Japan’s best-kept secret: the gorgeous beaches of Takahama town
You’ve probably never heard of Takahama town in Fukui Prefecture, but its glorious beaches are a hard secret to keep
Here’s an intriguing fact for you – Japan is the first country in Asia to obtain the Blue Flag award for its two beaches, one of which is Wakasa Wada Beach in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, which borders Kyoto Prefecture on the southwest. Yes, you heard it right – the land of patterned kimono and high-tech gadgetry is also home to the some of the best beaches in the world.
Wakasa Wada Beach
Just a short two-hour journey from Kyoto sits the quaint beach town of Takahama. Few western travellers have heard of it, but as it’s slowly being discovered, it won’t be long before tourists flock to the sandy shores of Wakasa Wada Beach.
Hugging a big bay and with two protective arms stretching out to the Sea of Japan, the pristine beach here slopes gently into a perfectly calm ocean. Visitors come to sunbathe, relax on the beach with a book, frolic in the warm waters, or do something a little more active like surfing or kayaking. Takahama town is also a perfect place to paddleboard and cruising the translucent waters on a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) will definitely blow your mind.
About 3km (2 miles) east of Wakasa Wada Beach is Shiroyama Park, a verdant corner of Japan with plenty of rustic charm. Visitors come to walk the promenade and look at the sea caves scattered along the coastline from a viewing platform. Alternatively, get a rod and join the locals to fish on the north side of the park.
In the evening, the sky here burns with a palette of reds and oranges, earning this charming park a spot on the ‘Top 100 best sunset spots in Japan’. The magical moment is best enjoyed with a cold Japanese beer in hand.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to indulge in some of Takahama’s culinary offerings. Being a beach town means there is an enviable supply of fresh seafood, and the Japanese certainly know how to prepare them.
For a luxury meal, try Yukai (1-1-4 Nishimitsumatsu). This fine restaurant specialises in Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course dinner prepared by its outrageously talented chefs.
Travellers on a budget can still get a wholesome meal at Michi-no-Eki Seaside Takahama (46-10 Shimokuramochi). Apart from a bento set or donburi (Japanese rice bowl), you can also choose to satisfy your craving with a steaming bowl of Tonkotsu ramen or a refreshing plate of cold noodles with salad.
Western travellers in search of familiar comfort food should make a beeline for E’p Italian Bistro (12-13 Kaneyori) which takes pride in using local ingredients in their dishes. Overlooking the Wakasa Bay, the views are superb too.
As an ideal weekend break destination, Takahama town has a pleasant range of lodgings for every price point. Our firm favourite is Muramiya (121-10 Wada). This ryokan, meaning traditional Japanese hotel, features cosy rooms with tatami floors and futon beds, though the best-selling point is the gorgeous sea views. At 10,000 Yen (US$90) per person, you get a room, free breakfast and dinner.
For a moderately-priced room with easy access to the beach, try Tokioka-so (51-4 Sonobe). From 7,500 Yen (US$68) per person, it comes with a traditional room, breakfast and dinner.
It’s also worth considering a Japanese-style bed and breakfast. Turtle House (127-48-2 Wada), located in a quiet fishing village, is a wise option.
A train from Kyoto to Takahama only takes two hours and costs 4,400 Yen (US$40). Tickets can be purchased at any JR Station and this route is covered by Japan Rail Pass (www.japan-rail-pass.co.uk).
Once you’re there, the easiest (and most fun) way to get around is on a bike. Pedal and electric bikes can be rented from Wakasa Takahama Station, generally for under 1,000 Yen (US$9).
Takahama and its Wakasa Wada beach are delightful hidden gems of Japan and they make a perfect day trip or weekend getaway from Kyoto. Book your ticket now, because it’s not long before everyone else catches on.