Travel News

For Japanese Hot Springs, Visit 3 Charming Onsen Towns in Kaga City

For Japanese Hot Springs, Visit 3 Charming Onsen Towns in Kaga City

At the southwest corner of Ishikawa, a verdant prefecture hugging the Sea of Japan, traditional craftsmanship thrives alongside contemporary art and architecture in the small towns that make up Kaga City.

Three of these towns — Katayamazu Onsen, Yamashiro Onsen and Yamanaka Onsen — are famous for their onsen, or hot springs. In centuries past, monks and merchant seamen made pilgrimages to these restorative waters. The 17th-century haiku master Matsuo Basho even penned two poems during a visit.

Japanese tourists still flock to Kaga’s onsen towns every fall, when the leaves turn fiery and snow crab is in season. But few foreigners find their way here, in part because the journey from Tokyo has not been easy.

That changed in March. A new extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, the high-speed train that rockets passengers from Tokyo to this region, now includes a stop at Kagaonsen station. The trip takes less than three hours on a single train.

When I first came to Kaga in 2015, the journey took two trains and nearly four hours from Tokyo. There was little English signage at the station and Google Maps didn’t yet list the (infrequent) local buses.

I had come to apprentice at a bar in Yamanaka, where I met people who craft wooden bowls, brew sake and make paper from mountain shrubs. Enchanted, I returned to write a book about how their work weaves into the vibrant local culture and community; by the time it was published, Yamanaka had become my home.

I set out earlier this year to be a tourist in my adopted home, looking for places that express the unique character of each of Kaga’s three onsen towns.

In Kaga, public bath houses (segregated by gender) are so ingrained in daily life that many homes were built without a shower or bath. I lived for a time in such an apartment, enjoying the daily ritual of showering among the softly echoing voices of neighbors and soaking in a communal pool of onsen water shrouded in steam.

Katayamazu, a fading red-light district, is the least traditional of Kaga’s onsen towns. Its public bathhouse, a glass and steel box, gleams along the edge of Shibayama Lagoon. The building was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi — the architect of New York’s Museum of Modern Art expansion — as part of a revitalization effort. It stands in contrast to Katayamazu’s dated hotels and shuttered shops, remnants of an exuberant domestic tourism boom from the ’60s through the ’80s, followed by decades of…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at NYT > Travel…