Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yamanaka Onsen – Where Hot Spring Meets Elegant Lacquerware

Just like its name, Yamanaka Onsen (山中温泉) in Kaga City is located deep in the mountains next to a beautiful hidden valley. First discovered 1,300 years ago by an eminent monk of the time, Gyōki (行基), the place was developed into an onsen district in the late 12th century. Apart from the onsen with great medical benefits and stunning nature, Yamanaka Onsen is also known for Yamanaka lacquerware, making it a perfect spot to enjoy the beauty of both nature and Japanese culture and traditional craft.

When you come to Yamanaka Onsen, it is best if you can spend a night at one of the traditional ryokans. This is so you can enjoy the onsen, the mouthwatering food, and the Japanese ryokan style hospitability. But if you are only taking a day trip here, you should still have enough time for most of the attractions below.

For a list of accommodations in the district, please refer to the district’s official website HERE.

Apart from the access information of each attraction below, you can get more detailed information about the transportation and discount tickets in the Kaga region from our Kaga City article.

Yuge-Kaido Street (ゆげ街道)

Yamanaka Onsen’s main street – Yuge-Kaido – starts at the Kiku no Yu Public Bathhouse and finishes at the scenic Orogi Bridge.

The short 600-meter street consists of Yamanaka lacquerware and Kutani ware galleries, cafes, and restaurants. The best thing about this street is there are no utility poles on the street which allows for nicer photos of a traditional Japanese onsen town.

© 石川県観光連盟

Kiku no Yu Public Bathhouse (山中温泉総湯 菊の湯)

© 石川県観光連盟

Kiku no Yu is the center of Yamanaka Onsen’s development throughout the town’s 1,300-year history.

What is special about this bathhouse is that the male and female baths are in completely different buildings. You are guaranteed that those awkward moments of walking into a bathing area of the opposite gender won’t happen to you here (´▽`*).

While the two buildings of the bathhouse are opposite each other, the entrances face different directions.

The female bathhouse is directly next to the town’s theater for traditional performance arts – Yamanakaza (山中座). Another easy way to determine which building is a female bathhouse is by the curtain hung above the gate. The female bathhouse has a red curtain with “女湯” written, and the curtain at the male bathhouse’s gate says “男湯”.

To all the ladies, when you enter the bathhouse, don’t forget to look up. Or after you come out from the onsen, relaxing in the lobby with this luxurious ceiling above you can be another sort of enjoyment (^_-)-☆.

Another special thing about Kiku no Yu is the depth of the onsen pools. The male onsen pool has a depth of 1 meter, deeper than many of the country’s pools. The female onsen pool is also deeper but has a more shallow area for those that aren’t as tall.

© 山中温泉観光協会

If you are going to the male’s bathhouse, please watch for the ongoing traffic as it is located on a small block by itself, with the only pedestrian crossing not on the side of the entrance.

☛ As the onsen’s temperature is at the hotter end, remember to take short breaks and get sufficient hydration
☛ Towels and toiletry sets aren’t free of charge

☛ For those who don’t want to bathe with strangers, there is a footbath you can try in front of the men’s bathhouse.
☛ Yamanaka Onsen’s Geisha will perform Yamanakabushi (山中節) at 3:30 pm on weekends and public holidays.

Yamanakaza Theater (山中座)

© 石川県観光連盟

The local’s lacquer specialty is also used in building decoration.

Completed by 1,500 lacquerware craftsmen, the pillars, ceilings, and walls in Yamanazawa Theater are all covered by the elegant lacquer layer making the theatre hall splendid.

On weekends and public holidays from 3:30 to 4:10 pm, traditional performing arts performances such as folk songs and dancing by Geisha are held in the theater.

While entry to Yamanakaza is free, if you would like to see the performance, it will cost you:

  • 700 yen for adults
  • 350 yen for elementary school students and younger children
  • Free for toddlers less than 3 years old

Tip: Get a combo ticket to enjoy the performance and entry to Kiku no Yu Bathhouse for 1,000 yen!

To all the gentlemen, while you won’t be able to see the luxurious ceiling at the female bathhouse, the ceiling at Yamanakaza is even more magnificent!

© 石川県観光連盟

So please do go near the female area of Yamanaka Onsen even if you aren’t traveling with any female friends/families (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Tip: There are coin lockers in Yamanakaza if you need to lighten yourself.

Kiku no Yu Public Bathhouse’s Opening Hours, Entry Fees, and Access Information

From JR Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅), take one of the bus services below:

  • Kaga Tour Bus – CANBUS’s (加賀周遊バス キャン・バス) mountain route (山まわり) and get off at Yamanaka Onsen Kiku no Yu/Yamanaka-za (菊の湯・山中座).
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE.
  • Kaga Onsen Bus’s (加賀温泉バス) Onsen Yamanaka Line (温泉山中線) from JR Kagaonsen Station west exit’s bus stop no. 2 and get off at Yamanaka Onsen Bus Terminal (山中温泉バスターミナル). From there, it is a 5-minute walk.
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE and click open “運行時刻表を見る”.
    • A one-way trip will cost 430 yen.
  • The bathhouse is open from 6:45 am to 10 pm daily.
    • The last admission is at 9:30 pm.
  • The entry fee is
    • 490 yen for adults
    • 130 yen for children between the age of 6 and 11
    • 50 yen for younger children between the age of 3 to 5

Bashō no Yakata Museum (山中温泉芭蕉の館)

Bashō was the most famous Japanese Haiku Poet in the Edo period (1603 – 1867). The museum building was the villa next to the Ryokan he stayed in during his 9-day stay in Yamanaka Onsen. It was renovated into the current museum in 2004, exhibiting items related to him, such as scrolls with calligraphy.

The museum is also a great place to drop by if you are interested in Yamanaka lacquerware that has more than 400 years of history, or just wants to rest briefly at the cafe overlooking a wide Japanese garden.

© 山中温泉観光協会

You can go out to the garden from the door next to the big hall. Outdoor slippers should also be there for you to change into (^_-)-☆.

As a side note, regarding the statue in front of the museum, the guy on the left is Bashō. And the guy bowing to him is his student.

Tip: If you visit the district in autumn, drop by the museum as the garden will be extra stunning.

Bashō no Yakata Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Wednesdays unless it is a public holiday.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for high school students and above
    • Free otherwise
  • From Yamanaka Onsen Bus Terminal (山中温泉バスターミナル), it is a 5-minute walk.

Iōji Temple (国分山 医王寺)

Proceeding west from Kiku no Yu Public Bathhouse towards the highway, the pathway leading to the Iōji Temple should be in front of you within a 10-minute walk.

Not only is it a great spot for cherry blossom and autumn foliage, but you will also get a wide view of the Yamanaka Onsen District from here!

As a landmark for directions, there is a three-story traditional building with white walls at the side of the highway. There is a set of stone staircases just next to the building. A pathway to the temple’s worship hall should continue as you climb up the staircases.

© 山中温泉観光協会

Just be careful when crossing the highway, as there is no traffic light. A pedestrian crossing is within 100 meters of the Temple, so make sure you use it.

The temple was built in the late 12th century with other onsen ryokans in the district. But the buildings we see today aren’t original but were restored in 1958 after a fire hazard in the early 20th century.

The Buddha here, Yakushi Nyorai (薬師如来), who looks after Yamanaka Onsen, is said to be Japan’s Three Greatest Yakushi Nyorai. In the treasure hall, there are quite a few of Japan’s National Important Cultural Properties, including a picture stroll that maps out Yamanaka Onsen’s origin (山中温泉縁起絵巻絵図).

Tip: To see the treasures, please talk to the staff in the temple, as the exhibition hall is usually closed.

Iōji Temple’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm daily.
  • From Yamanaka Onsen Bus Terminal (山中温泉バスターミナル), it is a 10-minute walk.

Urushi-za – Yamanaka Lacquerware Museum (うるし座)

Urushi-za is a must-see attraction if you are interested in lacquerware. You will learn the end-to-end process of how the craftsmen transform a log into beautiful lacquerware here.

Whilst the museum isn’t particularly English speaker-friendly, with most of the explanations written in Japanese, there are videos and illustrations for you to get the big picture.

You will find crafts made by famous Yamanaka lacquerware craftsmen in the display room. And if you want to grab a few of them home, head to their souvenir shops. The shop has a complete range of Yamanaka lacquerware that is sold in the district, saving you the time of visiting various stores (^_-)-☆.

© 山中温泉観光協会

Tip: You should find the lacquerware sold here cheaper compared to the Yamanaka lacquerware stores in Kanazawa as the products are sourced and made locally. But just note that those with a really friendly price tag might be imported from China. So if you care about where the lacquerware was made, check with the staff before making a purchase.

Urushi-za – Yamanaka Lacquerware Museum’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The facility is open from
    • 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays
    • 9:30 am to 4:30 pm on weekends and public holidays
    • The museum is closed from the 30th of December to the 3rd of January.

From JR Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅), take one of the bus services below:

  • Kaga Tour Bus – CANBUS’s (加賀周遊バス キャン・バス) mountain route (山まわり) and get off at Yamanaka urushi za sanchū shikki dentō sangyō kaikan (山中うるし座 山中漆器伝統産業会館)
  • Kaga Onsen Bus’s (加賀温泉バス) Onsen Yamanaka Line (温泉山中線) from JR Kagaonsen Station west exit’s bus stop no. 2 and get off at Tsukatani (塚谷). From there, it is a 5-minute walk.
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE and click open “運行時刻表を見る”.

Kakusenkei Gorge (鶴仙渓)

Most of the ryokans and attractions in Yamanaka Onsen Town are located along the Daishōji River (大聖寺川). The most stunning part of the river is the 1.3 km Kakusenkei Gorge that starts from the Korogi Bridge (こおろぎ橋) at river’s upstream.

In summer, you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery while having the traditional Kawadoko cuisine!

For more information, please refer to our article on Kakusenkei Gorge!

© 山中温泉観光協会

The Great Cedars of Kayano (栢野の大杉)

© 山中温泉観光協会

Trekking further upstream from Kakusenkei Gorge along the Daishōji River, on the precinct of Kayanosugahara Shrine (栢野菅原神社), are two giant cedars over 2,300 years old. Being designated as a National Natural Monument, with a circumference of 11.5 meters, the trees are over 50 meters tall!

Opposite the trees, there is a cafe with a history as long as 800 years named after the trees called Ōsugi Chaya (かやの大杉茶屋). This is where you can get some delicious mugwort-flavored rice dumplings/balls (草だんご).

How to Get to The Great Cedars of Kayano

From JR Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅) west exit’s bus stop no. 2, take Kaga Onsen Bus’s (加賀温泉バス) Onsen Yamanaka Line (温泉山中線) and get off at Kayano (栢野). From there, it is a one-minute walk.

  • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE and click open “運行時刻表を見る”
  • A one-way trip will cost 560 yen.

Events and Festivals at Yamanaka Onsen

  • Sundays from April to December in front of Kiku no Yu Public Bathhouse: Yuzaya Market (湯座屋市)
    • Local specialties will be sold. As tourists, you might even get a free cup of coffee!
  • The 3rd and the 4th of May around Kiku no Yu Bathhouse: Yamanaka Lacquerware Festival (山中漆器まつり)
  • Early to late August from 7:45 to 9:30 pm at Yamanakaza Square (山中座前広場): Furusato Yamanaka Festival (ふるさと山中夏まつり)
    • Your usual Japanese summer festival with performances on stage and temporary stalls around
  • The Sunday night in September, departing from Yamanakaza Theater at 7 pm: Yamanakabushi Parade (山中節道中流し)
    • Where the locals dance and parade in the district while singing the Yamanaka folksongs along with the melody from the traditional instruments
  • On a weekend in late September around Yamanakaza Theater mainly: Koikoi Festival (こいこい祭)
    • The biggest event in Yamanaka Onsen. The event, with parades and various performances taking place until nighttime, starts at around lunchtime.

Cherry Blossom and Fall Foliage Season at Yamanaka Onsen

  • The cherry blossom season usually starts in late March and peaks in early April each year. Below are a few spots where you can find the cherry trees
    • Next to the Kiku no Yu Public Bathhouse
    • Around Ayatori Bridge at Kakusenkei Gorge
    • At Iōji Temple (国分山 医王寺)
  • The autumn foliage season usually starts in early November, with the color peaks in mid to late November.

Find out Other Exciting Attractions in Kaga Onsen

Yamanaka Onsen is just one of 6 areas in the large Kaga Onsen Resort (加賀温泉). Kaga Onsen has abundant nature with promenades for those who fancy a stroll or even a hike into stunning nature for a getaway from the busy urban lifestyle.

For more information on other attractions close to Yamanaka Onsen, please refer to our Kaga Onsen article!

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