Yamashiro Onsen Yunogawa, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
A ryokan is as much a cultural tradition as it is a hotel category, and in a tradition that’s been refined through centuries of attention, what’s needed is not so much a bold vision as a meticulous dedication to the tiniest details. And Araya Totoan, in the mountains of Ishikawa Prefecture, is as meticulous as they come. Designing a room with views and natural light is one thing; it’s another to orchestrate the way shadows will be cast by a spindly flowering plant onto the wall behind it, how the colors of the woods outside will reflect off a puddle-shaped glass table in a darkened room, or how light will peek through the narrow slits of a bamboo screen.
All of the rooms here have a tatami-style living room in classic neutral tones and windows framing views of the woods, plus a simple bedroom with futon-height beds. They’re sparsely decorated with contemporary Japanese art, sculptural paper lampshades and, in the case of the Sukiya room, works by the calligrapher Rosanjin, who spent a year here toward the beginning of the 20th century. The Maeda-han Stateroom, with lacquered columns and vermillion-colored walls typical of the region, is the one where the artist actually lived. Alongside the living rooms and bedrooms, the rest of the rooms all have their own terraces and rustic, aromatic cypress baths fed by the hot springs.
In addition to the private ones, there are scarcely fewer public baths (three) than rooms (seven). Each one is different from the next — one comprised of particularly fragrant wood and set next to a small Japanese garden, another on the site of a spring-fed pond with warm water bubbling up from below and mossy boulders outside, yet another a misty cavelike space with black walls and sparse natural lighting.
The food, which changes with the seasons, is of that sort that would be too pretty to eat if it weren’t so delicious. Though the town of Kaga is in the mountains, Ishikawa is a coastal prefecture, and the ingredients used are the best of both — red sea bream and chrysanthemums in the spring, abalone and eggplant in the summer, violet shrimp to match the foliage in autumn, snow crabs and daikon in winter… That’s just a modest sampling of the offerings. There’s much more here, but as a ryokan whose many charms have been fine-tuned over centuries, it reveals itself slowly.
How to get there:
Free transfer service from JR Kaga Onsen station to Araya Totoan is offered and must be arranged in advance (10 minute drive). Komatsu Airport is approximately 25 minutes by taxi to Araya Totoan.
Please contact CustomerService@TabletHotels.com for assistance with transfers.
- 7 Rooms
- Style: Traditional Elegance
- Atmosphere: Quiet
- Araya Totoan
- Yamashiro Onsen Yunogawa
- Kaga-shi, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan