Founded 1,300 years ago, Yamanaka Onsen is a small resort town along the Kasukenkai Gorge renown for producing the best hot spring waters in the region. Many famous writers and artists including the famous Edo period poet and traveler, Matsuo Basho have visited the area. The town is also the birthplace of the prominent Japanese Iron Chef, Rokusaburo Michiba. It is a popular tourist spot for both Japanese and foreign travelers to the Ishikawa Prefecture.
The Kasukenkai Gorge runs parallel to the town just a few blocks away from the town center. Several bridges including a beautiful wooden bridge at one end and a modern, quirky steel bridge (Ayatori) at the other, cross the gorge. A forested trail leads from either bridge down into the gorge and along the Daishoji River that runs through it, providing a tranquil escape from the town above.
Visitors can choose to patronize the public baths located in Yamanaka’s downtown area or travel to the town’s larger hotels and ryokan. The main street running through the town has been renovated with buried power lines and traditionally designed storefronts, which afford a quaint view of an old Japanese town.
Yamanaka Onsen is also famous for a variety of local crafts, including Yamanaka Lacquerware. The local lacquerware, characterized by delicate hand engraved designs, has been produced here for over four hundred years. Tourists can find out more about the lacquering process and purchase lacquerware products at the Yamanaka Lacquerware Traditional Industry Museum (http://www.yamanaka-spa.or.jp/english/guide/place/densan.html), which serves both as a shop and exhibition space as well as a training center.
The Yamanaka-bushi folk song, which originated in the port towns of Hokkaido was brought to Yamanaka by traders stopping over at the nearby Hashidate Port. Sightseers can enjoy performances of the folk song on weekends at the Yamanakaza Theater.
Whether your intent is to stop over for the day to wonder the trails and shops or stay at the many ryokan and enjoy the rejuvenating onsen waters, a trip to Yamanaka Onsen is highly recommended for those seeking to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and traditions.
Photo credits: Umezawa, Eiji