Regional cuisine and a gem of Japanese history come together at Maruoka Castle’s Tsukimachi Banquet Oboro in Sakai city, Fukui Prefecture. This year’s event — with sittings on October 28 and October 29 — is the first of its kind to be held at Maruoka, and it promises to be an evening to remember as you experience the castle and local culture in new and exciting ways.

Fukui, located in western Japan with a coast on the Sea of Japan, brims with history as well as rich and diverse traditions. It also boasts mouthwatering culinary traditions that make excellent use of the prefecture’s bountiful harvests from sea, field and forest. There is so much for the traveler to see, do and delight in there. Maruoka Castle’s Oboro event makes the prefecture even more of a must-visit destination.

Drinks, Dinner and Words of Affection in an Authentic Castle

Maruoka Castle, an Important Cultural Property of Japan, is one of the country’s oldest castle towers. Over the course of its roughly 400 years of life, it has survived and overcome much, including the Ordinance for the Disposal of Castles in the late 19th century and a destructive earthquake in 1948 that necessitated a rebuild. This tremendous undertaking was accomplished using mostly original materials from the Edo period (1603–1867) as well as master carpenters and traditional techniques. 

Though the castle provides plenty to see during its regular hours thanks to its incredible architectural features, from an impressive stone wall to a well-preserved, centuries-old wooden interior, the opportunity to dine in its shadow and wander its halls after hours, when fellow visitors are few and the castle quiet, is rare and shouldn’t be passed up.

The evening begins with aperitifs served on the top floor of the castle, an area usually off-limits to food and beverages. Savoring drinks in a historic Japanese castle is remarkable enough, but what sends this experience soaring to even greater heights is the view. From the top floor, you can see out over the Sea of Japan. And as you sip sake produced in Fukui, a prefecture renowned for its high-quality rice and pristine water, you’ll be able to watch the sun as it sinks below the horizon.

Also on the top floor comes the chance to channel a local figure from Japan’s feudal history: Honda Shigetsugu, father of the first lord of the Maruoka domain and a man famous for having written Japan’s shortest letter. Despite its brevity, the letter, which he wrote to his wife from the battlefield, was clearly composed with fondness and concern for his family.

Convey Your Truest Feelings

Write your own brief note, referred to as ippitsu keijo, to a loved one while enveloped in the atmosphere of the castle. In a few short words, you can convey your truest feelings, ones that are perhaps difficult to declare otherwise.

Once darkness falls, it’s time for an alfresco feast of fine food prepared by talented professionals from some of the region’s top restaurants. In charge of your meal are the chefs from Cadre, whose French cuisine shines a spotlight on Fukui Prefecture’s culture and traditions, and Respiración, a two-star Michelin restaurant serving Spanish cuisine in neighboring Ishikawa Prefecture. Together, the chefs create a meal celebrating the bounty of the region, which you’ll dine on under the night sky while seated next to the moonlit Maruoka Castle tower.

Sakai City and Its Surrounding Sightseeing Spots

Sakai has much to offer beyond its exceptional evening at Maruoka Castle. Visit the Tojinbo Cliffs — a kilometer-long stretch of columnar joints that rise to a height of 25 meters — for wild and rugged scenery. The Sea of Japan crashes against the rocky shore here. Over thousands of years, waves and wind have shaped the cliffs into a dynamic landscape that contrasts beautifully with the blue of the sea and the lush verdure that characterizes the shoreline beyond the cliffs. 

Until October 15, you can also enjoy the Tojinbo Sunset 2023 event, which features a café, market, yoga sessions, a cruise and other activities. 

For a peek into Sakai’s past, visit Mikuni Minatomachi, an old port town that once served as a stopping point for the kitamaebune cargo boats that plied the coastal waters of the Sea of Japan. As rail took over as the transportation method of choice, Mikuni Minatomachi lost its prominence as a port of trade. It didn’t lose its charm, however, which is something you can discover for yourself as you wander streets lined with old townhouses and shop buildings. You’ll also want to direct your feet toward the magnificent Takidanji Temple and Mikuni Shrine while in town. 

Another temple not to miss is Eiheiji, located not far from Sakai city in densely forested hills. Eiheiji, one of the head temples of Soto Zen Buddhism, dates back to 1244 and is home to more than 200 monks. If you possess a strong desire to experience zazen (Zen meditation), you’ll find opportunities to do so here either through a one-night stay in simple temple lodgings or as part of a stay at the newly opened Hakujukan hotel.

A Magical Evening and More in Sakai City

There’s no scarcity of options for visitors to Sakai and its environs. Exceptional experiences like the Tsukimachi Banquet Oboro event are simply the icing on the cake when it comes to what the area has to offer. Whether you choose to soak up Sakai’s spectacular nature or dip your toes into its rich culture, you’re bound to return home from your visit with a treasure trove of memories sure to last a lifetime.

More Info

Tsukimachi Banquet Oboro 

Venue: Maruoka Castle, 1-59 Kasumi-cho, Maruoka-cho, Sakai city, Fukui Prefecture

Dates: October 28 and 29

Registration is open until October 15. For more details and to register, please visit the event website.