Zen, Alive. Fukui

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Fukui may not be full of large shopping malls or sightseeing destinations that attract large groups of tourists from overseas, but the lush environment, terroir and distinct climate of Fukui have led to the creation of our outstanding traditional slow food and sake cultures, while Fukui's history and climate have shaped our traditional arts and crafts. Our deep Zen-like spirituality has been handed down from generation to generation, becoming the cultural and historical heritage that lives on today.

Coming in Contact with Traditional Technique

Echizen Washi

Coming in Contact with Traditional Technique

On January 13, I took a 20-minute bus ride from JR Takefu Station, and walked to Echizen Washi Village in the Imadate area of Echizen City. Imadate is home to a washi paper industry with 1,500 years of history. The Echizen Washi paper made here is so renowned for its quality that until 1950, Japan’s banknotes were printed on Echizen Washi. Even today, Echizen Washi is used in famous buildings like the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in Temple in Kyoto, a national treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My first destination was the conjoined Okamoto and Otaki Shrines, the only shrines in Japan dedicated to Kawakami Gozen, the goddess of paper.

Kawakami Gozen
stately torii gate

The entrance is marked by a stately torii gate.

I made my way inside to the peaceful shrine grounds to offer up a prayer. The tranquility gave off a feeling of Zen, and as I brought my hands together I could almost feel my senses sharpening. This shrine is nationally registered as an important cultural property— it is a must-see!

Okamoto and Otaki Shrines

After paying my respects, I headed to Echizen Washi Village at the foothills of Okamoto and Otaki Shrines. The beautiful and charming townscape is filled with various workshops and businesses related to Echizen Washi.

Echizen Washi Village

My first stop in Echizen Washi Village was the Udatsu Paper & Craft Museum.

Udatsu Paper & Craft MuseumUdatsu Paper & Craft Museum

I got to see experts in traditional handicrafts perform every step of making washi paper, from preparing the raw materials to forming sheets of paper in a wooden mold.

making washi papermaking washi paper

They also offer a hands-on washi paper-making experience here: an expert washi paper maker taught me the basics, and I got to try making washi paper by hand for myself!

I got to try making washi paper by hand for myself

Hand-made washi paper is a process that takes days from start to finish. If you don’t have that much time to wait for your own, you can take home washi paper made by an expert instead.

After trying out making washi paper by hand the traditional way, I headed to the nearby Papyrus House, where even very young visitors can try simple hands-on washi paper-making experiences. Papyrus House also has a great shop with all sorts of Echizen Washi products for sale.

all sorts of Echizen Washi products for sale

One of the most popular items here is goshuin-cho registers (used to officially record visits to temples and shrines) made of Echizen Washi — Echizen Washi’s 1,500 years of history help give these old-fashioned registers an especially “official” feel.

goshuin-cho registers made of Echizen Washi

There are a wide variety of styles available, making them a great souvenir!

Echizen Washi Village makes a great place to experience the spirit of Zen through Fukui’s traditional techniques.

Echizen Washi Village

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