Fukuchiyama is a Castle Town about 70 kilometers from Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Nestled in a southern part of the valley, it is surrounded by mountains to the South, East and West. The Castle was constructed in the warring states period under the direction of Akechi Mitsuhide, a general in the late 1500s, and allowed controlled over agricultural flatlands north of the Castle. Today the castle houses a folk museum and also covers the history of the city.
With such history it is no wonder that it is the second oldest city in Kyoto Prefecture, and with just 80,000 people the lifestyle is more relaxed compared to Kyoto. If you wander around the Shimoyanagimachi and Teramachi areas, you can still see traces of its history, with many old buildings and shops that date back to the 19th Century.
In April 9 and 10 each year there is a Fukuchiyama Castle Festival, while in fall come and see the beautiful autumn leaves at Choanji Temple, which is also called Momiji (maple) temple.
Nearby is the Sandanike Park Recreation Area, which also houses a science museum, planetarium, as well as a beautiful lake and gardens.
There is also a zoo which is famous for Miwa, the piggyback riding macaque and Uribo, the boar who is the other half of the famous couple. The Zoo is also resident to Grey Kangaroos, Penguins, Orang-utans and Raccoons.
The zoo is open from 9am to 5pm all year, except Wednesdays. If Wednesday is a public holiday, then it would close on Thursday instead. Admission is very budget friendly at 210 yen for adults and high school students, and 100 yen for children.
Fukuchiyama is also the southern terminal for the Kita Kinki Railway which takes you to Amanohashidate, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. From there you can head to Ine Bay, which is famous for boathouses that line the water and is the scene of many movies and TV dramas.
While Fukuchiyama is considered off the beaten track for most travellers to Kyoto Prefecture, it is actually easier to get to than I thought. It is about 1 hour 20 minutes away from JR Kyoto on the Hashidate Limited Express, and 1 hour and 30 minutes north of Osaka on the Tango Explorer or Monju/ Kitakinki Limited Express. JR Pass holders can use these trains for free.