Last year "Hanasaku Iroha", a serious of animation drama, was broadcast and admired by many animation fans. The story concerns young people working at a ryokan (traditional Japanese style hotel) in a spa town called "Yunosagi". The above photo is the station of Yunosagi. However, this name "Yunosagi" is not the actual name of this unstaffed station. Its real name is "Nishigishi". However, a new plate with the name "Yunosagi" was put up so as to appeal to the visitors trying to find the places related to the scenes of the animation drama.
Likewise a sign of "Yunosagi Onsen" was setup at the bus stop of "Yuwaku Onsen", which is located tens of kilometers away from Nishigishi but inspires the settings of Yunosagi where the main part of the drama unfolds.
To tell the truth, I did not intend to visit the spa which is related to an animation drama. I only wanted to find a comfortable retreat near Kanazawa to relax myself and I happened to find a good looking ryokan in Yuwaku Onsen. Yuwaku Onsen is said to be an annex to Kanazawa. It is about 10 km east from Kanazawa in the mountains, calm and intimate. In particular as I went there just after golden week there were only a few visitors.
On both sides of the main street there are hotels, art shops, bars and restaurants among ordinary houses. Cats are roaming about and yawning. At the end of the street there is a museum on Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934), who was painter and graphic designer and is still popular because of his romantic style.
Next to the museum starts a flight of stone steps leading to an inari shrine. Lantern festival was held in the animation drama centering on this inari shrine and Yuwaku Onsen undertook to organize a lantern festival according to the animation story.
The source of Yuwaku Onsen is called "Shirasagi no yu" (hot spring of white heron) as a paper craftsman found here a hot spring because he saw a heron resting in a warm well. According to the tradition the discovery was made in 718. Later lords of Maeda and their family members regularly visited this spa and tried to cure various kinds of illness. At the beginning of the 20th century the spa water was even brought to Germany to show at the international mineral spring exhibition. As you may see, the spa name at the animation drama “Yu-no-sagi” is the reverse of "(Shira)sagi no yu".
The buildings of the spa town look to be rather new and neatly maintained. We can go up a slope after the end of the town to reach a pond. On the border of the pond there is a thatched hut "himuro goya". In such huts natural ice used to be produced during the feudal time and presented to the lords and shoguns. Even now a hut is used to make natural ice as tourist attraction.
Hakuunro Hotel seen from Gyokusenko
From there we can further go up a mountain slope to reach a flat open space. This was the place of an old Western style hotel, which unfortunately went bankruptcy and was torn down in 2006. It is said that the ryokan of "Hanasaku Iroha" is based on the image of this hotel. It is a good stroll to go up there and good spa and dinner are waiting for us back in the ryokanl.