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A scenic route to experience tradition and style

Theme of the Scenic Route



  • Traveled : November,2022 Christopher Jobson
    Publisher & Writer
    Reside in USA
  • Traveled : November,2022 Veronica Carnevale
    Content creator with Japan Travel
    Reside in Tokyo
    Home country: USA

For an immersive experience of tradition and elegance, this itinerary takes you from the Imperial Palace—site of the Imperial Residence where Japan’s Emperor and Empress live—to Kenroku-en Garden in Ishikawa Prefecture. Take time to savor the serene beauty as you stroll its grounds, an embodiment of the former local feudal lords’ hopes for eternal prosperity.

Official Tokyo Travel Guide

Local government official website

Haneda Airportmore

Haneda Airport
The airport serves as an air gateway for Tokyo. The passenger terminal is filled with various commercial facilities, and visitors can command a panoramic view of Tokyo Bay from the rooftop observation deck, so that every one, even those who are not flying, can enjoy the terminal.

Tokyo Metropolitan Area



Imperial Palacemore


Imperial Palace
Built on the site of the former Edo Castle, this oasis in the heart of Chiyoda Ward became the permanent home to the Imperial Family in 1869. Surrounded by garden areas filled with beautifully manicured plants and flowers, moats, and remnants of the old Edo Castle structures, this area is perfect as a respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
  • Christopher Jobson

    Imperial Palace: The breathtaking expanse of the Imperial Palace leaves an impression of history and strength. Surrounded by an ancient moat and broad fields of gravel, the massive temple walls open to quiet grounds dotted with various outbuildings, the Tōkagakudō Concert Hall, the Orchard, the Ninomaru Garden garden filled with symbolic trees and a koi pond. You also have an opportunity to walk across Tokyo’s most famous bridge: Niju Bashi Bridge–an iconic arched structure has stood the test of time. It is not usually used, but is used for events.

    Nanko Rest house: Lunch at the nearby Nanko Rest House surprised me with a bountiful Edo-style 3-tiered lunch box filled with bites (my favorite was a selection of grilled tofu with different seasonings), along with soup and tea. The meal included a complementary set of chopsticks emblazoned with the Imperial Seal of Japan, more of which are available in the tastefully curated gift shop also in the building.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Imperial Palace: Majestic bridges, stone moat walls, and distant watchtowers greeted me as I entered the Imperial Palace’s Kokyo Gaien National Garden. Located in the heart of the city, this palace—the former site of Edo Castle—stands as a reminder of the country’s feudal past when shogun (military dictators), daimyo (feudal lords), and samurai reigned supreme. Today, much of the palace grounds have been converted into parks. Even so, the atmosphere of the past still lingers. In the Kokyo Gaien National Garden, I admired thousands of black pine trees, an impressive bronze samurai statue, and two of the country’s most recognizable bridges—a stone bridge and an iron bridge, which is more commonly known by its nickname Nijubashi. Afterwards, I explored the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace where I stepped even closer to the past. Here, I walked among beautifully sculpted Japanese gardens. Despite the surrounding cityscape, I felt as though I was walking in the Edo period.

    All-day Dining "Grand Kitchen", Palace Hotel Tokyo: After following the shadows of past samurai, I returned to the present with lunch at the Grand Kitchen in the Palace Hotel Tokyo—a hotel located on the eastern side of the Imperial Palace. The staff seated me at an outdoor table, and I was treated to magnificent views of the palace’s moat and greenery against the encircling highrises. For my entree, I chose the fish of the day. While snuggled in a restaurant-provided blanket, I enjoyed bread and olive oil, creamy onion soup garnished with croutons and fried onions, a tuna filet with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables, and a fusion dessert of shiratama rice cakes, sweet red beans, coffee jelly, and black sesame panna cotta. I ended the meal with a steaming cup of tea, which perfectly complemented the crisp air and rainy scenery.

20 minutes by train (non-JR lines)

Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆more

Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆
Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆ has pottery classes where you can experience making pottery. You can enjoy pottery in an attractive classroom about a 5-minute walk from the nearest station. There are English-speaking courses and you can rent protective clothing to allow you to feel at ease while enjoying the full experience.
  • Christopher Jobson

    Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆: Stepping down into the subterranean space of the Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆ is like entering another universe, literally. Owner and artist Taku Nakano is a master of transforming traditional ceramics into goblets, plates, and bowls that glisten like celestial bodies. Take a seat at one of his pottery wheels (rokuro), and let him guide you through the miraculous creation of vessels.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆: When I finished lunch, the rain had cleared, and I was ready to try my hand at pottery! From Otemachi Station near the restaurant, I took the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line to Omote-sando Station (about 15 minutes) and then walked an additional five minutes to the Taku Nakano CeramicArts☆ for a pottery workshop. The shop’s interior shined with beautifully crafted glasswork, ceramics, and pottery, and the instructor welcomed me with a smile. Upon arrival, I changed into a samue, traditional Japanese work clothing, and then sat beside the pottery wheel as the teacher gave me some basic instructions. Soon, it was my turn to sit behind the wheel. Although the slippery clay was difficult to mold at times, the teacher patiently guided me every step of the way. After about two hours of intense concentration, I was left clay-splattered with two bowls, a small vase, and a traditional tea cup. I chose colors for my creations and left them with the facility to finish. Generally, it takes about one month for the facility to finish the pottery pieces and ship them to participants (only to those who live in Japan). I look forward to seeing my art! *Those who live overseas can receive a small piece of lacquer-repaired pottery made by a teacher as a souvenir.

20 minutes by train (non-JR lines)


Houseboats can be boarded from tourist areas such as Asakusa, Odaiba and Shinagawa. The services offered vary depending on the houseboat operator, but it is common for the boarding fee to include an all-you-can-drink menu. After enjoying Japanese dishes such as sushi, tempura and sashimi prepared with seasonal ingredients, enjoy the night view of the city center from the boat deck. Another popular attraction of houseboats is an opportunity to enjoy seasonal scenery from the water, such as cherry blossoms in spring and fireworks in summer. In the summer it is recommended that passengerss wear yukata (informal cotton kimono) and jinbei (informal summer clothes for men).
  • Christopher Jobson

    Houseboat: For a tour of Tokyo’s breathtaking bridges, you can’t do better than a nighttime yakatabune pleasure boat cruise. The vast cityscape and nearly a dozen bridges reflect off the dark waters of the Sumida River with views of the Tokyo Tower and the multicolor TOKYO SKYTREE. Inside the boat, enjoy drinks and bites while sitting on a cabin floor lined with grass tatami mats. We enjoyed crab, a variety of pickles, tempura vegetables, sashimi, and miso soup.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Houseboat: After a short rest at my hotel, I traveled to Kuramae Station via the Toei Oedo Line and then walked about five minutes to the Umayabashi boarding area. My activity for the night—a dinner cruise on the Sumida River in a yakatabune boat! This traditional boat had a first floor dining area with tatami floors and large windows, an open-air second floor, and a lantern-adorned exterior. Once I settled in my seat, the jovial staff brought out stewed pork, crab legs, sashimi, fresh fish and vegetable tempura, rice with clams, miso soup, and a sweet treat for dessert. As I dined on the savory flavors, the boat cruised under more than a dozen illuminated bridges, and I was even able to spot Tokyo Tower between the skyscrapers! During the romantic ride, the boat stopped in Odaiba and in front of TOKYO SKYTREE. During these instances, the passengers and I rushed outside. I inhaled the refreshing night air and gazed wide-eyed at the display of urban beauty. Twinkling city lights and passing boats reflected in the black water like an abstract painting. Iconic sights such as Odaiba, the Rainbow Bridge, and TOKYO SKYTREE felt born anew as I viewed them from the river. The entire experience, from the bright dining inside to the alluring mystery of the night, was magical.

Tokyo Metropolitan Area



Tokyo Stationmore

Tokyo Station
October 2012 saw completion of the preservation and renovation work on the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building. The red brick facade long loved as the symbol of Tokyo Station has made a comeback, along with the history and grandeur of the original building dating nearly a hundred years back. The occasion also saw the reopening of Tokyo Station Hotel and Tokyo Station Gallery. The former is the only hotel situated within an important cultural property of Japan. The interior is designed in a sophisticated, classical European style to blend with the splendor of the Marunouchi Building exterior.

JR Hokuriku Shinkansen

  • Christopher Jobson

    Ekiben *Fukagawa Meshi: Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a fukagawa-meshi bento box to be a memorable lunch, but this traditional meal of clams and rice proved to be a surprisingly sweet and satisfying meal. Boxes like these are ubiquitous in Japan’s grocery stores, markets, and train stations, offering an array of culinary delights in small portable boxes.

    Kagayaki 505 ( Tokyo → Kanazawa): The only thing more impressive than the blistering speed of the Shinkansen "Kagayaki" is the scale of Tokyo as it rushes by outside. Traveling 160mph (260 km/h) to Kanazawa station in about two hours and a half, I experienced the sprawling cityscapes that gave way to expansive mountains with low-hanging clouds, forests, rivers, and even views of the ocean.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Kagayaki 505 ( Tokyo → Kanazawa): My morning started at Tokyo Station. For breakfast, I grabbed a warm green tea from a vending machine and purchased a bento box to enjoy on my ride. My train for the day was the Shinkansen "Kagayaki." This high-speed train runs along the Hokuriku Shinkansen line and is the fastest train service to Kanazawa, Ishikawa at roughly two hours and 30 minutes. After I settled in my train seat by the window, I was off! The seat was comfortable, and, thanks to the roomy legroom, I was able to easily store my luggage beside me. I quickly opened my bento called Fukagawameshi, and dove into the cute boxed meal, which featured soy sauce-flavored clams over rice. The salty flavors complimented the neutral rice perfectly. After the meal, I turned my gaze to the passing scenery and watched as the highrises gave way to residential areas, mountains, and nature. As we approached Ishikawa, I could even see the Sea of Japan!

Kanazawa Stationmore

Kanazawa Station

There is a reason why Kanazawa Station was chosen as one of the 14 most beautiful stations in the world by Travel+Leisure in 2011. It is characterized by a dome supported by massive pillars modeled after Japanese drums used in traditional performing arts. Furthermore, the inside of the station is decorated with local traditional handicrafts as if it were a museum.

  • Christopher Jobson

    Kanazawa Station: The immaculate Kanazawa Station is an architectural marvel with its vaulted glass roof and monumental spiraling wood gate that resembles a torii–a gate often found at Japanese shrines. Indoors is an exhibition of sorts displayed on 36 pillars showing the wide variety of traditional crafts found throughout Ishikawa Prefecture. You might also spot the local mustachio’d mascot, Hyakumansan, and a trio of sumo wrestlers that greet visitors.

    Lunch: Fusion21
    Tucked into the side of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa's broad circular footprint, the Fusion 21 cafe feels like an extension of the artwork itself. The tall windows look out onto a grassy square housing Olafur Eliasson’s multicolor installation Colour activity house. The first course was a buffet of salads and various bites including twists of soba noodles, miniature croissants, and soup followed by optional kinds of pasta or beautifully plated fish.

    21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art: This famously circular art museum designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa houses significant artworks by major contemporary artists working today. Explore James Turrell’s lovely Blue Planet Sky installation that lets you peer upward towards a portal to the sky (with heated seats!) or Leandro Erlich’s famous The Swimming Pool installation that plunges you deep into an immersive pool–all without getting wet.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Kanazawa Station: After the visually immersive train ride, I arrived at Kanazawa Station, which is recognized as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world! As I entered the main hub of the station, I admired the facility’s unique columns, which were decorated with visual representations and descriptions of 36 Designated Traditional Crafts of Ishikawa Prefecture. At the tourist information counter, I purchased a one-day bus pass and used the station’s 700 yen luggage service to transfer my belongings to my accommodation for the night. Next, I moved to the East Exit where the station’s iconic Tsuzumimon Gate greeted me. Named after its resemblance to the traditional tsuzumi drum, the wooden structure is made up of intersecting wooden beams and connected to the station’s glass ceiling—called the Motenashi Dome. I craned my neck towards the sky and marveled at the contrasting designs of modernity and tradition.

    Lunch: Fusion21
    From Kanazawa Station, I boarded a bus for the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa—about a 15-minute ride—to have lunch at the facility’s onsite restaurant, Fusion21. The restaurant itself is located just past the museum’s entrance. The eatery’s bright dining space epitomized minimalism with its white color scheme and massive floor to ceiling windows and offered views of the museum’s front greenspace. For lunch, the restaurant offered pasta, rice, fish, and meat options, as well as access to a buffet. I chose oil pasta with pancetta and mushrooms, and picked up some salad, corn soup, fried shrimp, glazed sweet potatoes, and soba as appetizers from the buffet. The variety of flavors and textures took my taste buds on a culinary journey and after the satisfying meal, I was ready to explore the museum.

    21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art: The museum, from its design to its exhibits, was truly a celebration of art. As I walked around the perimeter of the circular facility, I enjoyed thought-provoking artworks that played with colors, materials, and forms; about a hundred varieties of trees; and even a traditional teahouse! Inside, my artistic adventure continued with contemporary exhibits that were both visually and mentally intriguing. Thanks to the English descriptions, I was able to fully enjoy everything! One of my favorite exhibits was The Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich—a life-sized pool and interactive optical illusion that guests can both view from above and enter! Of course, I had to enter. Inside, I watched the distorted faces of museum-goers look down at me, and above, it felt as though I was viewing people underwater. I ended my visit at the Blue Planet Sky by James Turrell. The focal point of this empty room was a large square hole in the ceiling. I took a seat on a bench along the room’s perimeter and felt my mind relax as I watched the passing clouds.

10 minutes by bus

5 minutes on foot

Higashi Chaya Districtmore

Higashi Chaya District
One of the chaya (tea house) districts, widely known as a part of Kanazawa culture. The streets are lined with formal restaurants, stylish townhouse cafes and selection shops handling traditional craftworks, so you can enjoy Kanazawa-style cuisine and shopping. The old townscape, brimming with atmosphere, has been designated as a Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
  • Christopher Jobson

    Higashi Chaya District: Appreciating the splendor of gold is one thing, but witnessing its production and experiencing the application of gold leaf will forever transform your understanding of the material. The Kanazawa region produces an estimated 99% of Japan’s gold leaf, placing the historic Sado Gold mine at the epicenter. You’ll learn about the nation’s history of gold and then create your own custom object like a small container or chopsticks.

    Walking through the Higashi Chaya District is like stepping back in time. From the tiled roofs (kawara) to ornate woodwork facades, to the plethora of tourists donning rented kimonos for the day, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re on a movie set. But, more than just a set, the neighborhood thrives with small businesses including Wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) shops, gifts, several gold leaf stores, and restaurants.

    CRAFEAT (dinner): CRAFEAT (a portmanteau of “craft” and “eat”) is nestled into the narrow one-way streets of Kanazawa’s dense​​ Kiguramachi district, lined with small businesses, restaurants, and homes. Nestle next to friends at the cozy bar and watch as the chef prepares bite after bite. Oden is most akin to a hot pot dish, in which the majority of the meal is prepared in a large pot of broth made with kombu (kelp seaweed) and bonito (smoked tuna) flakes. We enjoyed courses of blowfish, egg, pickled seaweed with yuzu zest, fish cakes, baked rice balls (onigiri), pickled lotus roots, and much, much more.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Higashi Chaya District: After exploring contemporary art, I returned to tradition with a gold leaf workshop at Gold Leaf Sakuda! The class began with a brief description of the process of melting, shaping, and flattening gold, and I was shocked to hear that Kanazawa produces 99 percent of gold leaf used in Japan! After the explanation, I turned my eyes to a veteran artisan cutting gold leaf. Her fluid movements were hypnotizing and highlighted her years of mastering the craft. Next, it was time for me to create my own gold leaf souvenir. From the store’s collection of plates, chopsticks, boxes, and mirrors, I chose a small box shaped like a cherry blossom and opted for a cat design with flowers. After adding the design to my box’s lid, I applied the gold leaf and was left with a souvenir box that embodied my experience.

    About a five-minute walk from the gold leaf shop was the renowned Higashi Chaya District. Instantly, I felt as though I was transported to the Edo period. With stone walkways at my feet, I walked beside beautifully preserved wooden chaya, or tea houses. In the past, this area served as a bustling entertainment district where geisha thrived. Today, many of these buildings have been converted into shops and cafes, and only 11 geisha still work in the area. Even so, the alluring vibe of the past was mesmerizing and offered a tangible snapshot of the past.

    CRAFEAT (dinner): After journeying through Kanazawa’s arts, crafts, and traditional charm, I was ready for some dinner. My stop for the night—CRAFEAT, an oden restaurant. Oden is a dashi-broth based dish filled with a variety of ingredients. Upon entering the restaurant, I was encircled in a welcoming atmosphere of wooden accents and relaxing music and seated at a bar overlooking part of the kitchen. Each dish was served on beautiful Wajima lacquerware as the shop’s owner is also the tenth generation owner of a lacquerware company! The multi-course meal featured multiple flavors, including potato salad, blowfish and seaweed soup, and lotus root pickles. The star of the meal, of course, was the oden. In the light, savory broth I enjoyed fried tofu, konjac, fish cake, gluten, hard boiled eggs, and more. The artfully plated and flavorful meal was the perfect way to end my day in Kanazawa.

6 minutes by bus

3 minutes on foot


Kenroku-en Gardenmore


Kenroku-en Garden
Kenroku-en Garden is one of the three most famous gardens of Japan, and it is the most beautiful "samurai garden" that has taken around 180 years to establish. The garden offers enjoyment of different views for every season of the year; cherry blossoms in spring, rabbitear irises in summer, autumn colors in the fall, and "yukizuri (poles and ropes to prop up trees in winter)." Visitors can also tour the neighboring Kanazawa Castle. The town of Kanazawa was developed around the castle, and there are numerous historical and cultural facilities nearby.
  • Christopher Jobson

    Kenroku-en Garden: This landscape garden is famous for its seasonal beauty achieved through contrasts, embedded in the garden’s name: "Kenrokuen" translates to “garden that combines six characteristics." Open areas of lakes and fields embody spaciousness while featuring pockets of private gardens and walkways that offer seclusion; artifice is demonstrated with carefully constructed bridges and outbuildings while antiquity manifests in the ancient pine trees, maples, and untouched parklands; lastly, the many streams and lakes provide sources of water, and the entire garden is elevated on a mountain offering unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding city.

    Lunch: Kourin Sushi
    Don’t let the line around the corner scare you away. It’s there for a reason: this was the best meal of my entire visit, and I implore you to visit. Couple this meal with a trip to the nearby Kenrokuen garden and you’ve probably had a perfect day. There are only a few seats inside Kourin Sushi—two tables and a short bar—but the limited space somehow intensifies the food. I recommend getting a chef’s selection of whatever’s best that day, and prepare yourself for some of the most authentic sushi of your life.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Kenroku-en Garden: I started my morning at Kenrokuen Garden—one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan! Directly translated, Kenrokuen means “combination,” “six,” “garden,” and refers to six attributes that, according to ancient Chinese techniques, create the perfect garden. The moment I entered the garden, I was entranced by the sculpted grounds. Hundreds of cherry, pine, plum, and maple trees stood on the banks of ponds and streams. With the melody of running water in the background, I followed autumn leaf-strewn paths through landscaped foliage and moss-covered stone lanterns. Gentle wind ruffled the trees, causing colorful leaves to tumble like rainfall. Although manmade, the garden respected and highlighted the beauty of nature. I look forward to returning one day to experience Kenrokuen in all seasons.

    Lunch: Kourin Sushi
    From Kenrokuen, I walked about 15 minutes to Kourin Sushi for lunch. When I arrived, a line already wrapped around the restaurant, attesting to its popularity. The tiny sushi joint only had two tables and five counter seats, creating an intimate setting, and exuded traditional vibes with vintage posters, woodwork, and shoji windows. Once I settled at a corner table, the staff brought me a steaming cup of green tea, and I ordered the chef’s choice, which was a ten-piece sushi set. Each piece of sushi was a different fish, allowing me to taste multiple flavors. My favorites were tuna, salmon, oyster, swordfish, and red snapper. Paired with the savory aroma of soy sauce, each bite brought a smile to my face.

11 minutes by bus

50 minutes by train (JR)

17 minutes by bus

Natadera Templemore

Natadera Temple
A temple of Shingon Buddhism founded in 717.
The grounds are likely the result of an underwater volcanic eruption, and there are several important cultural properties in addition to strange rock formations that have been eroded by wind and waves for many years, providing a wonderful view.
Visitors can enjoy surrounding scenery each season, but the temple is especially famous as a autumnal spot, and when fall arrives the jagged rock walls are colored with red and yellow foliage to create stunning scenery.
  • Christopher Jobson

    Natadera Temple: Carved into the side of a mountain, Natadera Temple in Ishikawa has been a continuously maintained sacred site for nearly 1,300 years. As the incense wafts around you and the dense woods blanketed with moss soften the noise, it becomes immediately clear this is a place for quiet contemplation. Take in the shrines, creeks, wood carvings, and various statues and landmarks.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Natadera Temple: After the delicious meal, I took a bus back to Kanazawa Station, and hopped on the JR Hokuriku Line for Awazu Station in Komatsu City, which in total took about 50 minutes. From there, it was a 10-minute taxi drive to my next destination—Natadera Temple. I first visited the Kondo Keo-den, which was a brilliant vermillion building that housed a statue of the temple’s principal deity—the Eleven-Headed, Thousand-Handed Kannon, or Buddhist goddess of mercy. Despite the statue’s imposing height of 7.8 meters, the goddess’ serene expression put my mind at ease. Next, I moved to the temple’s rock outcropping, one of its most defining areas. The unique rock formations were formed by volcanic eruptions and later used by ascetic monks to practice Buddhism. When I visited, autumn foliage dotted the cliff sides, making for a wondrous sight of spiritual and natural harmony. Later, I entered the Main Shrine and walked through ancient caves filled with Buddhist relics. After emerging from the caves and wandering the naturally blessed grounds, I felt utterly content.

20 minutes by taxi

  • Christopher Jobson

    Dinner at inn (Kaga Cuisine Benihana): Experience the full force of Japanese hospitality at Benihana located within the Kissho Yamanaka hotel. Rent a yakuta and stroll through a dining area modeled after samurai residences while smells waft in through an open kitchen concept. We enjoyed DIY wagyu beef, tempura with flavored salts, and a dark miso soup.

    Accommodation ( Kissho Yamanaka): Staying at the Kissho Yamanaka is like being transported to another era but with many of today’s comforts. Offering both Japanese and Western styles with either beds or low-level mattresses atop tatami mats, the rooms have wonderful views of the Daishoji River. I enjoyed a beautiful evening performance of dance and music (yamanaka-bushi) and a very yummy “Kaga pudding” served in a small jar.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Dinner at inn (Kaga Cuisine Benihana): Dinner was at Kissho Yamanaka, my accommodation for the night. Before the meal, the staff led me to a room full of yukata, where I could choose one for my stay. I opted for a dark blue one with a pink and red floral pattern and paired it with a red belt, or obi. After dressing in the traditional attire, I headed to the dining hall. Served on a gold leaf covered tray, I started with sauteed spinach, sweet potato, sesame tofu, fresh seafood, and plum sake. Next, the server brought out thinly sliced wagyu beef and vegetables that I cooked in a small pot of steaming broth. When I cooked the meat to my liking, I dipped it in the accompanying sesame sauce for a heavenly bite. The beef was followed by fried fish, rice, miso soup, and a fruity treat for dessert.

    Accommodation (Kissho Yamanaka): Kissho Yamankaka—a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan—epitomized Japanese hospitality with its friendly staff, attention to detail, and beautifully designed rooms. My Japanese style room featured tatami floors and shoji windows, as well as modern conveniences such as a refrigerator, safe, and Wi-Fi. After dinner, I was excited to have a 50-minute reservation for one of the ryokan’s private hot spring baths. The open-air, stone bath was the definition of tranquility and instantly relaxed my body. Surrounded by bamboo walls, I looked up at the night sky through Japanese maple leaves and listened to the gentle sound of running water. All around me, steam rose off the hot spring water as it met the autumn air. Feeling refreshed, I went back to my room, where the staff had laid out a futon, and fell into a peaceful slumber.

    The next morning, I enjoyed a nourishing breakfast provided by the ryokan of rice porridge and a variety of traditional Japanese flavors, including a rolled egg, sashimi, and grilled fish.



In the beautiful valley of Kakusenkei settled in a hot spring area, a 1.3 km promenade invites visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery while walking. Spring features cherry blossoms, summer has fresh greenery and autumn has radiant foliage. The scene that unfolds before you is a superb view. Visitors can also enjoy quaint strolls along bridges, such as the all-cypress Koorogi bridge and the S-shape modern Ayatori bridge.
  • Christopher Jobson

    Kakusenkei: This short hike along a twisting river is a perfect example of what you find frequently around Japan, the integration of the natural world with everyday life. Greenery sprouts from every corner, waterfalls dot the brick and stone path, and moss-covered bridges carry you across small stone outcrops. Stop for Kaga Boucha or sweets in a cafe that overlooks the Daishoji River.

    Rokuro-no-Sato Arts and Crafts Hall: Try your hand at traditional wood turning at this active studio that produces hundreds of cups, bowls, and other objects every single week for the past. Amidst deep piles of wood shavings, you can fashion your own bowl or cup with an artist’s assistance. Sign the bottom and have the fully lacquered work shipped to you afterward.

    Lunch: Dankura (Soba)
    This quiet and focused restaurant offers hot and cold soba noodles along with warm soba tea. The open kitchen fills the area with hot steam as the meal comes together. I enjoyed a delicious hot soba noodle dish with seasonal mushrooms.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Kakusenkei: I started the sunny day with a hike through Kakusenkei Gorge, which was a roughly 15-minute walk from the ryokan. This 1.3-kilometer gorge encompasses part of the Daishoji River and runs through the hot spring town, Yamanaka Onsen. As I walked along cobblestone and dirt paths, the charm of nature bloomed all around me. The gorge’s crystal waters glittered in the morning sunlight, and dense foliage lined the banks, giving the area a secluded feeling despite its close proximity to the onsen town. I marveled at the untamed beauty of nature as moss, ferns, trees, rocks, and water intertwined in seamless harmony. About half way through the hike, I passed under the Ayatori bridge—a unique twisted bridge named after its resemblance to the children’s game, cat’s cradle. I even walked by a small cafe along the trail that had seating platforms built beside the river. The area served as a wonderful place to connect with nature.

    Rokuro-no-Sato Arts and Crafts Hall:After the hike, I explored the traditional wares of nearby Yuge Kaido Street before taking a taxi to Rokuro-no-Sato Kogei-no-Yakata—a crafts hall that exhibits, sells, and offers hands-on experiences related to Yamanaka lacquerware. Upon entering, I was swept into an authentic workshop where a craftsman was shaping bowls with a unique woodturning method. Saw dust tinged her dark hair as wood shavings piled around her, and she invited me to try the technique. With the apprentice’s steady hands guiding me, I slowly shaped a shallow bowl within ten minutes. After adding some finishing touches, the facility will ship the completed bowl to me! With the setting of a genuine artisan’s workshop, the experience offered unique insight into the ancient craft.

    Lunch: Dankura (Soba)
    After the morning hike and wood carving activity, I had worked up quite the appetite. Fortunately, Teuchi Soba Dankura—my lunch spot—was only about 10 minutes away by taxi. Coincidentally, the restaurant was located in a repurposed wood carving facility! After sitting, the staff brought out warm sobacha, or soba tea, and I ordered tsumetorozaru soba, which included cold buckwheat noodles and a broth-based dipping sauce garnished with green onion and wasabi. The restaurant is renowned for its Echizen soba—a delicacy in neighboring Fukui prefecture. The earthy aroma of the noodles paired perfectly with the light dipping sauce and spicy kick of the wasabi, and the soba itself had a nice chew. Keeping with the traditional way of eating soba, I finished the meal with a cup of sobayu, which is the water that the noodles were boiled in.

    Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute: My last stop in Ishikawa was Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute, which was about a 30-minute drive from the soba restaurant. The modern facility rested beside a plot of fields in Komatsu’s countryside and was surrounded by lush mountains. The founder, famed sake brewer Noguchi Naohiko, opened the facility to teach future brewers. My experience started with a tour of the sake brewery. After learning about the brewery’s history and present day operations, I went to a tasting area to try five different kinds of sake paired with flavors, such as squid, roe, cheese, prosciutto, and daikon radish. My favorite flavor combination was the Miyamanishiki sake, which had a sweet, yet smooth flavor, and the daikon radish. Thanks to the brewery's welcoming atmosphere and attention to detail, it served as an excellent place to explore sake and learn about the industry.

30 minutes by bus

10 minutes by train (JR)

10 minutes by bus

Komatsu Airport

  • Christopher Jobson

    In-flight meal: Even just a short flight from Kanazawa to Tokyo is a reminder of how pleasurable Japanese hospitality is from efficient boarding, to friendly inflight service, a delicious bento-style dinner, and even a note from the flight attendant written in English for our benefit.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    In-flight meal: After exploring the flavors of sake, it was time for me to head back to Tokyo. From the brewery, I took a taxi to Komatsu airport, which took about 30 minutes. Before boarding the flight, I purchased a bento box to enjoy on the roughly one hour flight. Once the flight was airborne, I happily opened the bento and enjoyed a delicious meal of soy sauce glazed chicken, rice, eggs, and potato salad. With the night sky around me, I exhaled and watched the twinkling city lights below.

Haneda Airport

  • Christopher Jobson

    I returned from this trip thoroughly changed and with an indelible impression of Tokyo and Ishikawa. This itinerary provides an extraordinary sampling of art, food, and hospitality that might be totally missed if traveling only to popular tourist destinations. There are numerous opportunities to not only witness traditional crafts and culture that stretch back centuries, but also to participate in an immersive and meaningful way. The contrasts between urban and rural–and the ease of travel between both–allow a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan.

  • Veronica Carnevale

    Despite the diverse landscapes—from east to west to cityscapes to countrysides—Japan’s traditional charm remained constant. With each stop on my journey, I learned more about the country’s history and gained insight into techniques that have been passed down for generations. With delicious food, picturesque sceneries, and stories from master artisans, the trip is not one I will soon forget.


As a first-time visitor, this tour provides an excellent balance of everything that makes Japan special. From the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to the serene gardens of Kenrokuen Garden, this is a superb way to sample Japanese craft, tradition, and history while wrapped in comfort and hospitality. It also affords numerous “off the beaten path” experiences that feel genuinely authentic versus more touristy attractions. Here are some of my favorite stops.

Christopher Jobson
Publisher & Writer
Reside in USA
  • Hobby

    Contemporary art, craft, photography, and visual culture

  • Number of visits to Japan



Despite the modern age, Japan has long been renowned for its preserved history. Even in Tokyo, a beacon of Japan’s modernity, you can still walk beside centuries old structures and explore traditional methods that have been passed down for generations. Ishikawa, situated on Japan’s western border along the Sea of Japan, carries on this heritage as well with its crafts, museums, artisans, and natural beauty.

Journey with me through Tokyo and Ishikawa’s preserved charm, and immerse yourself in Japan’s rich traditions!

Veronica Carnevale
Content creator with Japan Travel
Reside in Tokyo
Home country: USA
  • Hobby

    traveling, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods/drinks, hiking/nature spots

  • Length of stay in Tokyo

    living in Japan on a work visa (arrived on May 20, 2022) - it has been about 6 months

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