We saw a dinosaur

If Tyrannosaurus Rex was around now, they’d be pretty embarrassed by lunch. Upstart mammals, evolved from the butt-ugly therapsids eating the dinosaurian descendants And by descendants, we are talking chickens.

Sorry T-Rex, your kind evolved into chickens.

No wonder he keeps roaring at us.

The day began with another meal, one of the best hotel breakfasts we’ve had in Japan. Or maybe I’ve just missed eating food. The usual hot buffet stuff, plus noodles and Japanese curry. There’s fresh fruit, including grapefruit and dragonfruit that remind me of trips to Thailand. The pastries and breads, they are more stuff of dreams.

Going to need to do a lot of exercise after this.

Thinking we’d still be mentally in a different time zone after the end of daylight savings and the one hour difference from Sydney, I’d booked an early pair of trains to Fukui. It sort of works, but we are all still tired as we haul our luggage to Shin Osaka Station. Then it’s Thunderbirds Are Go aboard the train of that name. On the wrong side to see the beautiful expanse of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest.

Th Thunderbird ride is shortened compared with my previous trips on it, because the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension to Tsuruga opened exactly a month ago. The high speed train actually waits for our train, which is running late. Yes, late.

Racing up the escalators, the crowd make it in time to the luxurious high speed train, the interior red and black with lots of legroom between the rows of seats. Then it’s off, only one stop between us and Fukui.

The renewed Fukui Station is fresh and grand and there are dinosaurs everywhere. Pictures of dinosaurs, statues of dinosaurs. Lego statues of dinosaurs, animatronic dinosaurs and even a dinosaur made from flowers. And a big Plarail layout of children’s toy trains. With some dinosaurs on it.

We visit the tourist information centre for maps and timetables, then drag our luggage to the nearby hotel. Out the front is a water feature, a maple and a cherry tree, petals from the blossoms drifting down in the wind like snow. After leaving our luggage, we return to the station, which is full of souvenir stands and eateries.

The Echizen Railway to Katsuyama. isn’t part of the JR network, so we require separate tickets. A single electric train car waits for us on the elevated platform. This is my kind of train ride!

Starting its run along elevated tracks along the Shinkansen line, we return to ground level and pass through the suburbs of Fukui city, which gradually thin out into a more rural landscape with rice paddies between factories and houses.

Then the track becomes steeper as we rise towards the mountains through a river valley. Some of the more distant mountains still have snow from winter.

Many stations are wooden, retaining a sense of history. There are rows of cherry trees, blossoms sadly past their prime. Pink wildflowers grow in carpets, while red and yellow tulips adorn gardens.

I won’t say it’s amongst the most scenic routes I’ve been on in Japan, but there is a simple pleasure in trundling through rural Japan.

As we pull into the terminus of Katsuyama, a silver egg is visible in the distance, an Easter egg with the foil w. A bus is waiting outside the old black wooden Katsuyama station to take us there. Over a bridge, carp streamers hung across the river. Past road works, the barriers held up by green dinosaurs, past little shops and banks and other little features of rural Japanese towns. It was the kind of town I love to stop off in and explore.

The Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum sits outside Katsuyama, atop a hill. In `1989 dinosaur excavations began in the prefecture and so, in typical Japanese fashion, they didn’t just build a small dusty museum to display their finds. No, they constructed an architectural marvel, complete with three levels of fossil and dinosaur displays from across Asia and the world.

It’s not just a few skeletons and rocks, it’s a huge collection of skeletons big and small, along with animatronic versions. More than that, they are displayed in taxonomical groups with informative panels allowing you to gain an understanding of the similarities, differences and evolution of the different species.

There are displays of geology, plants, mammalian and other groups’ evolution. It is really interesting and informative, especially if you have some prior knowledge and interest in the area. More than that, the scale of the dinosaurs is apparent. It is easy to imagine your reaction had you met one in reality.

(You can also see a couple of model railway layouts on the top floor. Just saying…)

Prior to our entry to the museum, we share a couple of lunches from the cafeteria near the bus stop. Big plates of dinosaur curry and katsudon, decorated in a prehistoric fashion.

All dinoed out, we return the way we came. I take some time at Katsuyama Station to take photos of the little black electric train.

It’s late by the time we return to Fukui. We walk over to the only department store, a Seibu, and catch the escalators up to Loft, where we just buy a few pens and stationery items. Outside is a promotion for products from Hokkaido, and B is convinced to purchase some dried scallops.

We have a dinner that was supposed to represent a selection of local produce. The other two love their sashimi, and the pork Katsuyama gets eaten, but I end up with the bowls of soba. Then there’s free ramen at the hotel after a soak in their hot baths. As always, I prefer the outdoor bath, the feeling of a cool breeze as relief from the hot water.

If only the trees beside the baths were ginkoes and cycads instead of maples and flowers then we might be keeping our eyes peeled for another dinosaur.

Filed under: ,