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Tracing the Legacies of Echizen

An extraordinary journey that takes us from the incredible nature, culture and riches of Fukui Prefecture to the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto via the “Saba Kaido”, or otherwise known as the “Mackerel Route”, an ancient network of roads that connects the former capitals of Nara and Kyoto to the once bustling seaport of Obama in Fukui Prefecture. These roads from the coast to the capitals served as a conduit for ideas, beliefs, innovations, and aesthetics that would help shape Japan’s complex culture over the centuries. The “Saba Kaido” is primarily used for transporting seafood – and in particular, salted mackerel, from the bountiful Wakasa Bay, but would also be used by Buddhist emissaries, samurai lords, fishmongers and peddlers of sea salt. Today, these roads have been granted National Heritage status, and some segments of the old route can still be hiked in their original, unpaved conditions.

This journey outline is by no means fixed. As the traveller takes centre stage in our planning – from the type of lodging to daily activities – your journey will be crafted to suit you.

Day by Day Highlights

Day 1
Arrive Komatsu / Yamanaka Onsen

Arrive into Komatsu Airport in Ishikawa where a comfortable drive arrives us into the refined and calming surroundings of Yamanaka Onsen, a beautiful and idyllic 1,300 years old hot spring village tucked in the mountainous Kaga region. Take a walk along the serene nature of the Kakusenkei Gorge with stunning sceneries in autumn. Witness alluring bridges such as the Ayatori Bridge, designed by the late avant-garde filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara and the cypress wood Korogi Bridge that are some of the most photogenic spots of Ishikawa Prefecture.

Visit the revered Yamanaka Soy Sauce Factory for a tour of the fermenting process and understand why Yamanaka Shoyu is the leading brand condiment for many exquisite restaurants and ryokans in the region. Later, a short drive arrives us at the Matsuura Sake Brewery, established since 1772 and renowned for their sparkling Sen-labelled sake that is highly representative of the region.

Day 2
Yamanaka Onsen (Excursion to Mikuni & Tojinbo Cliffs)

Embark on a sightseeing cruise to marvel at the incredible Tojinbo Cliffs, designated as a National Natural Treasure, in the Echizen Kagakaigan Quasi National Park featuring spectacular columnar joints of pyroxene andesite that continues along the dramatic rugged coastline for more than 1km. On the 30mins cruise, we will witness up close the stunning formations sculpted millions of years ago by erosion and strong waves of the Sea of Japan. Returning back on land, visit the atmospheric Tojinbo Shopping Street, adorned with a variety of shops and stalls parading fresh seafood and local produce. Be sure to check out the popular Yamani Suisan, established more than 80 years ago as a fishery wholesaler and today a seafood store and restaurant specializing in the freshest seafood including its signature Echizen snow crabs, so revered that it is the only crabs delivered annually to the Japanese Imperial Family.

Continue with a pleasant drive to the historic port town of Mikuni, where we explore the bustling Kitamae-dori street lined with cafes and shops that still retains its retro landscape and vestiges of wealthy merchants back in the day. Make a stop at the Inkyojo, an intimate auberge and restaurant where we will participate in making your own Echizen Crab bowl using female “Seiko crab” learning to peel and arrange your crab bowl like a professional before tucking in to enjoy.

Day 3
Yamanaka Onsen / Katsuyama / Echizen Ono / Eiheiji

Arrive at the incredible Seidaiji Temple, built in 1987 by the late Kiyoshi Tada who built an incredible temple featuring Japan’s largest five-tiered pagoda, a large Buddha Hall that houses the 17m tall Great Buddha. A short drive away arrives us into the castle city of Echizen Ono, regarded as Fukui Prefecture’s “Kyoto” with its time-honored setting, architecture and atmosphere as well as its incredible Echizen Ono Castle.

Remarks: The “Castle in the Sky” phenomenon is seen between October to April where a sea of clouds appear around the castle, making it one of the most incredible views of Japan. Viewing this phenomenon is possible at the nearby Inuyama Castle ruins, on Kameyama Hill where you will require to hike anelevation of 324m on mountain trails (20mins easy hike). The phenomenon requires certain specific weather conditions to be met and therefore is not guaranteed for picture-perfect moments.

Day 4
Eiheiji (Culture & Crafts of Echizen)

Explore the heart of Echizen where we make a visit to the legendary Washi Studio of Iwano Ichibei, a living “National Treasure” to learn about his brand of “Echizen Hosho” pure kozo sheet papers that has continued the traditional ways of production. Later, continue to the unique Takefu Knife Village, a cooperative born in the 1980s to revitalize the time-honored traditions of Echizen blade making of over 700 years. In the contemporary facility, we enjoy the chance to witness artisans at work, learning the techniques of Takefu knife-making.

Visit the beautiful Echizen Pottery Village, featuring natural gardens and splendid scenery that masks the underground resources of pottery clay and stone that helped cement its status as one of six ancient and distinctive pottery styles of Japan. On an insightful visit, we have the opportunity to visit the studio of a pottery maker, see the nostalgic kilns as well as witnessing a collection of traditional houses with beautiful gabled roofs contrasting against the white walls and black pillars.

Day 5
Eiheiji / Mikatagoko / Tagarasu / Obama

This morning before breakfast, we have the opportunity to participate in the morning service prayers before dawn by the monks of the Daihonzon Eiheiji Temple, including sutra reading and incense burning. Founded by Zen Master Dogen in 1244, the Soto Zen Monastery is one of Japan’s most impressive temple complexes – comprising 70 structures connected by covered walkways and home to over 200 monks and nuns. Our visit to the temple offers the opportunity to reconnect with your inner peace and serenity amid spectacular surroundings.

Continue our journey south, eventually into the domains of the Wakasa area, arriving at the surreal Mikatagoko “Mikata Five Lakes”, consisting of the lakes Mikata, Suigetsu, Suga, Kugushi and Hiruga, clustered together in a small area on the edge of the Wakasa Bay. Each of the lakes has a different depth, salinity, which creates different color hues. Enjoy a chairlift ride to Summit Park on the Rainbow Line where a series of stunning terraces allows spectacular panorama of the lakes to take in the surreal scenery. Worth a visit is the Fukui Prefectural Varve Museum, presenting the varves of Lake Suigetsu – thin layers of sediments that pile up at the bottom of lakes and these varves of Lake Suigetsu displayed more than 70,000 years of natural history.

Day 6
Obama / Kumagawa-juku / Kyoto

This morning, we have the chance to visit the Obama Market Fish Auction where freshly-caught seafood from the Wakasa Bay are unloaded and then auctioned to wholesalers, inns and restaurants. Visit some of the fishery farms along the Wakasa Bay to a “Torafugu” Puffer Fish Farm, considered to be the most expensive of edible pufferfish in Japan characterized by its plump, firm flesh and light sweetness.

Later, enjoy an inspiring cruise on the Sotomon Meguri, allowing you to witness the dynamic and rugged scenery of Wakasa Bay created by the rough waves of the Sea of Japan, including the surreal Sotomo Arch, stretching 6km of the coastline, adorned with incredible natural beauty such as the famous Omon and Komon rocks, as well as a variety of dramatic arches, crevices and waterfalls.

Day 7

Experience an exclusive access to the striking UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kiyomizudera Temple before the crowds where the priests will take you into the inside track for a sunrise visit before breakfast. Return to SOWAKA Kyoto for breakfast and there after, we head out to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the final spot on the “Saba Kaido”. Home to Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868, generations of emperors from the time of Emperor Kogon’s ascendency in 1331 till Emperor Meiji’s transfer to Tokyo in 1869, have resided in the incredible grounds for more than 540 years. Visit the Demachi Masugata Shopping Street – the ancient final stop of the “Saba Kaido” for merchants before being distributed to the imperial family.

This evening, step into a magical world as we unravel the beautiful illuminations of the Kodai-ji Temple. Enshrining the Daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his wife Nene, the temple founded in 1606, be mesmerized by the stunning beauty enhanced with lightings and projections that create a sensory experience the moment you walk through its bamboo forest.

Let’s plan your perfect escape. To start the conversation, contact us via our interactive form or drop us an email at


Practical Information

Locations covered

Yamanaka Onsen, Mikuniminato, Katsuyama, Echizen-Ono, Echizen-shi, Eiheiji, Mikatagoko, Obama, Kyoto

Recommended months to travel

Late March – Early December

Level of difficulty


Indicative price

SGD$9,000 - $11,000/pax based on twin-sharing, on a private basis. Excludes international flights.

As we’ll customise your journey based on your preferences and needs, please note that this indicative price is just a rough estimate. Prices can fluctuate depending on season, type of accommodation and activities/experiences chosen (private vs. shared) etc.

This journey outline is by no means conclusive. It is just a guideline and can be tailored according to your comfort level, interests and preferences for every detail from accommodation to activities.

This journey outline is by no means conclusive. It is just a guideline and can be tailored according to your comfort level, interests and preferences for every detail from accommodation to activities.

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