I am sure most of you are looking forward to having the chance to visit Japan. Hopefully, the global crisis we found ourselves in will be over this year and our lives will be able to return to normal. When that moment comes, I will be planning a new trip across Japan, and hopefully, many of you will as well. This time, however, I will focus much more on the less known parts of Japan. These are the kinds of places that I love to explore for a variety of reasons. They are far away from the crowds of big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Also, they are full of hidden gems that most tourists have unfortunately never even heard of. That is why my mission in 2021 will be to introduce you to these hidden gems of Japan so that hopefully you will be able to visit them too.
Today I will tell you about a really interesting part of Japan that includes the Kaga Hakusan area in the Ishikawa Prefecture.
The Kaga/Hakusan area is a part of the Hokuriku region in the south-western Ishikawa Prefecture. This area ticks all the checkboxes that make me want to visit it. It is blessed with breathtaking nature that calls on you to hike and explore it during every season. The area is abundant with healthy natural hot springs that provide you relaxation and healing after a long day of sightseeing and hiking. And it is filled with interesting cultural and historical locations for you to see. And not to mention the unique local flavors and dishes which will make every fan of authentic Japanese food full of excitement.
The crown natural jewel of this area is the famed 2702 meter high Mount Hakusan (白山). This legendary mountain is a dormant volcano that is located on the border between Ishikawa and Gifu Prefectures forms the center of Hakusan National Park. The stunning scenery of the Hakusan is hard to describe in words. Every season here is spectacular. From snow-covered slopes in winter and beautiful flower-covered meadows in spring to spectacular autumn-colored forests. No matter when you come, you will have an unforgettable sight.
The natural beauty is enough of a reason to visit this mountain, but it has a deep cultural meaning as well. Hakusan is considered one of Japan’s Three Sacred Mountains along with Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tateyama and has been a place of worship for over millennia with many shrines dedicated to the mountain.
But Mount Hakusan is not the only place of natural beauty that is worth a visit in the Kaga Hakusan area. One such place is the famous Forest of Wisdom located in the center of the mountainous part of Komatsu City area around Hiyo-machi. This area is blessed with breathtaking natural beauty. Over 200-year-old Hiyou Cedar trees rise high up in the air, and all around you, there are pretty brooks, fields, and moss gardens. These moss gardens are especially interesting since they have a wide variety of mosses, whose different kinds are one of the largest numbers in Japan.
Additionally, old traditional houses in this village only make the whole area even more authentic. As a matter of fact, they make you feel like you stepped into a Ghibli movie or a fairy tale. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that this area was selected as one of the One Hundred Beautiful Japanese Villages. This is the kind of place I love to relax and explore, and I hope you will visit it one day.
In addition to Hakusan and the Forest of Wisdom, the Kaga Hakusan area has more fascinating places to explore. For example, the 30-kilometer long Hakusan Shirakawa-go White Road which connects Ishikawa Prefecture and Gifu Prefecture. You will love the spectacular scenery here. Many famous temples can be found in the Kaga Hakusan area as well. One such temple is the Natadera, a famous temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Its treasure hall host spectacular art pieces, while its garden is a place of beauty, especially in autumn. One more example is the Ukiuki Benten, a floating temple on Lake Shibayamagata and the symbol of Katayamazu Onsen.
If you are the kind of person who loves museums like me, you will be happy to learn that there are many in the Kaga Hakusan area. Fans of art can learn about local culture at the Kutaniyaki Art Museum which specializes in the art of Kutaniyaki Porcelain. While fans of cars can explore the Motorcar Museum of Japan which houses about five hundred Japanese and foreign classical cars. Also, Science Hills Komatsu, Ishikawa Aviation Plaza, and Nakaya Ukichiro Museum of Snow and Ice are all good options to visit if you enjoy these topics.
Those of you who have been following my posts for some time know that there is one thing I love to do after sightseeing. Of course, I am talking about relaxing in an onsen. There is no better thing than to end a busy day with a nice healthy hot bath. Luckily for us, the Kaga Hakusan area is home to many of Japan’s prominent onsen. These include the Yamashiro, Yamanaka, Katayamazu, and Awazu. There are many small but unique inns and hotels in the hot spring towns at the foot of Hakusan. Each one is worth a visit. Truly a paradise for onsen lovers!
Yamanaka Onsen is the hot spring town nestled in the mountains, at the center of the beautiful green Kakusenkei valley. In the valley you can find many ryokans with beautiful views sounds built along the banks of the Daishoji River. Also, here you can experience the traditional culture of Yamanaka lacquerware that this area is famous for. You won’t make a mistake if you decide to visit this town. As a matter of fact, the famous poet and traveler Basho claimed that the Yamanaka Onsen is one of Japan’s three best hot springs!
Yamashiro Onsen is one more great hot spring town that makes up the Kaga Onsen area. This town also has a long and rich history. The first records of this town are by the monk Gyoki during his pilgrimage to the famed Hakusan over a millennia ago. The main attraction of Yamashiro Onsen are its public bathhouses in the center of town called Soyu and Ko-Soyu. I really like Ko-Soyu’s unique Meiji Period style. The waters of this onsen are said to relieve joint and muscle pain as well as skin disease.
As I already said, the Kaga Hakusan area has a rich and unique cuisine. Every fan of Japanese food will remember their visit here. When you visit it, you will have the chance to enjoy abundant fresh food from the sea and the mountains, and many other delightful dishes!
One of the most famous and unique dishes is the snow crab. The snow crabs caught in the nearby sea have a unique sweet flavor. Especially the female crab, called Kobako-gani, the eggs and the crab butter are especially delicious. Also, the Northern Pink Shrimp is very popular. These shrimp have a beautiful color and a shape and taste like a delicately sweet, smooth but thick cream soup. The raw shrimp served as sashimi are extremely tasty. These are just some of the dishes you can try here. Some others include Fugunoko, Kabura Zushi, Wild Duck Dish, Kata Tofu, and many more.
All in all, the Kaga Hakusan area is a part of Japan I highly recommend you check out if you want to explore the less known parts of Japan. It deserves to be on your Japan 2021 travel plan! Visit their website to learn more about this wonderful part of Japan!