A tiny onsen town with lots of history and some manga connections, Yuwaku is only half an hour from Kanazawa and makes for the perfect rural getaway.
While Kanazawa is a pretty small city, there’s always the option to go smaller. Around 40 minutes away by bus, Yuwaku is a little onsen town with a very local feel to it. Surrounded by tree-covered hills, it has a secluded feel—but this can be a welcome break from the sometimes-crowded streets of nearby Kanazawa. One of the main draws for the village is its link to the anime world. It was used as the setting for the 2011 series Hanasaku Iroha, where the young protagonist Ohana works in a local inn. Although the town was renamed Yunosagi Onsen, it has plenty of recognizable spots for fans to explore, themed items and even a festival from the series itself.
If you’re planning to stay overnight, there are plenty of traditional hotels and ryokan to stay in with private baths to enjoy, as well as a hostel. Alternatively, it makes for a nice day trip and has enough to keep you occupied—all within easy walking distance.
A day in Yuwaku
Depending on how much you like history, you can take your pick of the sights in the town and have time for lunch and cake too. There are a couple of spots with short walks. A longer hike into the nearby Sansakuen Park is an option if you are staying overnight.
1. Yuwaku Edomura (historical village)
An open-air musuem showcasing beautifully preserved and reconstructed houses and outbuildings. Look out across rice paddies and explore the former homes of samurai, local townhouses and an inn—all with informative signs and models. Entry is covered by the Kanazawa City Cultural Pass but otherwise costs ¥350 for adults. Note the museum is bit of a walk from the bus stop.
2. Yuwaku crafts and agriculture hubs
In an effort to maintain connections to the time-honored trades of the village, efforts have been made to maintin the agricultural and craft traditions used over the years. For crafts, you can head to Yuwaku Sosaku no Mori where original homes have been transformed into craft areas displaying screen printing, loom weaving and more. Unfortunately it’s a bit far to walk (on a hot day at least) so it is better if you have a car.
The Yuwaku Midori no Sato is an agricultural hub with opportunities to try soba making, see how daikon is grown and go pear picking (in season of course). There is a morning market held every Sunday from mid-April to mid-December from 7 am to 8:30 am—got to love those early-morning country starts!
3. Lunch at Takao Shokudo
Serving simple traditional Japanese meals, Takao is a great place to stop for lunch. While there is no English menu, you can order safe things like soba, udon and morioka ramen (cold summer noodles), all for well below ¥1,000.
We had refreshing cold zaru-soba (cold soba) and barley tea—perfect cooling options in the heat of summer. If you’re there in winter, be sure to order the curry udon, Takao Shokudo’s specialty that’s sure to warm you up on chilly days.
4. Yumeiji Kaikan
Dedicated to the artist Yumeiji Takehisa who considered the sleepy village to be the hometown of his soul, this is a small but sweet museum. Unfortunately there is little to nothing available in English, but the images are impressive. You can learn about his three muses on the ground floor and see temporary exhibitions of his work upstairs. Entry is covered on the Kanazawa Pass but otherwise entry for adults is ¥300
5. Yuwaku Inari Jinja and Iozen Yakushi Temple
Hidden in what looks like a small forest, the local shrine and temple are a very short stroll apart. The popular red torii gate path of the shrine is picturesque and known for hosting the annual Bonbori festival from the series Hanasaku Iroha. Over at the Temple, one thing you’ll notice is the unusual glass covering on the main building—a protection from snow in winter months.
There are a series of moss-covered statues including a lucky pot almost entirely hidden in the greenery. Just beyond the temple is a path; you can follow it to discover the true meaning of “the journey is more important than the destination”. The steep path is pretty beautiful, but the end result is a road with nothing to see. They have so far only renovated part of the old route connecting the shrine to another town.
6. Himuro-Koya: The ice house stroll
Although it’s an artificial lake, the water near the ice house is a pleasant walk in all seasons. Whether you’re surrounded by golden leaves or the fresh greens of spring, it’s a simple loop path that can be walked in pretty much any footwear (within reason, don’t bring your stilettos). While the approach can feel a little secluded, bordering on creepy, it’s actually lovely when you get up the steep hill, and you might see a few others exploring too. You’ll walk past the ice house which is filled in October and opened in June. It looks especially pretty when covered in snow!
If you want to continue the trekking fun, you can venture into Sansakuen Park , a hilly climb with resting spots offering views across the hills. The path starts behind the ice hut, but be warned that it’s a lot of steps (although it’s a lovely place for a bento picnic).
7. Shirasagi no yu, the local onsen and footbath
The best way to try the onsen water without booking into a hotel, the public bath is a simple affair with indoor and half-outdoor pools. It costs around ¥380 per person and separated by gender, and you’ll need to bring your own soap and towel (or rent/buy them from the counter). Sitting among chattering locals, it’s perfect for warming up after a chilly walk or getting clean after a sweaty hike.
Part way up the steps to the shrine is the local footbath. It’s a great place to soak your feet if the full onsen experience isn’t for you.
8. Cake break at Cafe Lente
Suprisingly modern and offering stunning views, Cafe Lente is a welcome change from the largely traditional buildings. While it looks subtley different on the outside, once you step inside you’ll see the huge glass windows facing out into the forest below. The owner speaks English (he studied in the UK) and there’s an English menu, which is pretty simple but has cakes and light savory options. Be sure to try the local yuzu cider as you enjoy the view!
Seasonal festivals and events
1. Opening of the ice house – June 30
On the last Sunday of January each year, snow is sealed into the ice house until summer. On June 30th, the house is reopened and the ice is shared with locals and visitors.
2. Bonbori Festival – October 12, 2019
Held since 2011, the annual Bonbori Festival involves countless lanterns and is a nod to the village’s manga associations. Used as the model for the fictions town of Yunosagi Onsen in the Hanasaku Iroha series, the festival was taken from the story and transformed into a real-life event. Drawing in fans each year from across the counry, there are fire displays, lanterns and plenty of other fans to chat with. The lanterns are lit from July to October so visitors can contribute their nozomifuda (plaques with wishes inscribed on them) and on the main event day in October these are burned in a ceremony.
Getting to Yuwaku
Yuwaku is easily reached by bus from Kanazawa. Simply catch the bus from stop No.7 at the train station’s East Exit bus station (the west side does highway buses while the east is local buses). The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs approximately ¥600 each way.
Be sure to check the buses on the way back as you don’t want to miss the last one! They run about once an hour in each direction, but sometimes less frequently. You can check the timetables here.