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2022.03 Experience the Saba Kaido: Connecting Japan’s Ancient Capitals to the Sea [PR]

Obama is a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan in Fukui Prefecture. It flourished as a fishing port during the Heian period (794–1185), when it provided seafood and other goods to the ancient capital of Kyoto via a trade route known as the Saba Kaido (literally “Mackerel Highway”). The traditions and way of life born from that period are still alive and well, and a visit to four historic inns in Obama offers the chance to glimpse (and taste) what life was like in ancient Japan. 


Experience the quiet countryside at Matsunaga Rokkan 


The roads of the Saba Kaido spanned approximately 70 kilometers through forested mountains, connecting Obama to Kyoto for more than 1,500 years. Seafood such as mackerel, as well as trade goods and culture from the Asian continent were carried from Obama, and the traditional culture of the court was brought back to the seaside town from the capital.  


Matsunaga Rokkan is a small village along the Saba Kaido in the mountains near Obama. Life in Matsunaga Rokkan is typical of a satoyama, settlements in the foothills of mountains that make use of the natural bounty around them. In addition to beautiful landscapes, visitors can explore Myotsuji, a tranquil temple said to have been built in 806 by a prominent Heian-period general as a plea for peace. Myotsuji is a National Treasure, and visitors can engage in morning meditation in its main hall. 


Rest and relax with a stay at Fujiya, a traditional inn. Witness the beauty of the seasons from your room as you look out over the garden. If you listen closely, you can hear the soothing rush of the nearby falls. Fujiya offers a vegan course for dinner, made with fresh, locally sourced vegetables. Wake early the next morning to engage in meditation at Myotsuji Temple, and return to the inn for a vegetarian bento accompanied by okayu rice porridge, for breakfast. 


Please note that meditation at Myotsuji and breakfast are not included in the lodging fee. 


Fujiya, the only inn servicing Matsunaga Rokkan


A beautiful vegan dinner course


Ancient Myotsuji Temple marks the passage of time amid nature.


Meditation experience at Myotsuji Temple


Taste the bounty of the ocean at Sea-Auberge Shitsumi


Uchitomi is a remote district of Obama nestled between the rias coastline of Wakasa Bay and the mountains of Fukui. The fishery here lands many types of seafood; oysters, octopus, abalone, turban shell, puffer fish, seabream mackerel, and seaweed. Sea-Auberge Shitsumi is a small fishing community in Uchitomi, a collection of 11 houses where visitors can appreciate living life in harmony with the sea. 


Guests can stay in the community’s sole inn, a renovated house that overlooks the beautiful sea. Stroll through the village and stop by Restaurant Uchitomi. Here, the fare isn’t just fresh seafood and vegetables, but also gibier (wild game) from the nearby forests. These elements are collectively referred to as Uchitomi cuisine, a culinary experience that can only be tasted locally.  


Sea-Auberge Shitsumi is a small fishing village in an inlet of Wakasa Bay.


An accommodation at Sea-Auberge Shitsumi. The sea is visible through the window.


Uchitomi cuisine is made from local ingredients harvested from the mountains and sea.


Explore Obama’s historic townscape 


A portion of Obama’s townscape has been preserved since the 14th century, giving visitors a chance to experience the atmosphere of old Japan. Obama Machiya Stay is a program where guests can stay in machiya (merchant houses) around the city, many of which would not seem out of place on the narrow, historic streets of Kyoto. One such venue is Sanchomachi Sanoya, a building that served to host geisha and their guests until the late 19th century. Sanchomachi Nagata is another well-preserved machiya where guests can stay.


Some machiya are equipped with a kitchen, so you can buy local ingredients and make your own dishes. Or you can visit one of the town’s restaurants, and taste Kyoto-born flavors that have been handed down through the centuries. 


Electric bicycles are available to rent for a fee and make navigating the town quick and convenient. Visit Jinguji, a historic temple founded in 714, where elements of ancient Buddhist and Shinto traditions can be seen. Stop by Mantokuji Temple, where for a fee, you can visit its beautiful dry landscape garden which has been designated a National Site of Scenic Beauty. 



Sanchomachi Sanoya


Jinguji Temple, founded in 714, is in the middle of nature.


Mantokuji Temple’s dry landscape garden elegantly blends mountain greenery with white sand.


Rest and relax in a retro post town 


Kumagawa-Juku is a post town in the mountains on the Saba Kaido where travelers would stop for the night to rest at an inn. Yao-Kumagawa is one such inn, made up of traditional lodging houses reminiscent of days gone by.


Visitors can prepare their own dinner using local ingredients in the kitchen of their accommodation. Another option is to order the freshly made “Kumagawa no Omotenashi Zen” set, homemade food cooked by local women. To try a guided culinary experience, sign up for the Satoyama Kamado Gohan experience, where you can try cooking in a traditional kamado stove and enjoy a meal in a 130-year-old house. 


The streets of Kumagawa-Juku have retained the atmosphere of a tranquil post town.


Some accommodations have a fully equipped kitchen.


The Kumagawa no Omotenashi Zen


Cook using a traditional kamado oven during the Satoyama Kamado Gohan experience.


How to get to Obama


It takes about two hours to get to Obama by car from Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, or Kanazawa. By train or bus, it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Osaka, 1 hour and 45 minutes from Kyoto, and 2 hours and 30 minutes from Nagoya or Kanazawa. To visit from Tokyo, fly to Kansai International Airport, or take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station, which takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Please visit the official sites of each inn for more information on lodging. 


Related Links


Matsunaga Rokkan


Sea-Auberge Shitsumi


Obama Machiya Stay



WEB:https://yao-kumagawa.com/ (Japapnese)

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