Onsen-Hopping in Historical Kaga
Near historical Kanazawa City, Kaga City in Ishikawa Prefecture is a popular tourist destination attracting people from all over the world. Kaga is actually the name of a large province in the old system, and it encompasses the entire prefecture which includes Kanazawa. Kaga City is equally rich in history and culture as its neighboring tourist city of Kanazawa, and it’s also a great onsen hot spring town that features four different onsen areas with diverse water qualities. Only half-an-hour train ride from Kanazawa, here visitors can unwind themselves by bathing in a variety of onsen spots, eating great food and shopping for traditional crafts in Kaga Onsen-kyo, the region of Kaga hot springs.
Kaga Onsen-kyo consists of the Yamanaka, Yamashiro, Katayamazu, and Awazu onsen areas, each of which has different attributes and spring qualities due to the surrounding natural environment and its history. Thanks to their proximity to each other, visitors can easily enjoy onsen-hopping.
Yamanaka Onsen has about 1300 years of history and it is known that historically famous people including monks, poets and writers visited there in the past. The average temperature of the spring is 48°C and it contains mainly calcium, natrium, and sulfate. It is said to be effective for neuralgia, muscle pain, chronic dermatitis and poor circulation. Beautiful nearby Kakusenkei Gorge is a popular hiking route among onsen visitors. Also, it is the home of famous crafts like Kutani-yaki (ceramics) and Yamanaka Shikki (lacquerware).
Korogi Bridge over Kakusenkei Gorge is a scenic hiking spot before or after bathing in the onsen.
Situated almost in the center of Kaga Onsen-kyo, Yamashiro Onsen is the biggest one in this area and also has an over 1300-year history. Cultural icons in the turn of the 20th century, such as Rosanjin Kitaoji, Akiko Yosano and Kyoka Izumi, sojourned to Yamashiro. With an average temperature of 64°C, via bathing it is good for recovering from fatigue by bathing and it is good for kidney stones and constipation.
Visitors can enjoy foot bathing casually.
Located north of Kaga City, Katayamazu Onsen was developed after the mid 19th century beside the Shibayamagata Lagoon. It still has about a 150 year old history and is the newest onsen town among the four. The mineral rich spring’s temperature is as hot as 72°C, and it helps heal rheumatism and gout. It is a luxury to enjoy soaking in the onsen while watching the magnificent view of the reflection of the Hakusan Mountains on the lagoon.
Outdoor bath allows you to immerse yourself in the wild and tranquil nature while leisurely soaking.
Another century old onsen is Awazu Onsen, which is actually located in Komatsu City. There is a ryokan which opened in the 8th century that is still in business. The spring’s temperature is about 45°C and very mild, making skin feel supple after emerging.
The other unique aspect of Kaga Onsen-kyo is that it has an established Soyu (public bath) system. Each of the four onsen areas have original Soyu, allowing visitors to bathe without staying at hotels and ryokans.
Welcomed by “Lady Kaga”
Formed in 2010 to promote tourist business in their hometown, Lady Kaga is an all-female group of business owners, artists, restaurateurs, chefs and professionals living and working in Kaga Onsen-kyo. Visitors can enjoy services and items produced from a female point of view. Every Saturday from 2-3 pm from June to September, Lady Kaga welcomes visitors at JR Kaga Onsen Station.
Lady Kaga in New York
This February, two Lady Kaga members, Yuri Nakamura (Kappo Kaga) and Saori Kishida (Yu no Yado Hakusan Shobutei) visited New York to promote Kaga Onsen-kyo. Chopsticks NY asked them for three recommendations and they picked the following:
1. Lady Kaga Guided Tour (Mini tour offered only at Yamashiro Onsen)
2. Oyatsu Kippu (A set of three tickets to exchange for sweets offered in the Kaga Onsen-kyo)
3. On-Tama Ice Cream (Ice cream topped with onsen tamago [soft, silky boiled egg cooked in the onsen hot spring])
The Hokuriku Shinkansen (Hokuriku Bullet Train) is scheduled to start service in March 2015. This shinkansen will connect Tokyo and Kanazawa in two and a half hours.