The Natural and Historical Wonders of Wakasa Bay

The Natural and Historical Wonders of Wakasa Bay

Recommended Length: 2 Days

Discover white beaches, stone-age villages, beautiful wetlands, and fascinating food on this spectacular 2-day coastal journey. The bay is part of Wakasa-Wan Quasi-National Park and the shoreline stretches from Fukui City in the east to Kyotango (northern Kyoto) to the west.

Obama is approximately midway between Wakasa and Takahama, and makes a good place to stay. The city has a variety of accommodations including seaside resorts that offer fresh seafood meals and renovated wooden townhouses managed by Obama Machiya Stay.


Day 1: Tsuruga and Mikatagoko

Start your journey in Tsuruga, easily accessible on limited express and Hokuriku Shinkansen services from Kyoto, Kanazawa, or Tokyo. Take a stroll in Kehi no Matsubara, a beautiful pine tree park on the shore, and enjoy the contrast of the green pines and the white sands. On the other side of the peninsula is Suishohama Beach, known for its clear waters and fine sand. There are shops renting beach goods open during the summer swimming season and showers for rinsing off.

Traveling west along the coast brings you to Mikatagoko, a group of five lakes designated a UNESCO Ramsar Site for their biological variety and importance as a wetland environment. A series of channels and tunnels connect the lakes with varying salinity levels due to the mixing of freshwater and seawater, creating diverse habitats that support a variety of plant and animal species. The lakes are an important wintering ground for migratory waterfowl.

Tours operated by Mihama Lake Center allow you to explore the waters with a local guide on eco-friendly electric boats charged with solar power. Alternatively, rent a bicycle from Mihama Station and cycle the 42-km route around the lakes. It takes about 3 hours to complete and the terrain has no major changes in elevation, making it an easy route suitable for beginners. This can be included as part of a 126-km Wakasa Bay cycling route from Tsuruga to Takahama for visitors with the time.

For panoramic views of the lakes, visit Rainbow Line Summit Park at the top of nearby Mt. Baijoudake. Here you can enjoy sweeping views of the lakes, Wakasa Bay, and the surrounding mountains from observation decks and terraces where you can relax with a drink.

Many prehistoric remains from Japan’s Jomon Period (14,500–900 BCE), such as the Torihama shell midden, have been uncovered in this area. Jomon Roman Park at the base of Lake Mikata, one of the Mikatagoko, has reconstructed pit dwellings, and you can learn more about the lifestyles and cultures of Japan’s prehistoric peoples at the Wakasa-Mikata Museum of Jomon Period within the park.

Nearby is the slightly more niche, but no less fascinating, Varve Museum. Varves are annual layers of sediment deposits that can be used to determine archaeological and geological age, like tree rings. Discover how the varves of Mikatagoko attracted the attention of the international scientific community through the museum’s various exhibits and displays of varves that can be used to pinpoint historic events such as volcanic eruptions.


Day 2: Obama and Takahama

Obama was the capital of historical Wakasa Province and a seaport with connections to the Asian mainland. Its townscape of traditional buildings still retains the charms of its bustling past. Take some time to walk through the Obamanishigumi preservation district in the east of the city and enjoy the historical architecture.

Obama is also the starting point of the "Saba Kaido," an ancient highway used for transporting seafood to Kyoto. Learn about the food history of the Wakasa Bay area at the Miketsukuni Wakasa Food Museum. The facilities include a kitchen studio where visitors can create local dishes, and a workshop where visitors can try their hand at making traditional handicrafts such as lacquerware and washi paper.

West along the coast is the town of Takahama, famous for having Asia’s first-ever Blue Flag Beach, Wakasa Wada Beach. Blue Flag beaches are certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education for water quality, safety, and public environmental education. The beach has barrier-free shower rooms, toilets, and changing rooms, and life jackets can be rented at beach huts free of charge. Swimming season is between July and August, but beach cleaning events open to everyone are hosted by the local community every month. If you miss the date, garbage bags, gloves, and tongs are available to rent for free everyday if you want to do some voluntary cleaning.

Onward Travels

From Takahama, you can continue west along Wakasa Bay to northern Kyoto’s Kyotango City, popular for the scenic fishing village of Ine. Alternatively, return to Tsuruga for Thunderbird limited express services to central Kyoto, or go north to explore the rest of Fukui.