Tsuruga sits on a pretty piece of real estate, with Wakasa Bay frontage on the north end and, out back, lush highlands that stretch almost to Lake Biwa. Tsuruga City and environs were once the setting for the pitched battles of the Sengoku Period; the city soaked up the wealth generated by new shipping routes to the north, and was opened up to international trade in the Meiji. This is a city with pride in its history and no shortage of natural wonders.
Tsuruga Red Brick Warehouse
Tsuruga’s history as a port is a fascinating story, told, in part, at the Red Brick Warehouse. For centuries Tsuruga was a link out to Korea and China, and in 1899, it was opened to trade with the United States. When the railway linked Tokyo, the capital of a suddenly powerful empire, out to Fukui, Tsuruga was a key link between Japan and the rest of the world (surprisingly, shipping out to the Port of Vladivostok was a major concern there).
This warehouse complex is an example of embryonic globalization, built to house kerosene for the Chinese branch—called Mei Foo—of the John D. Rockefeller-founded Standard Oil Co. Inc. (predecessor to ExxonMobil), built of Dutch bricks by Portuguese, Flemish and Japanese workers. The unique history of the warehouse, and the fact that it survived over a century until its renovation in 2015, makes it a must-visit in Tsuruga.
Suishohama Beach is a white sand beach out on the cape that extends north of Tsuruga into Wakasa Bay. Suishohama has become the go-to spot for windsurfing and water sports, but it’s also a decent visit, if you’re only interested in going for a wade and soaking up the sun. When that sun sets, locals know that the beach is a great spot to catch romantic sunsets. Dusk comes early in the summer, and the sand is still warm with the summer heat as the sun turns the Wakasa Bay a stunning crimson.
Poet Matsuo Basho visited the shrine himself, and remembers it like this, in The Narrow Road to the Deep North: “...I paid a night visit to Kehi Shrine. It is the mausoleum of Emperor Chuai. The shrine looked divinely ancient, and with the moon shining in through the pine trees, the white sand before the deity was like frost spread out.” The Kehi Shrine's history stretches back centuries, destroyed and rebuilt many times over two millennia, most recently in the air raids on Tsuruga in the Second World War. Follow in Basho’s footsteps and visit this historic shrine in the Akebonocho.
Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum
This museum tells the story of Chiune Sugihara, a vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania, who assisted thousands of European Jews in fleeing from the Final Solution and Soviet pogroms in Poland around 1940. Sugihara wrote exit visas for Jews and others seeking escape from the madness of Europe in the Second World War. The refugees fled east, boarding trains to Vladivostok and then hopping ships that would take them to ports like Tsuruga.
Sugihara and the story of the Jews and refugees that escaped to Japan are virtually unknown. All the more reason to visit Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum.
- พิพิธภัณฑ์ท่าเรือแห่งมนุษยธรรมสึรุงะ (Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum)
Kehi no Matsubara
Kehi no Matsubara is a beach located right near the center of Tsuruga. It became part of a national forest preserve a century ago. Outside of the high season in late-July and August, the beach is peaceful and often empty. Come for a swim on a hot summer day, but feel free to come even after that season, for a stroll along the beach.