10 December 2014

Fukui Prefectural Seaside Nature Center (福井県海浜自然センター)

rescued seahorse

Part 4 of the series: Satoyama Concept in Fukui

The Fukui Prefectural Seaside Nature Center can be found on the shores of Wakasa Bay.  Upstairs there is a museum about the region, while the downstairs has many interactive experiences for children.  There is a tall aquarium in the entryway with slots where guests can pet the sea life swimming inside.  Just left of the entryway is an aquatic petting zoo for children featuring sea slugs, star fish, and a variety of other sea animals.  A craft area has been set up where visitors can make bookmarks and cards to remember their visit using dried seaweed and washi paper. 

The museum not only gives information about the Wakasa Bay habitat, but also about the society that grew up around it.  One of the more fascinating things that we learned was that in the days before trains and cars, fish caught in Wakasa Bay were carried by foot to markets in the capital city of Kyoto.  This 70+ kilometer journey was undertaken by both men and women over an estimated period of 1,200 years.   The network of routes from the coast of Fukui to Kyoto came to be known as the Old Mackerel Road (鯖街道 / Sabakaidō) because mackerel (saba) was the most revered fish.  You can learn more about the Old Mackerel Road in John Moore’s Journeys in Japan (NHK World, November 11, 2014).  The mackerel was carried in baskets weighing 15kg that were balanced by a rod over the shoulders.  They would be packed with about 20 kg of salted mackerel and leaving the city Obama at dusk would be carried in a series of relays, sometimes via Lake Biwa, eventually arriving at the market at Demachiyanagi around dawn.  The museum had a sample set of baskets for people to try.  My twelve-year old son managed to get the baskets off the ground with great difficulty.  It is hard to imagine carrying them for many kilometres.  These days the Old Mackerel Road is a popular route for hikers (See: Oku Japan). 
Old Mackerel Road display

The only drawback to Fukui Prefectural Seaside Nature Center for foreign tourists is the lack of English signage.  A young staff member gave our group guidance who could speak English well enough to engage with my children.  Even if you speak little or no Japanese, many of the exhibits can still be enjoyed.  There is no admission charge so it is a great place to stop if you are travelling with kids.
Seaweed and washi paper crafts

There is a small beach behind the museum which my kids enjoyed immensely.  The highlight of my daughter’s summer vacation was her discovery of a seahorse stranded on the sand.  When she picked it up, it wiggled and she returned it to the sea, delighted to have saved the life of this beautiful, tiny creature. 

The Fukui Prefectural Seaside Nature Center (福井県海浜自然センター)
Official Website: http://www.fcnc.jp/
919-1464 Fukui Prefecture, Mikatakaminaka District, Wakasa, Sekumi, 18−2
Tel. 0770-46-1101

Access: Google Maps
- 40 minutes drive from the Tsuruga Interchange of the Hokuriku Expressway.
- 50 minutes drive from the Kohamanishi Interchange of the Maizuru Wakasa Expressway.
- 12 minutes by taxi from JR Mikata station.

Opening Hours:
9:00 – 17:00 (doors locked to newcomers at 16:30)
9:00 – 18:00 (July 21 – August 31)
Closed Mondays except on national holidays
Closed the day after a national holiday