Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Golden week holidays - part 2

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I had been to Ichinomiya city in Aichi prefecture to visit my in-laws during the golden week holidays. We usually use flight for the travel. However this year due to the long holidays, we went from Akita to Tsuruga city in Fukui prefecture by sea, did some sightseeing in Fukui prefecture, and then went to my in-law’s home by train. Today I will write about our sightseeing in Fukui prefecture.
On May 01, hubby and I reached Tsuruga seaport at about 5.30 am. We took a bus from the port and reached Tsuruga railway station at 6.15 in the morning. We left our baggage at the front desk of the hotel named ‘Toyoko Inn’ where we were going to spend that night. Fortunately, we had to walk only a short distance with our baggage as the hotel was only 200 meters away from Tsuruga railway station. Then, we returned back to the railway station and bought railway tickets to visit a city named Obama.
Me standing in front of Tsuruga railway station

Platform for Obama railway line in Tsuruga station

1. Obama city
Obama city is located in the south-west of Fukui prefecture. Obama means ‘little beach’ in Japanese. In the Ritsuryo period, Obama was the capital of Wakasa province. From ancient times to the middle ages, Obama had deep historical and cultural ties with China and the Korean peninsula. Obama was the best and closest natural harbor from the ancient capital, Kyoto, or Nara. Many temples related to the Yamato dynasty are located in Obama, and the city is called ‘Nara by the sea’. Obama city is blessed with a rich natural environment, with fisheries being the main industry. Recently, the city has received much publicity because it shares its name with that of U.S. President Barack Obama. In fact, there are a number of Japanese people with the family-name Obama! Obama city is served by the Obama line of West Japan Railway Company. It took us about one hour by train to go from Tsuruga to Obama city.
Railway platform indicating Obama station

Obama railway station

1a. Walking down the streets of Obama city
It was only 7.30 am in the morning when the train reached Obama railway station. It was too early to do any sightseeing, and so hubby and I had a cup of coffee and some sandwiches for breakfast from a convenience store. Later, we walked down the street near the railway station area. There was a certain sense of serenity and peacefulness within this small city. A lot of posters saying ‘I love Obama (president)’ and ‘the Obama for Obama’, illustrations of President Obama and Obama city, and flags of many countries were put up along the pedestrian roads. Local businessmen and residents say that the reasons for the strong support for President Obama has less to do with international politics and more to do with local tourism. In any case, it was nice to see a very foreigner friendly city. Hubby and I walked around and explored the city and its natural beauty for almost an hour or so. Obama bay was just about a kilometer away from the railway station and we leisurely walked towards the bay area. The view was simply superb.

Me standing in a pedestrian road in Obama city

Hubby standing in a pedestrian road in Obama city

Me near Obama bay

Hubby near Obama bay

1b. Miketsukuni Wakasa Obama Syuku Bunkakan (Mermaid plaza)
First we visited Mermaid plaza which is a food and eating habits cultural museum. The museum showcases the food, culture and traditional crafts of the Wakasa region through exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs. ‘Miketsukuni’ refers to the regions that provided food for the emperors in the ancient times. Wakasa Obama was an important provider of salt and seafood and is recorded as a Miketsukuni in the Engishiki - a body of laws compiled during the mid Heian period (794-1185). Wakasa Obama is famous for a kind of flatfish called righteye flounder (karei in Japanese) and the museum has a gallery depicting the lifestyle and culture of traditional Wakasa fishermen. There is another gallery depicting the local culinary traditions and food habits of the people during different seasons in a year.
Mermaid plaza

Inside Mermaid plaza

Gallery depicting the lifestyle of traditional Wakasa fishermen

Gallery depicting traditional culinary habits for various seasons

Obama city is also renowned for Wakasa paper, Wakasa lacquered chopsticks, Wakasa agate accessories, and other traditional crafts. With a history of 1200 years, Obama city continues to make strong and remarkable Japanese traditional paper called Wakasa washi. Wakasa paper is made from carefully selected Japanese trees and the water of Obama. In addition, it is known that almost 80% of Japan’s total lacquered chopsticks are produced in Obama. There were displays of beautifully colored Wakasa papers as well as a collection of traditional and modern designed Wakasa lacquered chopsticks in the museum.
Wakasa washi paper

Wakasa lacquered chopsticks

In the museum, there was a section devoted to President Barack Obama. In the recent years, Obama city has received a lot of publicity because it shares its name with that of President Obama. In 2006, Obama as a senator gave an interview to a Japanese television network where he noted that an official looking at his passport at Narita airport told him that he was from Obama city. The Obama city hall heard about the interview and the mayor, Toshio Murakami, sent Senator Obama a set of lacquered chopsticks, a DVD about the city, and a letter wishing him the best. Later on, Senator Obama thanked the city for their gifts and support, saying ‘I look forward to a future marked by the continued friendship of our two great nations and a shared commitment to a better, freer world’. On January 20 2009, the day that Barack Obama was sworn into office as the 44th president of USA, the city of Obama celebrated with women dancing the Hawaiian hula dance at the Hagaji temple to celebrate the inauguration. In the souvenir shop of the museum, we bought ‘I love Obama’ T-shirts and manjyu (a confectionary) packets with President Obama's animated face printed on them.

Hubby posing with animated photos of President Obama

Senator Obama's letter (2008) to Obama city. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Hubby wearing 'I love Obama' T-shirt and holding a packet of Obama manjyu

1c. Wakasa fishermen’s wharf
Next, we visited the Wakasa fishermen’s wharf, which was located adjacent to the Mermaid plaza building. Wakasa fishermen's wharf houses restaurants, various seafood souvenir shops, and a tour boat ticket office. There were several restaurants specializing in traditional seafood cuisine. We had an early relaxed lunch of kaisen chirashi-zushi (selection of assorted seafood fish and vegetables on a bed of sushi rice), sashimi, and negitoro-don (chopped up fatty tuna fish belly over rice) in one of the restaurants that offered a beautiful view of the waterfront. After lunch, hubby bought tickets for ‘Sotomo tour’ pleasure boat at the tour boat ticket office.
Wakasa fishermen's wharf

Seafood souvenir shop at the wharf

Our lunch at a restaurant in Wakasa fishermen's wharf

Hubby relaxing after lunch at the wharf

1d. Sotomo-meguri
Sotomo is a beautiful scenic place which represents the magnificence of Wakasa bay. The place offers a superb breathtaking view of fantastically shaped rocks, arched rocks, and caves in Wakasa bay. We took an excursion boat to enjoy the view close up, which departed from the Wakasa fishermen's wharf. The boat sets out regularly every hour from 9 am to 4 pm. This spot is one of best scenic places of the national park in the bay of Wakasa and is a favorite tourist attraction. We visited spiritually beautiful rock formations that were created from thousands of years of encroachment of the Sea of Japan and its rough waves. In addition, we enjoyed the majestic view of the turquoise blue sea water. The massive and unique shaped rocks (example daimon-shomon rock formation), caves, and cliff extended to about 6 km and guidance was given to all the passengers during the 50 minute boat ride. The scenic view was very pleasing to the eyes. Unfortunately, we forgot to recharge the battery of our digital camera the previous day. So we had to take some of the best scenic photos using a disposable camera.
Excursion boat for Sotomo-meguri departed from Wakasa wharf

Me in the excursion boat

Amazing shapes of rocks and turquoise blue sea water

Beautiful shapes of rocks. Above seven photos were taken with a disposable camera.

Hubby standing in front of daimon-shomon rock formation

After enjoying the fantastic view of Sotomo-meguri, hubby and I returned back to Tsuruga city at about 3.30 pm and checked into hotel Toyoko Inn. We took rest for an hour and recharged the battery of our digital camera. At about 4.30 pm, we went out to enjoy the streets of Tsuruga and also visited a famous shrine nearby.

2. Tsuruga city
Tsuruga city is located roughly in the center of Fukui prefecture and is well known for the beautiful rich nature. Tsuruga has been known as a natural good seaport since early historic times, and this seaport town facing the Japan Sea flourished as a sea gateway to foreign cultures. The city is famous for fresh quality seafood like Tsuruga blowfish (fugu) and Echizen crab (gani). Tsuruga also has nuclear power plants for electricity generation.

2a. Tsuruga statues
While walking down the street of Tsuruga city, hubby and I saw about twenty or so bronze statues, each about four or five feet tall. These statues were of characters and scenes from the popular 1970s anime Uchu Senkan Yamato (Space Battleship Yamato) and Ginga Tetsudo 999 (Galaxy Express 999). An exhibit of the artwork of Reiji Matsumoto, the creator of these shows, was held in the city in 1999 as part of the hundredth anniversary celebration of the city, and was accompanied by the erection of the statues in the downtown area.

Me posing with Tsuruga statues

While walking down the street, we also saw Tsuruga FM broadcasting Harbor radio station.
Tsuruga FM harbor radio station

2b. Kehi shrine
After walking down the street of Tsuruga city for about twenty minutes, we reached Kehi shrine (jingu). This shrine has a long and distinguished history. It is believed that this head of tutelary shrines in Hokuriku was built in 702. The 10.9 meters tall shrine gateway (torii), painted in red, was built in 1645 and is designated as a national important cultural asset. It is counted as one of the three great shrine torii gates of Japan along with Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara prefecture and Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima prefecture. The architecture and style of the shrine was truly brilliant. The glorious and stately precinct is classed as the best in the Echizen area. There is a bronze statue of Matsuo Basho, one of the greatest haiku poets of the Edo era, who visited and composed some haiku poems at this shrine. There were three small shrines adjacent to Kehi shrine. Hubby and I prayed in these shrines.
Main torii gate at Kehi shrine

Hubby standing in front of another torii gate in the shrine precinct

Kehi shrine

Hubby standing with the statue of Matsuo Basho

One of the three small shrines located adjacent to Kehi shrine

Me ringing a bell in one of the three small shrines

2c. Marusanya
Hubby and I had dinner at a restaurant named Marusanya. Marusanya is one of the most popular seafood restaurants of Tsuruga city. This restaurant was actually an izakaya. An izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves a lot of food to accompany the drinks. The restaurant offered a large variety of seafood delicacies. We ordered sashimi, karei no nitsuke (simmered righteye flounder flatfish), kani-don (crab over rice), and kushi-age (deep-fried skewers). Hubby enjoyed his dinner with many glasses of Kirin beer and Japanese sake. I had Chinese tea. The seafood dinner was tasty and very satisfying.
Our dinner

Hubby enjoying his dinner with Kirin beer

After the dinner, we went back to hotel Toyoko Inn, which was adjacent to Marusanya restaurant. Hubby immediately retired for the day. I watched television for some time before going to bed.
Our room at the hotel

It had been a very busy and satisfying day for us as we did a lot of sightseeing. The next day we did sightseeing in Azuchi town of Shiga prefecture and then went to my hubby’s ancestral home in Ichinomiya city of Aichi prefecture. I will write about it in the next post.


Anima said...

I love the painting in which President Obama wearing kimono! ha ha ha.
I saw people in Obama city cheering Mr.Obama when the presidential election was held. They were dancing and singing 'Obamaaaa! Obamaaaa!'. I laughed my head off!
Your photos of the seaside are nice...I want to go somewhere like this!

Sonal said...

Very nice pictures Manisha. I saw Obama town in pictures too. Nice to know more about it. Lovely sea side pictures.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Anima. Yeah, I have also seen on television that people of Obama city cheered Barack Obama a lot when he was elected as a president. In fact, there is a pachinko parlor named 'Daitoryo (President)' in Obama city!

We enjoyed the Sotomo cruise very much.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Sonal. As I wrote in the previous comment, there is a pachinko named 'President' in Obama city. It is a very common name for a Pachinko. But what a coincidence!

Seaside was really nice. If possible, sometime I would like to visit another seaside place also :)