“Miketsu-Kuni”… A culture born from the sea.
Wakasa was an ancient province of Japan (roughly modern-day Fukui Prefecture) which is why the name `Wakasa Takahama` is still used to this day. Situated along the Japan Sea, the Wakasa region has always been blessed with abundant marine products, and during the Nara and Heian periods it became famous for providing important sea products such as fish and salt as offerings (minie御贄) to the Imperial Court of Kyoto, which led to the province being nicknamed Miketsu-kuni (御食国Province where the Emperor eats).
The fresh seafood would be transported along a series of mountain passes known as Saba Kaido (Mackerel Highways) that connected the Wakasa region to the ancient Capital of Kyoto, and this interchange would contribute to the development of a unique culinary culture.
“Western Saba-Kaido”… Ancient mountain route connecting Takahama and Kyoto!
Saba Kaido (Mackerel Highways) is a general term for the old roads that connected Fukui Prefecture and the Japan Sea to the ancient capital Kyoto, and although a wide variety of sea products were transported along these routes, they take their name from the word “Saba” meaning Mackerel, as particularly large amounts of mackerel were transported. Fresh seafood caught in Wakasa would be carried on foot along these winding routes that traverse through a series of mountain passes before reaching northern Kyoto.
These Saba-Kaido came to play an important role for cultural exchange between Wakasa and Kyoto that continues today, and famous seafood such as Wakasa-guji is still treated as an essential ingredient at high-end restaurants in Kyoto.
Takahama is the starting point of the Western Saba-kaido.
The birthplace of Sushi
An excavation at Nara‘s Heijo Palace Ruins has unearthed writings that mention offerings of sea bream sushi from the Takahama area, making this the oldest known evidence of sushi. Today, Takahama is still great for sushi lovers, with favorites like grilled mackerel chirashi-sushi.
“Protecting our oceans for future generations”
Due to Takahama‘s beautiful beaches and geographic location it was once widely known as one of Japan’s leading beach resorts, making it a summer retreat for many Kyoto and Osaka residents. As a result, Takahama was once home to more minshuku inns than anywhere else in Japan. The Wada area in particular still has many minshuku inns where you can stay, and the unique traditional atmosphere created by the inns can still be enjoyed today.
To protect and preserve the beautiful beaches of Takahama for future generations, Wakasa Wada Beach became the first beach in Asia to acquire the international environmental certification “Blue Flag”, helping it to attract new attention as a “world-class beach”.
Rediscover! Historical sites and cultural treasures.
Being a bustling port town of the Wakasa region and thanks to its cultural exchanges with Kyoto, Takahama developed a rich culture that was influenced by both the land and the sea, and its cultural roots can still be traced back today.
The beloved Mt. Aoba has always been considered a sacred pilgrimage site, and is dotted with ancient shrines and temples that date back to more than 1300 years ago.
There are also many historical shrines and temples throughout the town that house National treasures and important cultural assets that tell tales of Takahama’s long history.
History & Culture
Shrines & Temples
“Takahama Seven-Year Festival” (Shichi-nen-Matsuri)
Held only once every six years, the Shichi-nen-Matsuri is a spectacle well worth seeing. The week-long festival, which is centered around Sakichi Shrine has been upheld for more than 450 years, and is one of the biggest festivals in the entire Wakasa region.
Since ancient times, epidemics and disasters were believed to be the work vengeful spirits, and in order to appease these spirits the people would conduct Matsuri as an offering.
For 7 days, the town comes alive as the locals carry huge portable shrines (Mikoshi) and festival floats (Hikiyama) through the streets, with a variety of traditional performances whose techniques have been handed down and preserved throughout the generations, making it a designated intangible cultural property.
The next Shichi-nen-Matsuri will be held in June 2025.
The World of Zen
Takahama is the birthplace of the Zen Master Soyen Shaku, a pioneer of modern Japan.
Born in 1859, Master Soyen Shaku was an exceptional Zen monk of the Rinzai School. Well known for mentoring Natsume Soseki in Zen meditation, he would also become the first Zen Master to introduce Japanese ZEN to the world at the first `World Parliament of Religions` held in Chicago in 1893. Translated into English by his most famous disciple D.T.Suzuki, Soyen’s texts were the first aimed at an American audience, and would come to bridge a cultural gap between the Eastern and Western worlds.
In Takahama there is a monument to Soyen’s birthplace, with tours where you can follow in the footsteps of this great man, and also temples where you can experience Zen meditation.