I had big plans last Saturday. They involved getting up early, climbing aboard something with both wheels and an engine that was heading northeast, and not getting off until I had reached the mountains of Hakusan National Park – Hakusan being one of the three highest peaks in Japan, conveniently located just 32 miles in a straight line northeast of Fukui. Trouble is, there are no straight lines that lead there, it being a mountain and all, and I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going or how to get there without a car. The other trouble is that I slept late on Saturday (and when I say “late,” I mean late, like 10:30 am, not what unserious late sleepers mean when they say late, which is usually something sad and ridiculous like 7:30 am. If I say I slept “really late,” then we’re talking about a noon situation. Homey don’t play when he’s talking about sleep.) Combined with the fact that, for astronomical reasons I’ve yet to get my head around, the sun sets here at 4:55 pm, this means I was suddenly looking at a window of daylight exploration time, once I arrived at wherever I was going, that was in the very low single digits.

A change of plans was clearly in order. Instead of the remote and freezing wilderness of Hakusan Park, I soon found myself aiming at a far less ambitious goal: the Ichijodani Asakura Clan Ruins on the rail line just a few miles to the southeast of Fukui.

Short description, since you’re doubtless begging for one: wedged into the crease of land where the flats east of Fukui burst into huge wooded hills, the site is mostly just the remnants of the castle town that was home to five warring lords of the Asakura Clan, which ruled the region for about a century, from 1470 -1573. When the Asakura Family was defeated by Oda Nobunaga in 1573, the town was burned and its castle reduced to smoking rubble, which frankly seems to be the fate of a lot of castles, since, by their very existence they’re basically daring anyone and everyone with an army to try and reduce them to rubble. About 40 years ago, the nearby townspeople started excavating the site, since their village has absolutely nothing else going for it (trust me). They uncovered the shape of the whole town, including a house belonging to the lord, samurai residences, temples, houses of merchants and craftsmen, streets, etc. Unfortunately, all that exists of this grandeur today is a few low rocks in the shape of buildings and the former front gate, which I strongly suspect is not the original, because why wouldn’t they burn it, too? You’re going to burn the castle and every building in town but leave the front door untouched? I don’t think so. See castle logic above.

Anyway, it made for a relaxing afternoon and some nice pictures. And I didn’t even have to put up a tent.