Meiji Meets Modern at Ishikawa’s Katayamazu Hot Springs

Guide to Japan

Katayamazu, in the city of Kaga, is the youngest of the three popular hot spring areas to be found there. Serious development of this district as a resort area for taking the waters began as recently as the Meiji era (1868–1912).

The Katayamazu springs are on the southwest shore of Lake Shibayama.

The story of Katayamazu begins several centuries ago in Daishōji, a small feudal domain located where Kaga now stands. In 1653, the second daimyō of Daishōji, Maeda Toshiaki, was falconing at Lake Shibayama when he noticed birds flocking together on the lake’s surface. Further investigation revealed hot springs at the bottom of the lake, but it would be more than two centuries later before a major construction project saw the lake partly filled in, allowing access to the springs and enabling their development. A town sprang up to accommodate visitors, and the Katayamazu springs have remained a popular destination ever since.

Engawa, the foot spa in Sunahase Park at the heart of the onsen town.

In 2012, a new sōyu, or collective hot spring area, opened on Mount Haku, overlooking the shores of Lake Shibayama. Designed by world-renowned architect Taniguchi Yoshio, the sōyu facility has a strikingly modern all-glass facade and two main bathing areas: Kata no Yu, the “Waters of the Lake,” and Mori no Yu, the “Waters of the Forest.” The Waters of the Lake are designed so that the edge of the bath blends in with the surface of Shibayama below, an “infinity pool” look that creates a sense of connection to nature as well as a spectacular view.

The Waters of the Lake offer superb views of Lake Shibayama.

The Hanayakata, literally “Mansion of Flowers,” is where the local geisha practiced their dancing and shamisen playing in earlier ages. The red grilles across the front of the building are characteristic of hot spring town streetscapes from that period, and the lanterns with geishas’ names on them also evoke the festive traditions of the past.

The Hanayakata contains the Fukusa teahouse, where visitors can enjoy sweets along with their tea, and hosts tofu-making workshops using water direct from the hot springs.

Access: From Kagaonsen Station on the JR Hokuriku Main Line, board a sightseeing bus running the Komatsu Airport route, and then ride for about 10 minutes to the Katayamazu Onsen bus stop.

(Originally written in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television. Banner photo: The Sōyu, a collective hot spring resort in Katayamazu built in a modern style.)

Ishikawa tourism Hokuriku Hot Springs