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2D1N Kaga Onsen itinerary: Onsen, food, and culture (Part 1)

2D1N Kaga Onsen itinerary: Onsen, food, and culture (Part 1)

Kaga Onsen (加賀温泉) is one of Ishikawa Prefecture’s (石川県 Ishikawa-ken) hidden gems, located just to the southwest of the prefecture’s capital Kanazawa (金沢市 Kanazawa-shi). It’s just a 25-minute ride away from Kanazawa by Limited Express (¥1,530, one-way, unreserved seat), or 53 minutes by local trains (¥770, one-way). Kaga Onsen is actually a group of four onsen towns, and is a place full of hidden treasures and discoveries. Especially rare is the Kosoyu (古総湯) in one of the towns, which features a beautiful traditional wooden aesthetic from the Meiji Era (1868–1912). For the more adventurous, Kaga Onsen is also near to Mount Hakusan (白山), one of Japan’s three holiest mountains.

 

Getting around

This small, but mighty vehicle will carry you all around Kaga Onsen. (Image credit: Visit Kaga)

 

While many people often rent a car to drive around the area, Kaga Onsen actually offers a convenient tourist bus option. For ¥1,500, you can get the Kaga Onsen-kyo Passport (加賀温泉郷パスポート) which gives you unlimited rides on the CANBUS (キャンバス), the local tourist bus, as well as admission tickets for three attractions. Covering almost all the major local attractions, CANBUS has two different routes: the Mountain Route and the Sea Route. You’ll be spending most of the first day on the Mountain Route and the second day on the Sea Route. Check out the timetable here.

 

CANBUS (キャンバス)
Address (Terminal/Bus Stop No.1): Ri Sakumimachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa 922-0423
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Opening hours: 8am6pm
Fees: ¥1,100 (One-day ticket), ¥1,300 (Two-day ticket), ¥1,500 (Kaga Onsen-kyo Passport)
Tel: +81 761-72-7777

 

Relax in a Meiji-style bathhouse at Yamashiro Onsen

Meiji-style public baths are quite hard to find these days. (Image credit: reikow / CC BY-ND 2.0 & Visit Kaga)

 

Taking the Mountain Route of the CANBUS, hop off at Yamashiro Onsen (山代温泉), where you will be greeted by a beautiful wooden bathhouse in the centre of the roundabout. This centrepiece of the town is the Kosoyu Public Bathhouse (古総湯 Kosōyu), rebuilt in 2010 to recreate its Meiji Era aesthetic. Not only is the exterior striking, but the interior of the bathhouse is also rather unique. As you soak in the bath, admire the woodwork combined with coloured stained-glass windows that embody the strong Western influence during the Meiji Era.

 

Nothing beats relaxing and chilling after a soak in the onsen. (Image credit: Visit Kaga)

 

After you’re done soaking in the bath, climb up the narrow wooden steps to the air-conditioned rest area on the second floor. Stare out of the windows to people-watch, as you sit on tatami mats sipping hot tea. If you’re up for a second round, there is also the Soyu (総湯 Sōyu), a modern public bath facility, just opposite the Kosoyu. You can buy a single ticket for the Kosoyu at ¥500, or ¥700 for both.

 

Yamashiro Onsen Kosoyu Public Bathhouse (山代温泉 古総湯)
Address: Banshoendori-2-1, Yamashiro Onsen, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa 922-0242
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Nearest bus stop: Yamashiro Onsen: Soyu/Kosoyu (Bus Stop No. 5)
Opening hours: 6am10pm (Closed the morning of the 4th Wednesday of each month)
Admission fee: ¥500 (Kosoyu), ¥460 (Soyu), ¥700 (Both)
Tel: +81 761-76-0144

 

Sip on tea and traditional snacks around a hearth at Hazuchio Chaya

Some tea and traditional candies are amazing pick-me-ups for the morning. (Image credit: Teoh Xin Yi)

 

If you’re in the mood for some tea, there’s a quaint little street just opposite the Kosoyu where Hazuchio Chaya (はづちを茶屋) resides. Sit around a hearth as you sip on some tea, or dig into some local desserts such as zenzai (ぜんざい red bean soup) or, in summer, kakigōri (かき氷 shaved ice). The quaint, old-school atmosphere makes for a relaxing environment to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea with friends.

 

Hazuchio Chaya (はづちを茶屋)
Address: 18-59 Yamashiro Onsen, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa 922-0242
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Nearest bus stop: Yamashiro Onsen: Soyu/Kosoyu (Bus Stop No. 5)
Opening hours: 9:30am6pm (March to October, Closed on Wednesdays), 9:30am5pm (November to February, Closed on Wednesdays)
Tel: +81 761-77-8270

 

Grab lunch at Yamanaka Onsen

The wide streets are great for walking and exploring, as you pop in and out of different shops. (Image credit: Visit Kaga)

 

Head over to Yamanaka Onsen (山中温泉) by the CANBUS, and explore the main street of the town Yuge Kaido (ゆげ街道). There’s a wide variety of cafes, street-side food vendors, as well as shops selling lacquerware and ceramics to make for a nice window-shopping experience. This is also a great place to grab brunch or lunch, with a wide variety of food options available.

 

Yuge Kaido (ゆげ街道)
Address: Yamanaka Onsen, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa 922-0129
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Nearest bus stop: Yamanaka Onsen Kiku no Yu/Yamanaka-za (Bus Stop No. Yamanaka 2)

 

The exterior of the cafe looks like it came straight out of a Studio Ghibli film. A quaint wooden building in the midst of a forest overgrown with moss. (Image credit: Visit Kaga)

 

Perhaps one of the best places to get lunch would be at Higashiyama Bonheur (東山ボヌール), a quaint cafe located in a wooden building just across the Daishoji River (大聖寺川 Daishōji-gawa). Dine on their signature Beef Stew Lunch Cake Set for ¥1,980, which comes with their popular beef stew, a hot drink, and a homemade cake. As you eat, you can look out the window to glance out at the forest or look around you at the various artwork and books located throughout the cafe.

 

Higashiyama Bonheur (東山ボヌール)
Address: 1-19-1 Yamanaka Onsen Higashimachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa 922-0114
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Nearest bus stop: Yamanaka Onsen Kiku no Yu/Yamanaka-za (Bus Stop No. Yamanaka 2)
Opening hours: 9am5pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Tel: +81 761-78-3765

 

Stroll around the temple grounds of the National Treasure, Natadera 

Kondo Hall in all its architectural beauty. (Image credit: Jura Tone)

 

After a hearty lunch, it’s time to head back out for more sightseeing. The next stop is the Natadera Temple (那谷寺), whose main shrine is designated as a National Treasure and contains a small wooden statue of Kannon (観音) carved back in 717 AD by the monk who founded the temple. Also a must-see is the Kondo Hall (金堂華王殿 Kondo Keouden), a beautiful two-storey building that houses a large statue of Kannon.

 

The cliffside is sometimes cordoned off for safety, but you can still see how the caves and steps are dug into the cliff itself. (Image credit: Visit Kaga)

 

Fascinatingly, the temple also features caves and steps carved out of a rocky cliff that still contains a number of stone statues till today. If you have the time, be sure to visit the Sanzoneki Ryubien (三尊石 琉美園), which is the oldest garden in Ishikawa Prefecture and is designated as a place of scenic beauty by the prefectural government.

 

Natadera Temple (那谷寺)
Address: Yu 122, Nata-machi, Komatsu-shi, Ishikawa 923-0336
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Nearest bus stop: Natadera Temple (Bus Stop No. 7)
Opening hours: 8:30am4:45pm (March–November), 8.45am4.30pm (December– February)
Admission fee: ¥600
Tel: +81 761-65-2111

 

Make your own traditional Japanese crafts at Yunokuni no Mori

Paint your own cute designs on lacquerware. (Image credit: 芳蘭 徐芳蘭 / CC BY 2.0)

 

Get some hands-on action at the Yunokuni no Mori (ゆのくにの森), a traditional handicraft village where you get to design and make your own crafts. If you’re confident in your painting skills, these are some things you can try out: painting a memorable design on Japanese lacquerware, trying your hand at pottery, designing your own Japanese washi paper, filling your own scented bag, or even filling your own dorayaki—all of which you can bring back as a memento (except the dorayaki, of course).

 

Yunokuni no Mori (ゆのくにの森)
Address: Na 3-3 Awazu-onsen, Komatsu-shi, Ishikawa 923-0393
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Nearest bus stop: Kaga Traditional Cultural Amenity Yunokuni no Mori (Bus Stop No. 8)
Opening hours: 9am4:30pm (Reception for activities end 30 minutes before closing time)
Admission fee: ¥550 (Activities are charged separately)
Tel: +81 761-65-3456

 

Watch the sunset over a specialty brew and a Galette at Umibouzu

Marvel at the beauty that is this Galette. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

One of the hidden treasures of the area is Katano Sea Side Cafe Umibouzu (うみぼうず) with its beautiful seaside veranda. As you watch the sunset over the horizon, sip some of their special in-house blends and dig into their Umibouzu Galette. This French savoury crepe is almost impossible to find in Japan, and is made in-house to order. If you’re a fan of coffee, apart from their house blend, Umibouzu also sells coffee beans from around the world. While its seaside location is breathtaking, it also makes it difficult to access by public transport. If you’re not renting a car, you may have to hail a taxi to access this place. 

 

Sea Side Cafe Umibouzu (うみぼうず)
Address: 3-6 Katanomachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Opening hours: 10am7pm (Closed on Wednesdays)
Tel: +81 761-72-5169

 

Stay the night with a Hedgehog at Kurosaki Base

The house is jam-packed with all sorts of amenities, including card games, musical instruments like the piano, and even game consoles like the Nintendo Switch. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

In an onsen town like Kaga Onsen, you are definitely spoilt for choice with ryokans as far as the eye can see. However, if you’re on a budget, or are looking for something a different, then try a homestay at Kurosaki BASE (黒崎BASE). Yuki, the owner, is a warm and welcoming host, and can also give you a lift from the station if needed. In summer, you can hold an outdoor barbeque in the yard, or in winter, you can snuggle underneath the kotatsu (炬燵).

 

Harrison is here to warm your heart. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)

 

His house has a warm and homely vibe, and best of all it has a really special guest: Harrison the Hedgehog! This little adorable hedgehog is sure to make you go “awwww, so cute” as it runs about. This will be a great way to end the night with your friends, chill out with the various amenities in the house, and rest up before another fun-packed day of exploration tomorrow. 

 

Kurosaki BASE (黒崎 BASE)
Address: Yu-266 Kurosakimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0565
Nearest station: Kaga Onsen Station (加賀温泉駅)
Tel: +81 90 3764 5664

 

And that’s it for Day 1 of the itinerary. Stay tuned for the second part, where I’ll be taking you through a fruit-picking farm, a ship museum, and some freshly-caught seafood haunts!

 

All information presented here is based on the writer’s last visit on January 2020.

 

Header image credits: reikow / CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Writer's profile: Jeremy is a first year Masters student at the University of Tokyo. He loves travelling across Japan to find new unexpected discoveries, and he loves the food he finds there even more. Hiking in picturesque locations, eating delicious local delicacies, and taking in the traditional sights of Japan are his particular favourites.

 

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