Discover luxury in undiscovered Japan
Ishikawa Prefecture – located on the north coast of Japan’s main island – is the perfect location for exploring Japan’s history while enjoying a luxury holiday. Home to Gold Leaf craft, traditional Samurai and Geisha culture, onsen towns and high-end ryokans, a trip to Ishikawa is a treat for your mind, body and soul.
Away from the tourist trail, the region is easily accessible with a direct 2-hour 30-minute Shinkansen bullet train service from Tokyo or flights to its regional airport (Komatsu) operating from Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita. A direct flight is also available from Hokkaido, with train services from several other Nagano and Gifu-based resorts, for those who want to combine ski, luxury and culture during the winter season.
Top stays combining luxury and tradition
Whether you prefer to while away hours with views of Japanese gardens from a steamy onsen bath, sample Michelin cuisine from the comfort of your own hotel or venture on a personalised adventure curated by your ryokan host, Ishikawa Prefecture has a fine selection of luxury accommodation that leaves guests feeling immersed in the local culture:Asadaya Ryokan, Kanazawa: Asadaya is a luxury ryokan which offers Michelin star cuisine and exclusive, immersive experiences for its guests. Established in 1867, there’s just five guest rooms, with staff going above and beyond for their exclusive visitors with personal touches. Your stay can be tailored to heighten your experience of the local food, culture and sights, for example, if interested in the serving bowls used in the ryokan’s restaurant, they can take you to the creator’s workshop or home or if you are a chef you can do a workshop in their kitchen; they can take you to a kimono designer’s studio; or their gardener can personally guide you through Kenroku-en Garden.
Forest, Noto Peninsula: Get back to nature and learn about traditional Japanese culture while staying off-the-beaten track in a farming community. The rural guesthouse, Forest, takes only one group of guests at a time, with a 1 night / 2 day minimum stay. For stays of 2 nights / 3 days and above, guests can have an exclusive tailored experience, which can include trying their hand at local farming, Zen and craft making, with local villagers as a guide. Meal times are a highlight as the Noto Peninsula has a rich culinary culture that extends centuries, with focus on the local, seasonal produce from the hills and the sea, as well as Forest’s own organic vegetable garden. Immerse yourself in Japan’s rural coastline by taking time to explore the local villages, including a waterfall, temples, shrines and local fishing port.
Hyakurakuso Ryokan, Noto Peninsula: Inspired by its scenic location on the waters of Kujuku bay, guests can enjoy the ultimate refreshing and relaxing ryokan stay at Hyakurakuso. A focus on water transcends experiences throughout, including the opportunity to fish in the property’s exclusive pond and cook your catch as part of a coastal Japanese degustation. Guests can enjoy three spa baths throughout the property, including a cave spa with Noto deep-sea water pumped from 320 metres below ground. An open-view bath allows guests to bathe with a panoramic outlook of the bay, whilst a private bath can be booked for those who seek solace or romantic soaks. Four restaurants also offer a range of views and locally inspired dishes, with crabs and yellowtails in season each winter and highly recommended.
Top 5 experiences for the luxe traveller
Try your hand at the ancient craft of Gold Leaf – Kanazawa accounts for 99% of Japan’s production of Gold Leaf crafts, which has led to its designation as the Gold Leaf Capital of Japan. While visiting Kanazawa (which translates as ‘marshes of gold’), travellers can try the craft of decorating with Gold Leaf at Kanazawa Kinpaku, to create a unique souvenir to take home. Open daily year-round expect for Wednesdays and New Year’s Holiday.
Board the Hanayome Noren train for a scenic rail journey: a ride on the Hanayome Noren is the perfect way to take in the sights of the Noto Peninsula, which runs from Kanazawa station to Wakura Onsen station along the Nanao line. The name Hanayome Noren translates literally as ‘bride curtain’ and derives from a traditional custom of the former Kaga clan based in Ishikawa’s Kaga, Noto and Ecchu regions, in which families giving away a bride would hand her a colourful ‘noren’ (curtain) to wish her happiness. Travelling through the heart of the Noto Peninsula, visitors are taken from the cultural city of Kanazawa to one of Japan’s premier Onsen locations which dates back 1,200 years and adjoins the Sea of Japan. The train operates two round-trips Fridays – Sundays with two carriages that can be reserved in advance and a bento meal can also be arranged to taste local dishes from around Ishikawa as you travel through its rural countryside.
Experience a Japanese music concert: Visitors can enjoy the sounds of traditional Japanese music, kabuki and bunraku, in the surround of Ishikawa Ongakudō, Ishikawa Prefecture’s Music Hall. The shoebox-style concert hall auditorium was designed by Yoshinobu Ashihara with acoustic design by Nagata Acoustics, taking on this configuration for its enhanced sound reflection from the sides that complement classical music – much like the famous Musikverein of Vienna and Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. As the home of the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, dates are available to enjoy their classical music throughout the year.
Cruise the beautiful Daishoji River: Experience Cherry Blossom season away from the crowds. From the first Cherry Blossoms in April to the fall colours ending in November, visitors can float along the Daishoji River on a wooden riverboat, whilst enjoying views as they pass through the old castle city of Kaga. This peaceful 30-minute journey is joined by the lapping of water and the sounds of the boatman as he sings melancholic Japanese folk songs.
Learn the art of authentic Shodo? (but the website calls it Jojoo) (Calligraphy) in an artist’s studio – Unlike the regular calligraphy that has many rules, this program by Atelier Tokarin encourages guests to creatively draw and write freely using ink. The instructor is a professional calligrapher, who also studied Art in the UK. You can write and experience calligraphy in your own way in this oceanfront studio, whilst listening to the waves.
Travel to Ishikawa
When: Year-round, or before April to combine with a Japan ski holiday
For: A luxury trip for the mind, body and soul
How: Flights to Japan are available direct from Australia to Tokyo serviced by ANA, JAL, Jetstar and Qantas, with a two-hour 30-minute bullet train service to Kanazawa. From Japan’s popular ski areas, regional flights operate to Ishikawa from Sapporo and public transport options are available from Nagano.
Did you know?
Ishikawa is a year-round destination that forms part of an alternative Golden Route through Japan. (the known tourist path for first-time visitors which encompasses train travel from Tokyo via Osaka to Kyoto). Following the opening of the bullet train route through Kanazawa in 2015 (which also starts in Tokyo and continues to Kyoto), an adventurous new experience for all is available, immersing travellers in Ishikawa’s history and traditions.
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