Unforgettable Japan Part 2: Fukui

I am sure my son is not the only dino crazy three and a half-year old. It is the same with most of my friends’ sons. A few of them even had dinosaur themed birthday parties!

When my son told me he wanted to see dinosaur fossils, I honestly didn’t think I would end up in Japan. More than fifteen years ago, I saw some fossils in a Museum of Natural History in the UK but had no idea where is the best place to see them now. However, while researching the internet for his sake, I stumbled upon the Fukui Prefecture Dinosaur Museum.

Besides being the only dedicated dinosaur museum in all of Japan, this museum is one of the “World’s Three Great Dinosaur Museums” along with the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Canada and the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in China.

So if your kids want to learn more about pre-historical creatures and you are visiting Kansai. Do not miss this museum. It might be off the beaten track but it is worth the trip. Besides a TV crew filming there and a handful of other visitors, my family basically had the museum all to ourselves. I am only posting a few photos here but at the museum you get to see at least 20 to 30 fossils.

I can’t recommend this museum enough. This could very well be THE place to see that many dinosaur fossils and even those of pre-historic creatures such as the mammoth.

Most information are available in Japanese and English. Digital animation and robotic dinosaurs were extremely well presented and kept visitors amazed. My kids loved them!

Fukui city is around two and a half hours train ride from Osaka or Kyoto. It is approximately 3 hours from Kansai International Airport. Katsuyama, where the museum is located, is another hour from Fukui city.

The dinosaur museum is in the shape of a dinosaur egg at the foot of the Japanese alps. We were at Katsuyama on 13 April and the sakura trees were in full bloom! In Kansai, Sakura season had already ended but in Fukui and Katsuyama, spring had just began.

It wasn’t easy looking for accommodation in Fukui. Most of its hotels didn’t have an English site. It is still a place with few foreign tourists. I had to email one of the hotels (Hotel Riverge Akebono) which had a partial English site to enquire and fortunately I received a reply after a few days. We managed to reserve a Japanese styled room. When traveling with children it is always better to reserve the room via email as we managed to get a much better rate than offered by the internet system which only asked for the total number of people regardless of age.

While majority of the people we met in Fukui didn’t speak English, they were one of the friendliest and most helpful. We arrived too early to check into the hotel but when the manager saw us with an infant, he immediately asked the reception to contact the cleaning team so that we could have the room earlier. We arrived at 1.30pm and were handed the room keys at 2pm instead of 3pm which was great. The river just behind the hotel was lined with beautiful Sakura trees.

Being a rural town, the local train had many unmanned stations. To facilitate ticketing, there is a train ticketing lady on every train. Besides collecting payment and assisting senior citizens to their seats, these ladies are extremely warm and helpful. On discovering that we were tourists visiting the dinosaur museum, the lady not only gave us a brochure of the museum but also the train and bus schedule to and from the museum! They are the true ambassadors of tourism.

The Tojinbo, a rugged cliff formation by the sea is situated on the Echizen coast, 45 minutes on a local train from Fukui city. You can tell the ticketing office at the train station that you are going to Tojinbo and they will provide the train and bus schedule.

The scenery is nice, the waves amazing, the wind super strong and you can get a taste of Echizen crabs and seafood at the many eateries around Tojinbo. We found that the nearer the cliff, the more expensive they seem to be.  I had a delicious BBQ Squid but didn’t dare try the creature in the shell, whatever it is. My prince enjoyed a yummy seafood fried rice.

After lunch, I would recommend taking the same bus you alighted from to the Echizen Matsushima Aquarium since you are in the vicinity. It is a pretty old aquarium and not very impressive with the exception of these.

A glass tank full of tropical fish which you can walk on or even zzz on:) Remember to remove your footwear before going down the stairs.

The experience is simply tranquil and relaxing! It’s dreamland material:) Roll over and on one side you can admire the sharks, rays and hammerheads in the next tank.

The aquarium also had the friendliest dolphins that swam over and greeted my prince thrice. Off course, he was super thrilled!

And a room full of octopus, tiny sharks and fishes you can touch, if you dare…

How can I end off without mentioning the word fabric. If you are walking from the hotel to the train station (20 minutes walk), there is a fabric & craft store near Seibu (in front of JR Fukui station) but I didn’t get a chance to visit due to the rain. Nonetheless, the fabric store in Osaka had a lot more selection and there were many more items I wanted to buy on the trip back to Kansai now that the baby food have been consumed and I have more room in my luggage:)