Fukui was built on agricultural, the sea trade, and most importantly, traditional trades, like papermaking, ceramics, brewing, and even manufacturing eyeglasses. The legacy of those craftspeople and their workshops is preserved in modern-day Fukui, and it’s one of the main reasons people visit the prefecture. Here are a few places to experience the arts and crafts of Fukui.
Udatsu Craft Center
Located east of Echizen City, within walking distance of the expansive Washinosato Park, the Udatsu Craft Center (sometimes translated on maps as Udatsu Paper and Craft Museum) is an attempt to preserve the traditional crafts of the Echizen region. On the grounds of the Center stand the recreated homes of the washi makers, complete with the equipment required to produce paper the old-fashioned way. Visitors can join traditional craft workshops, or watch someone else complete the labor-intensive process. The museum is one of a handful of sites in the area that are devoted to washi manufacturing, but Udatsu Craft Center is one of the most accessible and comprehensive.
The Megane Museum in Sabae pays tribute to the region’s history as a base for eyeglass manufacturing. The museum charts Sabae’s early history as a center of cheap manufacturing, up until today, when, despite cheap labor and materials in China and Southeast Asia edging out most Sabae producers, the region is still renowned—now, not for cheap manufacturing but for high-end, precision, handmade products, stamped with foreign brands like Chanel and Prada, or marketed within the country by artisanal makers and high-end domestic marques. Apart from touring the museum, visitors willing to invest approximately 20,000 yen can take a workshop where they make their own pairs of glasses by hand (a shorter workshop walks visitors through making an eyeglass strap). The attached Megane Shop sells locally-made eyeglasses, ranging from utilitarian and traditional to extravagant luxury pieces.
Echizen Lacquerware Traditional Industry Hall
Lacquerware, essentially carved wood coated with a shiny, hard finish, has been produced in the Echizen area for centuries. This facility in Sabae hosts a gallery showcasing the craft of lacquerware, the Echizen Lacquerware Cooperative's workshops, as well as a space for lacquerware workshops. Stop by the attached cafe, Wanwan, where everything is served in lacquerware made in-house.
Misaki Tansu Shop
Tansu refers to a sort of chest, made usually from elm, cedar or cypress, that range from rough-hewn cabinets to elaborate trunks that would have held for noblewomen of an earlier time the prestige of Goyard luggage. Echizen City, which sits on the territory once occupied by a historical province of the same name, has been known for centuries as a home to some of the finest tansu craftsman, working with wood cut from the hills around the region. Misaki Tansu, a surprisingly spacious but somewhat unassuming shop in an old neighborhood in Echizen, is home to carpenters and craftsmen that keep the art and craft of tansu-making alive. Using traditional methods, the shop turns out tansu, as well as modern and traditional furniture, including handsome cedar beds. And don’t worry about carting furniture home again, the shop will ship products within Japan and assist with setting up international shipping.