Unique blend of tradition and innovation
Mikuni-Minato (Sakai City)
November 20th, 2016
by Yuri Iwasaki

There is a huge demand for new buildings and houses in Japan. Traditional buildings and houses have been disappearing as owners and developers choose to replace them with contemporary properties, instead of renovating or remodeling them.

However, Japan has an opportunity to turn many of the old ones into tourist attractions. For example, in Kyoto, machiya (町屋), i.e., traditional Japanese-style houses, have been renovated and used as cafes, restaurants, art galleries and hostels. Likewise, Mikuni-minato (三国湊) a neightbprhood in Sakai-City (坂井市), in northwestern Fukui, has a similar tradition.


The Tsumesyo Mikuni (詰所三国)opened in December 2015. The 110-year-old house was renovated and transformed into a luxurious accommodation under the supervision of Alex Kerr, an Eastern Cultures Researcher from the United States.


Kerr was expected to showcase the “Mikuni-style”, integrating history and culture with the contemporary.



Mikuni-minato is an elongated port town, extending along the mouth of the Kuzuryu River (九頭竜川).  Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the town flourished as a port of call for freight vessels known as Kitamae-Bune (北前船). These vessels travelled all over western Japan, including the Kansai (関西) and Setouchi (瀬戸内) regions.  People and goods gathered in this small port from all over Japan.  Therefore, this town was well developed, and consisted of many merchants and shipping agents.

4p740x425They were open-minded enough to incorporate western technology into their local development. For example, in the 1870s, a harbor was built under the supervision of a Dutch engineer, George Arnold Escher, who was hired by the Japanese government as a foreign advisor.

5p740x425They were influenced by the tradition and culture of other domestic regions, such as Kyoto and Osaka, too. The Kinpoji Temple (金鳳寺) is well known as a place where local wealthy merchants enjoyed composing Haiku (俳句), traditional Japanese poems.

6p740x425 However, after the development of the railroad, Mikuni-minato went into a gradual state of decline starting in the early 20th century.


Recently, other traditional Japanese houses besides the Tsumesyo Mikuni, have been renovated one after another which has brought about a cultural revival to this port town.

Yoshikatsu Shimomura (下村禎勝) renovated an 100-year-old house and opened the bonsai shop called “Mikunien (みくに園)” in March of 2016. He transformed the entrance hall into a gallery for bonsai. His retro-inspired shop has been attracting many people, especially youngsters.

8p740x425Old warehouses were renovated and used as a French-style delicatessen and an American-style Knick Knack shop, both of which are mixing Japanese and western cultures.

9p740x425While there has been some change, they have proudly maintained their tradition from generation to generation, too.   The Mikuni Festival (三国祭) has a 260-year history.  In May, massive samurai figurines are mounted on floats and paraded around town. The festival brings as many as 100,000 visitors each year.

10p740x425Those floats are stored in garages and warehouses found throughout the town, another symbol of Mikuni-minato.
Visit Mikuni-minato, and enjoy exploring the “Mikuni-style”, a unique blend of tradition and innovation.

















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