Kanazawa is one of the great historic cities of Japan: a place near the coast, not too far from Tokyo, which embodies the image so many of us have in our heads of that Heian Period Japan, a world of Shinto shrines, torii gates, and open-air onsen. And the Kanazawa onsen are certainly one of the city’s greatest wonders.
The onsen of Kanazawa have attracted poets, writers, and artists for centuries, and many of them have even been captured in fiction (more on that below). When you visit these Kanazawa onsen, you can learn about the aritsts and writers who have stayed here and been inspired by them – writers such as Izumi Kyoka and Takehisa Yumeji.
Beyond their literary connections, the onsen of Kanazawa are the peak of picturesque; the most beautiful, serene, and tranquil onsen in all of Japan, hidden within a gorgeous historic town that is so often overlooked by tourists in favour of Kyoto or Nara.
So, here, let’s explore some of the most magical and unmissable Kanazawa onsen that you can still visit today, as well as their history, fame, and beauty.
Kanazawa Tatsunokuchi Onsen Matsusaki
We always love a beautiful spot that also boasts literary connections and this Kanazawa ryokan is truly special in that regard. Matsusaki onsen served as the setting for Meiji era writer Izumi Kyoka’s novel Umi no Naru Toki” (The Time the Sea Rang) and the inn occasionally holds readings of his work.
Kyoka spent a lot of time at the inn as a child and was inspired by the elegance of the geiko who worked there. Kyoka was known for genre writing and many of his novels were based in mystery, romance, and fantasy. You can see his own prized inkwell and a haiku written by the author’s hand in Matsusaki.
Open since 1836, this Kanazawa onsen is steeped in history and provides a tranquil space to relax and rejuvenate. The surrounding garden is perfect for a walk post-soak and is particularly stunning during the cherry blossom season. You’ll also find tea rooms, a coffee lobby, and a gift shop on site. Traditional kaiseki meals are served as well as a Japanese breakfast.
Truly like wandering into a fairy tale, this 1300-year-old hot spring is surrounded by woodland and offers a village of options for public and private Kanazawa onsen including nine inns. It’s also ideal if you want to enjoy traditional Kaga cuisine, think hearty stews with mountain vegetables and fresh fish, as there are plenty of ryokan offering meals even if you’re not staying.
It’s easy to forget that you’re still within the Kanazawa city limits and are in fact only an hour from the main train station. The area is at its most beautiful in autumn and winter with the red leaves, snow, and chilly air only adding to the romantic atmosphere.
If you’d like to learn about the artist and poet Takehisa Yumeji who made Yuwaku his home and dedicated much of his work to the green beauty of Yuwaku Onsen then you can also visit the museum dedicated to him – Yumeji-kan. You’ll be able to see a selection of his work, art, and his biography.
Recommended ryokan: Each of the nine inns in this area are truly special, Iroha is just one of our favourites as almost all of their rooms have private open-air baths available. Another fantastic option is Yuwaku Onsen Atarashiya which is a traditional ryokan with a 1300-year-old history.
Not staying overnight: You’ll still be able to book time in most of the private onsen by making a booking but there’s’ also the beautiful public onsen Shirasagi no Yu. It’s free to enter and open from 9 am – 9 pm every day.
You can find out more about how to get there and the other Kanazawa ryokan available on Yuwaku Onsen Tourism website.
Located in Nomi, on the southern edge of Kanazawa, and only a short walk from Shufukuji Temple, Manyo is a high class inn which features saunas and indoor baths. These baths offer fantastic views of the surrounding area.
While the Kanazawa onsen mentioned so far are famed for their history and close ties to art and literature, what makes Manyou unique is what it offers in terms of luxury. Manyou is a place that offers visitors an overnight stay with access to the inside hot springs, sauna, free parking, housekeeping, and wifi. This is your perfect onsen inn experience in the Kanazawa area.
Hatori is the absolute height of luxury as far as onsen ryokan are concerned. Located in Kaga, a short journey down the coast from Kanazawa, Hatori is a gorgeous, high class ryokan with a variety of options when it comes to hot spring bathing.
In true ryokan fashion, Hatori offers guests tatami rooms with traditional Edo aesthetics, including shoji doors. Before we get to the onsen, Hatori offers guests a bistro that serves a healthy and broad seasonal cuisine of traditional local foods. There are also luxury treatments such as massage therapy, a lounge, and even a gift shop.
As for the onsen itself, Hatori offers guests private spa experiences open during the evening, as well as both indoor and outdoor communal baths. There may not be a more luxurious ryokan experience in the Ishikawa area.
The town of Awara is a thirty-minute train ride down the coast from Kanazawa, and is famed for its sheer range of incredible traditional onsen. Like its southern cousin, Beppu, on the island of Kyushu, Awara is an onsen resort town, and here you can have your pick of onsen to choose from.
One of the very best Awara onsen to choose from is, without a doubt, Grandia Housen. This enormous luxury onsen and modern interpretation of a ryokan offers enormous hot spring bathing facilities, as well as the finest cuisine curated with local ingredients, and even a moon viewing platform outside the main building.
Grandia House is located close to Eihei-ji Temple (temple of eternal peace), a 750-year-old Zen Buddhist temple. Originally a training monastery, this is one of the most important temples of Zen Buddhism in Japan, and a vital place to visit if you stay at one of the Aware onsen, or even if you’re just taking a day trip to Awara from Kanazwa on the train.