Kayotei Ryokan and exploring Yamanaka onsen

Luxurious stay at Kayotei Ryokan and exploring the Yamanaka onsen in Ishikawa Prefecture (25 & 26 November 2017)

Recharged from our first night in Kanazawa staying at the lovely Asadaya Ryokan, I made my way with Y and her best gal pals to our next stop to Kayotei Ryokan, an hour’s drive away. Located in the small hotsprings area of Yamanaka, Kayotei is a traditional ryokan, family-owned inn of only 10 rooms. I booked it through my favourite website – Ryokan Collection months ahead of time just to be safe! (1 Chome-ホ20 Yamanakaonsen Higashimachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa-ken 922-0114, Japan, Tel: +81 761-78-1410)

Getting here

You could take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa and then take a car down, or also fly into Komatsu Airport (from Tokyo or nearby other Japan cities), which is about a 30 minutes car ride from Kayotei Ryokan. Given our large group of girls we arranged to get a driver to take us in a big car from Kanazawa to Kayotei, and even getting around the area to sightsee during the next day. If you decide not to self-drive like us, you can get Kayotei to arrange it for you. It cost us around 30,000 yen to book for a 3 hours block.

Enjoying my time in my room on the first night. 

Takuya, one of the friendly managers of Kayotei.

Some refreshing hot tea, and Japanese dessert after arrival at my room.

Why did I choose Kayotei over the other ryokans in this area – for instance there was Beniya Mukayu and Araya Totoan as well. It was a tough decision, but I decided to choose Kayotei, as one of our gal pals – YW had stayed here the year before and said great things about it. I also liked how Kayotei had strong community ties with the local artisans ranging from woodworkers, papermakers, soy sauce brewers, to pottery makers and seaweed harvesters, and so on—and can even arrange visits to their studios and factories if we wish. I really liked this aspect, and given we wanted to check out some of the local artisan shops especially for pottery and lacquerware, we booked a guide to take us around. It’s no wonder their shop in the ryokan also featured some of the local products ranging from the local organic rice used to some of the beautiful local lacquerware and pottery from Yamanaka and the nearby Yamashiro onsen area. Set in a forest, the owner Mr Kamiguchi, developed this inn in the 1970s, with a fine balance of maintaining the authenticity of a Japanese inn, and as you walk through the corridors, they are accented with fine collection of antiques and furniture, all from his personal collection.

Enjoying the view of autumn leaves from my balcony.

Well-curated shop of local food products and crafts in Kayotei.

Walkway adorned with the owner’s personal collection of antiques.

Dinners in Kayotei

Kayotei given it being a luxury ryokan, is also known for its fine kaiseki cuisine. We had the chance to meet the owner on our first night’s dinner, he welcomed us and also explained to us about the ryokan, and his keen love for calligraphy, which explained the beautiful calligraphy observed on the Byobu (Japanese folding screens) in the dining room. One of the local sake bottle labels’ Japanese characters were also written by him! Dinners were elaborately presented on beautiful plates as expected, with a strong focus on the local fish and seafood. As always with my tips on ryokan, I requested for additional specials on top of the regular kaiseki meal, and decided to go for an additional snow crab course from Hashidate on the first night, and shabu course on the second night, which was both so divine! We had to order our favourite local sake – “Shishi-no-sato” Junmai Daiginjyo, which is super smooth and easy to drink. The rice served was the local organic rice – Aigomo, with fertilizer made from rice husk. Less than 3% of the rice in Japan is organic which makes this all the more precious, and explained why all of us ended up ordering bags of rice to bring back.

Just getting started with my lovely Kaiseki dinner!

My lovely snow crab dinner on the first night.

So delighted to see these beautiful beef for shabu!

Admiring the owner’s calligraphy on the Japanese screens.

My kaiseki dinner on the first night, complete with snow crab!

My second night kaiseki with Shabu course! Hmm yums!

Breakfast in Kayotei

Breakfasts in Kayotei was also equally scrumptious and felt so healthy, with fresh local grilled fish, the softest tofu, my favourite tamago omelette and of course served with the local organic rice, pickles and miso soup. I liked the extra touch of nori (seaweed) which was served over the charcoal grill for us to crisp up and eat with our rice. This simple nori aren’t like the ones we buy from the supermarket, but was specially picked by a diver for Kayotei Ryokan. The soft tofu is made by a family who wakes up around 3 to 4 am daily to make them! The local roast stem tea (totally caffeine free) is also served after our meals here, and is a great digestive tea. We bought packets of this in the Komatsu Airport. The focus on sourcing from local producers is just incredible here. And I have to highlight that Kayotei was so sweet to prepare for two of my gal pals, a simple onigiri (Japanese rice balls) to take away for breakfast, as they had to leave super early to catch their flight backs to Hong Kong!

I am the first here with pal YW, fresh from soaking in the hot spring.

My breakfast kaiseki at Kayotei.

Special Nori handpicked for Kayotei.

Hot Spring and Sleep in Kayotei 

There are 2 public hot spring baths provided in Kayotei, which is switched between male and female daily, so that we get a slightly different view of the forest, plus one of them also has a outdoor bath. The indoor bath isn’t too bad as well, as it has sliding doors which we can open out to look into the forest and also get some fresh cold air. It was our daily morning and evening ritual, and the reason I would get out of bed early was to just do a hot soak, perfect in this cool November weather. As for sleep, the rooms are a good size, though not as large and palatial as some other luxury ryokans I have been to, but comfortable definitely. We slept in 2 different type of rooms – one regular Japanese style guest room, and one with the attached bath, over the 2 nights just to compare. I definitely loved the one with the bath, given that we had 3 gals and a bear sharing the room, plus the bath in the large outdoor balcony, made it fun for us to hang out and chit chat late into the night while soaking in the hot tub!

Relaxing in my Japanese style guest room, and the large hot spring in the balcony.

All tucked in on my first night in Kayotei!

Lazy bums going back to sleep after breakfast.

The public onsen, all to myself in the morning.

Outdoor bath, in the public onsen. My favourite spot.

Eat and Drink in the area 

Here’s my list of recommendations to visit for sure when you come to Kayotei. It may look like a really sleepy place with nothing to do, but you’ll be surprised at the interesting selection of eateries and shops available here, that’s enough to keep you occupied!

Washu Bar Engawa (Ro-82 Yamanakaonsen Minamimachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa-ken 922-0129, Japan, Tel:+81 761-71-0059. Reservations a must.)

A tiny 5 seater sake bar run by a young and passionate sake sommelier – Yusuke Shimoki. We came here literally as our first stop for pre-dinner drinks, after I had read about it and it piqued my interest. I always like to visit interesting small Japanese bars like that, and get to know more about the local sake, drinks, etc. It didn’t disappoint, and the few of us lapped it up with the different sake he served us. Even though he didn’t speak a lot of English, I appreciate his attempt to explain to us about sake through the tasting notes he prepared for us in English. I enjoyed the local sake Shishi-no-sato so much that I walked down to the local sake shop just in front of the bar to buy one back to Singapore! I was told it’s only made in small batches and available in Yamanaka, so thank goodness I bought a bottle back.

Shimoki san explaining to us the sake course.

Sake tasting at Washu Bar Engawa.

The discreet entrance of Washu Bar Engawa.

Higashiyama Bonheur Cafe (

Just located behind Kayotei Ryokan, near the Kurotani bridge is this charming little 2-storey cafe set in the forest. We headed here for some light cake and simple coffee post breakfast. It has such an idyllic setting, one could sit here all day, and stare into the forest. For the avid hikers, you could take a walk around the Kakusenkei Park and take a break here too.

For another interesting cafe to visit, is Kakusenkei Kawadoko where people can sit out by the river and have tea. A pity this is open only from April to the end of October, so do come here for a relaxing tea if you are here during that period then!

The quirky Higashiyama Bonheur Cafe nestled in the woods, and me enjoying me cuppa coffee.

The surroundings of the cafe. 

Getting around Kakusenkei for the walking enthusiasts.

Italian at Alla Contadina (3 Chome-29 Besshomachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa-ken 922-0274, Japan, Tel:+81 761-77-5214)

I always love to eat Italian in Japan, and had to check out this trattoria just around 5 minutes drive away from Kayotei, run by the owner-chef who apparently used to work in Venice. The Spaghetti Bottarga and his Crab pasta was stellar, so remember to order these if you decide to take a break from Jap and do Italian!

Fresh and delicious Crab Pasta.

Spaghetti Bottarga pasta!

Savouring the yummy pizza here.

Dessert at Seiyogashi Club (Re-23 Yamanakaonsen Yunodemachi, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa-ken 922-0124, Tel: +81 761-78-3355)

Located along the little street of Yamanaka is this 2-storey dessert shop, which looks the ‘glitziest’ or modern compared to the simple pared down pottery shops and local sake and butchery shops that line this street. We hopped in for a tea break after our shopping (yes more on that in the next section), and the Kyoho grape chiffon cake is a must order! The gals were so sweet to surprise Y with a chocolate chestnut cake from this shop, during dinner later at Kayotei Ryokan!

Down the street from this dessert shop, is a butcher Izumiya (いづみや精肉店, 〒 922 – 129 Ishikawa Prefecture, Kaga, Yamanaka Onsen Minami-cho Nin -16), famous for their beef croquettes. I wanted to buy some for the group including our lovely driver, and he actually beat us to it and treated us instead to the yummy croquettes. It’s really one of the best I’ve had, and I like that it has beef in it, which isn’t so typical.

Cakes and pastries galore at Seiyogashi Club! 

Grape cream cake – so good! 

A bear can never have too many cakes!

Shopping for Ceramics, Pottery and Lacquerware

I would have loved to visit some of the local woodworkers, and lacquer makers if we had more time, but given the one afternoon we had to explore the neighbourhood, checking out some of the local pottery, ceramic shops was the number 1 priority for all of us. Plus, the one studio the ryokan wanted to show us had sadly been affected by a fire, so we could not visit it. Anyhow, here’s my list of the must visits if you love these as much as I do.

Suda seika 九谷焼窯元 須田菁華 (Higashiyamamachi-4 Yamashiroonsen, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa-ken 922-0242, Japan, Tel: +81 761-76-0008)

Apparently, story has it that the 1st generation founder of this shop started a kiln in 1906, and learnt ceramics from the famous Kitaoji Rosanjin, and subsequently the ceramics made here had a lot of artistic influence from Rosanjin, one of Japan’s more revered and respected potters. Now, run by the 4th generation owner, many of the pieces still carries the influence from that era, and they are just gorgeous! The prices are pretty heart pounding as well, and hence you can decide if you want to make this your first or last stop. There’s nothing else like this shop’s Kutani pottery in this vicinity, they are a league on their own. I was oohing and aah-ing for the longest time with Y at some of the large display plates, but in the end we walked away empty ended. Sigh such regrets! Till the next visit then!

Most amazing ceramics at Sudaseika.

Another close up.

Kutani Bitoen (〒922-0242 Ishikawa-ken, Kaga-shi, Yamashiroonsen, 16, 16-71, Tel:+81 761-76-0227)

Also located in the Yamashiro area near Suda Seika, this shop has a huge collection of Japanese ceramics, mostly more of a classic Japanese look, but if you have the eye, you can still find some nice pieces here. The prices are not super cheap but definitely more decently priced than at Suda. I would say Suda is like buying an art piece, while when you come to Bitoen, it’s more of purchasing an everyday piece. I was quite thankful to have found some really pretty bowls to serve, rice or noodles in, which goes with the rest of my white plates at home!

Some beautiful bowls I bought from Kutani Bitoen. 

Bunpeido Lacquerware 漆芸文平堂 (〒922-0129 Ishikawa-ken, Kaga-shi, Yamanakaonsen Minamimachi, Ni−30-1, Tel: +81 761-78-2037)

This shop serves all sorts of lacquerware, which are pretty fairly priced! I ended up buying a beautiful lacquer tray to use. This is great place to shop if you want to purchase some local lacquer homeware to use.

Outside Bunpeido Lacquerware shop. Don’t miss it!

Sightseeing at Ayatorihashi Bridge (

I wished I had more time for sightseeing during my stay here, but if you have limited time like me, be sure to check out Ayatorihashi Bridge located at the end of the shopping street in Yamanaka towards the southern part. Shaped in a modern form with striking pink beams, it’s quite a departure from the idyllic and chill forest setting that surrounds it. It was starting to drizzle when we arrived here, hence unfortunately my photo colors were a little dull but was glad to take a fun picture with the gals and also with our English tour guide/ translator – Kayo, who happened to be the grandaughter-in-law of Kayotei’s owner, which she only told us at the end of the tour!

With lovely Kayo, our patient guide for the day. 

Posing at Ayatorihashi Bridge.

Best shot of Ayatorihashi Bridge before it started raining.

It was sad to say goodbye to Kayotei and the lovely team of people who made us feel so at home, but I hope I can come back and visit them soon! At least, I have the organic rice, stem tea and beautiful lacquer ware and bowls from this area to remind me of this quaint town.

We paid 47,670 yen for the Japanese suite and 61,710 yen for the Japanese Junior Suite (based on per person for 1 night, inclusive of accommodation, breakfast and dinner) in Kayotei, booked through The Ryokan Collection.

Lovey’s Tip: If you are heading back to Tokyo like us, it’s easier to fly back to Haneda via the nearby Komatsu Airport.

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