move and make sound too!!)

3) The Matrix+Fukui=…?

Glasses! Fukui has tons of glasses and in fact, they make about 10% of all the glasses in Japan. The brand Sabae was the first company to start using a light titanium frame for glasses and even now about 96% of all the frames in Japan are made by Sabae. These Japanese frames from Fukui are such top notch quality that Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, from the movie “The Matrix” allowed a pair to adorn his face.

Glasses

The people of Fukui are proud of their glasses.
The people of Fukui are proud of their glasses.

4) Amazing Cherry Blossoms

The Asuwa River that runs right through Fukui City has a cherry blossom riverbed of 2km long with about 600 trees. Every spring visitors come from all over Japan and even deem it one of Japan’s finest spring views. It’s also included in the list of 100 best cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. When the trees are in full bloom there is a festival and illumination at night.

Asuwa Rivre Cherry Blossoms

5) Rich History

As a first time visitor to Fukui I was surprised myself to discover how much history is packed into one prefecture. The ruling Matsudaira clan of Fukui produced the first Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and was the main target for famous warlord Oda Nobunaga. On top of all that, Ichijodani had a rich culture well advanced for its time. There are streets from the Edo period that are still intact with picturesque storefronts and traditional goods. I’m sure that if you explore Fukui yourself you will find many more Fantastic Fukui Facts.

History

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Ichijodani Asakura Ruins, remnants of a powerful clan

The Asakura clan (朝倉氏) was one of the most powerful clans in Fukui during the Sengoku period (1467 – 1603). Ichijodani is the name of the city they built. At its height, Ichijodani had over 10,000 residents and an advanced culture.

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Background History

The Sengoku period was a time of civil war in all of Japan. The last ruler of Ichijodani, Asakura Yoshikage, was an adept ruler who kept peace in the city. Because of this, Ichijodani became a refuge for people fleeing unstable areas in conflict. Warlord Oda Nobunaga seeked to unify Japan and captured Kyoto (then the capital) in an attempt to rule the country (1568). The Asakura clan was called upon to drive Nobunaga from Kyoto, thus creating a conflict. Oda Nobunaga’s answer was a siege on the Asakura domain and in 1573 he burned down the whole city.

Luckily, in 1967, Ichijodani’s secrets were revealed during a large scale excavation. The city turned out to be much grander than anyone ever expected and is one of the only ruins in Japan with this much detail. You can visit the site and see a reconstruction of the village houses.

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guideThe Asakura Ruins offer a very handy virtual guide that shows you how the original buildings would have looked by using a real time camera. Just point the guide to a location and a virtual reconstruction will begin. This guide costs 500yen and is available in both English and Japanese. This is very useful as most of the area is barren and you need a lot of imagination to picture the buildings.

You can also choose to have a real guide tell you all the stories of Ichijodani. I would suggest to take both the virtual guide for the experience and the real guide for the secret stories and enthusiasm.

Ichijodani Asakura Ruins, remnants of a powerful clan

The City

There are many interesting things to see in the reconstruction of the Ichijodani. Actors walk around in historical costumes and mannequins are set up inside the homes to reenact historical scenarios.
For safety reasons, the Asakura family built the city in a very interesting and unique way. The streets have a slight curve, making it possible to see every enemy no matter where you are standing in the street. The same principle is applied in Narai Juku, Matsumoto.

City Streets

You can see that the city has a built-in waterway that serves as a sewage system and to keep the area cool during summer. The walls are fortified with big rocks, protecting against floods and invaders. When you walk around the ruins it’s difficult to imagine the grand buildings that once housed powerful samurai and lords.

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The Karamon gate is the entrance to the ruins of Yoshikage’s house and used to be the entrance gate to a temple. Thanks to the good condition of the ruins an accurate image of the villa could be created.

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The Karamon gate is still in good condition because it was built after the destruction of the Asakura clan and again reconstructed during the Edo period. If you look closely, the gate bears both the mark of the Asakura clan and of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1570 during the Battle of Anegawa Hideyoshi fought in defense for the Asakura clan against Oda Nobunaga. This gate is thus dedicated to Asakura Yoshikage.

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There are several gardens in Ichijodani and some are still waiting to be discovered. You can easily spend a full day in the area as it’s surrounded by beautiful nature and there’s so much history to absord.

Something the guide was really proud about is that telecom operator Softbank chose to do a commercial series in Ichijodani. Their trademark white shiba inu named “Otousan” (“father” in Japanese) has been around since 2007 and is the head of the Shirato family. According to the commercial series his hometown is Ichijodani.

Information

Hours: 9am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm) / Closed Dec. 28 – Jan. 4
Admission: 210yen (500yen for the virtual guide)
Location: Ichijodani Asakura Family Ruins
Address: 910-2153 Fukui-ken, Fukui-shi, Kidonouchichō
Access: From Fukui JR Station go to Ichijodani Station on the JR Kuzuryu Line (15min) and walk for 25min / Take a bus from JR Fukui Station to Jokyouji and get off at Bukeyashiki-mae (35min) / 30min by car from central Fukui.
URL: http://www3.fctv.ne.jp/~asakura/ (Japanese only)

Restaurant Review: Ichijodani – Restaurant

Near the Asakura ruins is a modern restaurant that is very much in touch with the seasons. Ichijodani Restaurant changes its menu every time new local ingredients are at their peak. They then turn them into Japanese-style dishes with a Western touch. After a visit to the ruins this restaurant is a must visit.

A 7-course menu starts at 3,500 yen. We’ll take you through their current, delicious, offering.

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Italian inspired stuffed Shiitake

The starter already made a great impression. This Shiitake was stuffed with cheese and a topping of sweet basil. It’s difficult to tell if this is a Japanese dish or an Italian but it was delicious nonetheless.
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Salmon with Citrus

The appetizer made a combination that I never think would have worked, fruit with fish. It took a while to get to the salmon pieces at the bottom so at first you’d think this is a fruit dish. On my way down I recognized salmon roe, edible flowers, pomegranate and lemon jelly.
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Steamed Onion

Personally, I am not a fan of onions. But this onion truly changed my mind. I was told that Japanese onions taste a lot sweeter than their Western counterparts and the story seems to be true. The taste of the broth had completely seeped into the onion and transformed the flavor to something different. The kelp bag it was served in was also edible.
Onion in Konbu

Light soup with Steamed Egg

This cup had so many little details inside that it was difficult to eat it, but sadly, it was delicious. The vegetables well precisely cut into maple leaves to visualize the season and the mushrooms gave it that autumn taste. The eggs were very fluffy and did not get soaked by the soup, I wonder how they did that.
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Chicken with Red Fruit

When they first brought out the plate it looked like a strange modern art painting. Upon closer inspection (and taste) you could see that the different sauces were used as “paint” for this abstract piece. Red fruit, vinegar, and a sauce reminiscent of sauce hollandaise.
The only negative point; it was difficult to eat this chicken without a fork and knife.
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Japanese Pumpkin Curry

Of course this seasonal favorite couldn’t be forgotten. Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, has a sweeter taste than the Western pumpkin and a tougher skin, making it fairly difficult to use for Halloween carvings. But luckily kabocha makes for better food than decoration, adding a special flavor to the curry. The pickles on the plate give it that extra touch.
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Dessert

For dessert we had coffee and a fruit jelly. As a surprising detail, the grape had a part cut off so it would have a flat surface to balance properly on the jelly. That’s how much detail and thought was put into every dish.
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The Restaurant

Besides serving delicious food, the interior is extremely beautiful in its simplicity. The wooden theme gives a relaxing and cozy atmosphere. There is a big hardwooden table where large groups of guests can sit together.
Interior

Information

Hours: 11am – 6pm
Price: Courses are at 3,500yen / 5,500yen / 7,000yen
Tel: 0776-37-3712
Access: 21min walk from Ichijodani Station. Parking available
Address: 10-48 Kidonouchicho, Fukui, Fukui Prefecture 910-2153
URL:www.1jyoudani.jp (Japanese only)

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Hiraizumi: Representing Heaven on Earth

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Hiraizumi, created as a Buddhist heaven on earth over 1,000 years ago, celebrates its third year as a World Heritage site this June. Its temples, gardens and buildings were recognized as a rare example of a cultural legacy that is deeply permeated with a universal longing for peace – but its roots lie in a land ravaged by war.

The UNESCO recognition also came at a poignant time for Iwate Prefecture, which was hard hit by the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011, where thousands of lives were lost. This is the first such UNESCO site in the Tohoku area and the 16th in Japan.

Hiraizumi was founded by the Oshu Fujiwara clan in a bid to fulfill their longing for permanent peace and the achievement of the ideal Buddhist territory.

The dramatic rise and fall of the city – once said to rival Kyoto – within a 100 years inspired the famous haiku master Matsuo Basho to compose several now classic haikus after he visited the remains of Hiraizumi town.

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Famous haiku master, Matsuo Basho , on visiting the ruins of Hiraizumi, penned: Ah! Summer grass! All that remains/Of the warriors’ dreams.

So, just what does this heaven on earth comprise of? It consist of five designated sites, the Konjiki-do (Golden Hall) within Chusonji Temple, Motsuji Temple, the remains of Kanjizaiō-in and Muryoko-in and Mt. Kinkeisan. Here, we will introduce Chusonji and Motsuji, and Mt. Kinkeisan.

Chusonji Temple

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This is the cornerstone of the UNESCO designated sites. A climb up the Tsukimi-zaka Slope lined with 300- to 400-year-old cedar trees will bring you to the Konjiki-do (Golden Hall) portion of Chusonji Temple. This is the only temple remaining from the 12th century and was built by the founder of Hiraizumi, Fujiwara no Kiyohira to memorialize all living things that died in Tohoku during the power struggle from which he emerged victorious from.

The gold-gilded Konjiki-do within the temple was built as a mausoleum and contains the mummies of four generations of the founding Fujiwara clan.

Motsuji Temple

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The main attraction here is the picture perfect and expansive Jodo garden which has stood for some 800 years. The Buddhist philosophy of Jodo states that it is “expansive without end and everything there is beautiful”. The garden here was created to depict the scenery described in the sutra using the Heian era garden landscaping technique. The center piece here is the Oizumi ga Ike, a pond measuring 180m in the east-west direction.

Mt. Kinkeisan

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This 98.6m high mount located between Chosonji and Motsuji is said to have a golden chicken and rooster, after which it is named, buried at its peak as protectors of the city. When the famous haiku master Matsuo Basho visited Hiraizumi, he sadly remarked that only Mt. Kinkeisan retains its formed after the surrounding temples and buildings were razed to the ground.

Access: Take JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Ichinoseki Station (2 hr. 33 min.)