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Obama 小浜

Sotomo, Obama
Sotomo, Obama

Obama (pop. 30,000) is a castle town in Fukui prefecture facing Wakasa Bay on the Sea of Japan. The city gained world fame in 2008 with the US presidential election won by Barrack Obama. The name 'Obama' (小浜) stands for "little beach" in Japanese. The local feudal lords were known as the Obama family.

Obama city is listed as one of the 100 most beautiful historical scenes of Japan, thanks to its well preserved traditional houses and its picturesque setting on a wild and rugged, saw-toothed coastline. The historical neighbourhood is known as the Nishigumi (小浜西組)

There are 24 Shintō shrines in town, the most aesthetically pleasing being the Sengen-jinja (浅間神社). The oldest is the Wakasa-Hiko-jinja (若狭彦神社), originally erected in 714.

Myōtsū-ji Temple, Obama
Myōtsū-ji Temple, Obama
Gardens of the Mantoku-ji Temple, Obama (photo by 663highland - CC BY 2.5)
Gardens of the Mantoku-ji Temple, Obama

The Budhhist Haga-ji Temple (羽賀寺), Wakasa-Kokubun-ji Temple (若狭国分寺) and the Myōtsu-ji Temple (明通寺) are among the oldest temples in Japan. They were founded respectively in 716, 741 and 806. Their structures are later reconstructions though. Haga-ji's main hall was rebuilt in 1447 and renovated in the 1960's. Myoutsu-ji dates mostly from the 13th century. Wakasa-Kokubun-ji was entirey rebuilt in 1704-10.

Only ruins and a reconstructed turret remain of Obama Castle. The castle traces its roots in the early 17th century, when Kyogoku Takatsugu received the fief of Obama from the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu in reward for his loyalty at the famous Battle of Sekigahara (1600). The castle was destroyed by a fire in 1871.

The scenic coast of the Wakasa Bay Quasi-Natonal Park is known as the Sotomo (蘇洞門), meaning 'between the caves', owing to the numerous caves on the shore between Cape Echizen and Cape Kyo-ga-misaki.

Traditional houses in Obama Nishigumi
Obama Castle
Coastline near Obama, Japan

How to get there

Access by public transport to Obama isn't very easy due to its isolated position away from the main railway lines. The journey from Kyōto to Obama's Seihama station (about 2,500 ¥) takes about 2 hours 30 minutes with a transfer at Tsuruga (敦賀). The trip from Nagoya, also via Tsuruga, takes a bit over 3 hours (3,250 ¥). There are few trains via Tsuruga, so check the timetables in advance if you don't want to have to change train 2 or 3 times.

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