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 for the onsen, 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 to each of the attractions below, for more detailed information about the transportation in the Kaga region and discount tickets, please refer to 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-metre street consists of a series 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 that 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 can be said to be the centre of Yamanaka Onsen’s development throughout the town’s 1300 year history.

What is really special about this bathhouse is 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 (´▽`*).

Whilst the two buildings of the bathhouse are opposite to 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 thing that is special about Kiku no Yu is the depth of the onsen pools. The male onsen pool has a depth of 1 metre, which is deeper than a lot of the pools elsewhere in the country. The female onsen pool is also deeper but has an area that is more shallow 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 potential traffic that is coming your way as it is located on a small block by itself with the only pedestrian crossing not on the side of the entrance.

Important:
☛ 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

Tips: For those who don’t want to bathe with strangers, there is a footbath you can try in front of the men’s bathhouse.

Yamanakaza Theatre (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 the walls in Yamanazawa Theatre 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 theatre.

Whilst entry to Yamanakaza is free, if you would like to see the performance, it will cost you 700 yen for adults and 350 yen for primary school students.

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

To all the gentlemen, whilst you won’t be able to see the luxurious ceiling at the female bathhouse, the ceiling at Yamanakaza is even more magnificent! So please do go near the female area of Yamanaka Onsen even if you aren’t travelling with any female friends/families (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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

©石川県観光連盟

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

  • The bathhouse is opened from 6:45 am to 10:30 pm daily with the last admission at 10 pm
  • The entry fee is 460 yen for all who is 12 years old and above, 130 yen for children between the age of 6 and 11. For younger children between the age of 3 to 5, it is 50 yen

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

  • Kaga Tour Bus – CANBUS (加賀周遊バス キャン・バス)’s mountain route (山まわり) and get off at Yamanaka Onsen Kiku no Yu/Yamanaka-za (菊の湯・山中座)
  • Kaga Onsen Bus (加賀温泉バス)’s 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 mins walk
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE
    • A one-way trip will cost 430 yen

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 that he stayed in during his 9 day stay in Yamanaka Onsen and 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 wanting to take a brief rest at the cafe overlooking a wide Japanese garden.

©山中温泉観光協会

From the door next to the big hall, you can go out to the garden. Outdoor slippers should be there for you to change into as well (^_-)-☆.

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

Tips: If you are visiting 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 opened from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Wednesdays unless it is a public holiday
    • The last admission at 4:30 pm
  • The admission fee is 300 yen for high school students and above
  • From Yamanaka Onsen Bus Terminal (山中温泉バスターミナル), it is a 5 mins 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 it is a great spot for cherry blossom and autumn foliage, but you will also get a wide view of 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. As you climb up the staircases, a pathway to the temple’s worship hall should continue.

Just be careful when you cross the highway as there is no traffic light. There is a pedestrian crossing within 100 metres from the Temple so make sure you use it.

©山中温泉観光協会

The temple was built in the last 12th century together with other onsen ryokans in the district. But the buildings that 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).

Tips: 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 opened 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 mins 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.

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

In the display room, you will find crafts made by famous Yamanaka lacquerware craftsmen for anyone to admire. And if you want to grab a few of them for 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

Tips: 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 the ones with a really friendly price tag might be imported from China. So if you do care about where the lacquerware was made, make sure you check with the staff before making a purchase

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

  • The facility is opened from 9 am to 5:30 pm daily except the 30th of Dec to the 3rd of Jan

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

  • Kaga Tour Bus – CANBUS (加賀周遊バス キャン・バス)’s 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 (加賀温泉バス)’s 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 mins walk
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE

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 to Kurotani Bridge (黒谷橋).

To stroll through the Kakusenkei Gorge, one of the most astonishing gorges in the Hokuriku area, remember to put on a pair of comfortable shoes. While the promenade is well-maintained, the amount of walking could tire your feet.

©山中温泉観光協会

Korogi Bridge (こおろぎ橋)

©石川県観光連盟

Korogi Bridge is a popular landmark at Yamanaka Onsen. Located at one end of the Yamanaka Onsen Town’s main street – Yuge-Kaido Street (ゆげ街道), many tourists pose on the bridge to use the surrounding scenery as a backdrop.

The old elegant Korogi Bridge was sadly replaced by a new one in October 2019. Whilst the colour of the 4th generation Korogi Bridge is lighter, the new Korogi Bridge still blends in with the surrounding nature nicely.

One thing to note is the wood can be very slippery on a rainy day or when there is snow on the floor. So just be very careful.

Ayatori Bridge (あやとりはし)

The stylish magenta colour S-shaped bridge in the middle of Kakusenkei Gorge is a great spot for the scenery of the gorge. The 94.6 meters bridge was completed in 1991. Designed by the head of the Sōgetsu school of Japanese flower arrangement at the time after a cat’s cradle, its purpose is to also bring a kind of energy to the landscape apart from bridging the two banks of the gorge.

Each night, there is lighting shows imaging the five colours used on the local specialty – Kutani ware (九谷焼).

©山中温泉観光協会

Kakusenkei Kawadoko (鶴仙渓川床)

As you get closer to Ayatori Bridge (あやとり橋), you will start seeing some big red umbrellas with seating underneath. This is the famous Kakusenkei Kawadoko.

©山中温泉観光協会

Kawadoko is a common way in Japan to escape the summer heat and enjoy the surrounding scenery enjoying some delicious food. At Kakusenkei Gorge, Kawadoko is held from April to October from 9:30 am to 4 pm and 10 am to 3 pm in November each year. Although there is no vegetarian lunch menu, having a morning or afternoon tea with a cup of Kanazawa Bōcha Tea (金沢棒茶) and a bowl of traditional dessert at Kawadoko is definitely going to be one of the highlights during your time at Yamanaka Onsen.

Tips: As Kakusenkei Kawadoko is very popular, if you are staying overnight at the local ryokans/hotels, making it the first spot the next morning will be a really wise decision.

Important: Please note that Kawadoko may not be on daily due to bad weather or low temperature in November.

Kurotani Bridge (黒谷橋)

At the end of the Kakusenkei Gorge, the dark colour arched stone bridge that spans across the river is the Kurotani Bridge. From the bridge, you will get a nice wide view of the big pool of water that surrounds by weirdly shaped rocks covered by greeneries.

Before the concrete structured bridge that was completed in 1935, it was a wooden bridge that links people to Nata Temple (那谷寺) and Komatsu City (小松市).

Getting onto the Kurotani Bridge is a must when you come to Yamanaka Onsen, but the view of the bridge with nature around is also stunning, especially in autumn. And sitting in a restaurant or a ryokan room nearby with this view in front of you is probably one of the most luxurious enjoyments that you will get in the onsen town!

©山中温泉観光協会

How to Get to Kakusenkei Gorge

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

  • Kaga Tour Bus – CANBUS (加賀周遊バス キャン・バス)’s mountain route (山まわり) and get off at Yamanaka Onsen Kiku no Yu/Yamanaka-za (菊の湯・山中座). From there it is a 5 mins walk
  • Kaga Onsen Bus (加賀温泉バス)’s 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 to 10 mins 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

From JR Kanazawa Station west exit (金沢駅西口)’s bus stop no. 3

  • Take the Kaga Yunosato Express (加賀ゆのさと特急) and get off at Kiku no Yu-Mae (菊の湯前)
    • For the service’s timetable, please refer to their website HERE

The Great Cedars of Kayano (栢野の大杉)

Trekking further upstream from Kakusenkei Gorge along the Daishōji River, on the ground 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 metres, the trees are over 50 meters tall!

Opposite to 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), where you can get some delicious mugwort-flavored rice dumplings/balls (草だんご).

©山中温泉観光協会

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 (加賀温泉バス)’s Onsen Yamanaka Line (温泉山中線) and get off at Kayano (栢野). From there, it is a a min 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 Theatre 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 Theatre mainly: Koikoi Festival (こいこい祭)
    • The biggest event in Yamanaka Onsen. The event starts from around lunchtime with parades, various performances taking place until night time

Cherry Blossom and Autumn Foliage 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 from early November with the colour peaks in mid to late November

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