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Ishikawa Prefecture: The Top-class Hot Spring Inns of Kaga Onsen
Araya Totoan
An open-air bath at The Kayotei overlooking the verdant hills of Yamanaka.

Ishikawa Prefecture lies on the west coast of Japan's main island, a part of Hokuriku in the larger Chubu, or "central", region. It is best-known perhaps for its capital city of Kanazawa, an old castle town rich in history and natural beauty and surprisingly compact in size (a good thing -- more on this later). Kanazawa offers a range of sightseeing destinations and cultural experiences -- not to mention the tasty food -- that will delight history buffs and artisans alike.

Although it is certainly not to be missed, Kanazawa is not all that Ishikawa Prefecture has to offer. Travelers to Japan -- both first-timers and repeat visitors alike -- are sure to know of the country's nationwide passion for hot springs; well, Ishikawa is no exception as home to Kaga Onsen (among others) which consists of four smaller hot spring towns including Awazu, Yamashiro, Yamanaka, and Katayamazu. Those looking for a peaceful getaway with a steamy bath to melt away the weariness of travel need look no further than these small, somewhat secluded hot spring villages tucked amongst the verdant mountains and valleys of Ishikawa. Kaga Onsen's soothing hot springs -- and their purported healing powers -- are said to have been discovered more than 1,000 years ago, and in addition to the famous public bath houses here, visitors can find a number of top-class ryokan to choose from. Continue below for some of our top choices.

Ryokan featured below:



Hoshi Ryokan (Awazu Onsen)
Hoshi Ryokan

Hoshi Ryokan in Awazu Onsen is the second oldest hotel in the world still operating today, only a handful of years behind another Japanese inn. This piece of living history has flourished and expanded significantly since its grand opening in the early 700s, and today a variety of accommodations are on offer, from standard grade rooms to luxurious, high-end suites. Whether you're staying in a room fit for the emperor (seriously) or fit for a family vacation, you will find Hoshi's service to be unwaveringly attentive and sincere. The spacious, communal hot spring spas are quite an experience, and the painstakingly prepared cuisine will delight your palette like only the finest traditional Japanese fare can.

Hoshi Ryokan
A standard Japanese-style room.

Hoshi Ryokan
An upgraded room with a garden view and design done in the Kaga Domain's traditional colors. One can't help but remember that this inn was actually in operation when this area still was the Kaga Domain.

Hoshi Ryokan
Hoshi's communal baths are quite spacious with a decidedly luxurious ambiance.

Hoshi Ryokan
Among the numerous things for which they are famous, Hoshi Ryokan is renowned for their traditional Japanese cuisine. After partaking of such a feast, there will be no doubt left in your mind as to why.



Beniya Mukayu (Yamashiro Onsen)
Beniya Mukayu

Beniya Mukayu, located up a wooded hill in Yamashiro Onsen, exudes a quiet cool from the time you pull up outside its doors. Its unique style seemlessly blends a modern chic with distinctly traditional Japanese design. Walking through its peaceful halls feels much like walking through a museum of modern art, and a step into a guest room imparts a sense of comfort and class with carefully arranged simplicity. The ryokan begs to be explored, from the mountain garden with tea house, to the upper floor yoga space and balcony. In addition to the area's famous hot springs in both communal and private ensuite baths, Mukayu offers fantastic spa services and an full line of treatments.

Beniya Mukayu
Hammocks are definitely not a common feature at Japanese-style inns, but they somehow fit perfectly here at Beniya Mukayu. (Note: Not all rooms feature hammocks. If you would like to book a room with a hammock, please contact Customer Support.)

Beniya Mukayu
The floor-to-ceiling windows in the communal hot spring spa makes bathers feel as though they are enwrapped by the area's beautiful scenery. Be sure to step out to the open-air bath as well.

Beniya Mukayu
This unique hall, called Horin (meaning "square forest"), is designed to mimic a peaceful forest. The space is used for an array of purposes, from morning yoga classes to evening dining. When not otherwise occupied, it is perfect for meditation, and the view from the adjoining balcony is gorgeous, especially at sunset.

Beniya Mukayu
Beniya Mukayu is also home to a splendid garden (over which all of the guest rooms look), and located down the path from the lobby can be found the cozy yet sophisticated tea house.

Beniya Mukayu
Within, guests can partake in a traditional tea ceremony. To inquire and make an appointment, please ask at the front desk when checking in, or contact Customer Service after booking a room to make an appointment in advance.



Araya Totoan (Yamashiro Onsen)
Araya Totoan

Also located in Yamashiro, Araya Totoan is right nextdoor to the hot spring town's public bath facilities. As another resort inn, though, guests may find it difficult to escape Totoan's overwhelmingly luxurious and traditionally Japanese atmosphere. Despite its quite traditional ambiance and design, little flourishes of anachronistic style can be found throughout, like an avante-garde lounge chair on a room's veranda or the swanky wine bar that occupies the classicly-styled garden house.

Araya Totoan
The rooms offer plenty of space to stretch out and relax in distinctly Japanese designs that highlight the colors and tones of the natural materials used to build them.

Araya Totoan
Yamashiro's public bathhouses may be just outside, but you won't have to venture even that far to enjoy the town's finest hot springs.

Araya Totoan
While soaking in the relaxing hot springs, you can commune with nature...

Araya Totoan
...or, again with a touch of the avante-garde, experience a uniquely cave-like, hot-spring-mist-filled spa.

Araya Totoan
The wine bar is located down a small path across a bridge, in a garden house separate from the ryokan's main building. The place oozes charm and demands to be visited.



The Kayotei (Yamanaka Onsen)
The Kayotei

It is an odd feeling walking in to The Kayotei, located in the forested hills of Yamanaka Onsen. Even as just a brief visitor and not a guest, it felt like coming home. Guests kick off their shoes at the entrance to this intimate, only 10-room inn and stride the tatami-covered floors without slippers as if at home. The Kayotei's simple Japanese stylings and integration with the natural surroundings makes you feel both comfortably at home and close to the rolling, forested hills of the area.

Araya Totoan
The quintessentially Japanese rooms are refined, yet comfortable, and in no way stuffy.

Araya Totoan
The salon is a great place to plop down and read a book, converse with other guests and the proprietor, or have a drink of soothing herbal tea or fine alcoholic libation.

Araya Totoan
Being one with nature is something of a theme at The Kayotei, and the baths are no exception.

Araya Totoan
From the lush foliage of summer to the serene, snow-covered landscapes of winter, the scenic hot spring spas are not to be passed up.

Araya Totoan
At The Kayotei, mi casa es su casa. As you roam the tatami-floored halls of your home away from home, be on the lookout for examples of the inn's distinctive character and flare.







[ Onsen (Hot Springs), Ryokan | published 2012.05.02 | PermaLink ]
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