Japan has many famous ancient trade routes, which today are sacred pilgrimages. Highways that connected the ancient capital of Edo (now Tokyo), the famed Gokaido road between Tokaido and Nakasendo, the world-renowned Kumano Kodo are all paths well-trodden by locals and travellers alike.
One of Japan’s most incredible sightseeing routes is the Mitsuboshi Kaidou, also known as “The Three-Star Road” because many places along the route have been designated as three-star attractions by the Michelin Green Guide, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites or National Treasures.
The Mitsuboshi Kaidou is part of the greater Shoryudo route, which also serve to highlight generations of traditional artisans and craftsmanship in the area.
Kanazawa, The Little Kyoto
Home to the powerful Maeda clan, who ruled the Kaga Domain (now Kanazawa) during the Sengoku and Edo periods, Kanazawa became synonymous with traditional kogei (arts, crafts) tea ceremonies and cuisine under their rule.
Second in power and military might to the Tokugawa clan, the Maeda clan made themselves indispensable to the Tokugawa clan by concentrating their efforts towards the pursuit, mastery and innovation of the cultural arts, thus avoiding potential conflict.
Today, Kanazawa is a city with a strong vested interest in modern contemporary art like the 21st Century Museum and as a gatekeeper to the ancient and traditional crafts passed down over generations.
TOUR: Kanazawa Historical District Walking Tour
Explore Samurai cultures, Geisha district and landscaped garden and try some Gold Leaf Ice Cream.
The city has retained all the wonders and charms of the past, earning itself the nickname “Little Kyoto.” Wander down nostalgic cobblestone streets of Nagamachi (the former samurai district), step through hanging Noren curtains into preserved Machiyas to purchase beautiful Kutani Porcelain, meander down the Higashi Chaya to catch a glimpse of the Kanazawa Geisha and make time to visit the beautifully landscaped Kenrokuen Gardens.
Private Geiko Performance & Kaiseki Dinner at Kinjoo
There is plenty of delicious food to eat in Kanazawa, and for a truly authentic experience, there is no better choice than a divine kaiseki dinner at Ryotei Kinjoro. Founded over 130 years ago, Ryotei Kinjoro is run by the current Godaime (fifth-generation family head) Hyoe Tsuchiya, who has expanded the family business to include a traditional, six-room inn on the premises for a fully immersive experience.
Kinjoro’s kaiseki celebrates traditional Kaga cuisine and is a delectable feast for the senses. This changes seasonally using the freshest local produce sourced from ancient Kaga province. The dinner experience can also be enhanced with a private Geiko Performance of conversation, song, dance and drinking games.
In Kanazawa the term Geiko is more commonly used for Geisha who are financially independent, meaning they have paid off their debt to the okiya – or lodging where she performs. Very few Geisha reach the status of Geiko as many choose to retire as they get older.
Sleep well at the Hyatt Centric Kanazawa
Conveniently located seconds from Kanazawa Station, the Hyatt Centric Kanazawa is the first of the Hyatt International Hotels in the Hokuriku region and opened in August 2020. Tasteful, modern and spacious, the rooms are the perfect place to relax after a day exploring the charms of Kanazawa. Various works of art depict many of Kanazawa’s traditional specialities like gold leaf, Kutani and other artisan trades.
Travel to Matsumoto via Takayama
Whether driving or riding the new Hokuriku Shinkansen, take a moment to gaze at the glorious vista of Japan’s Northern Alps (the Hida Mountain Range) by experiencing the Shinhotaka Ropeway – an incredible double-decker gondola (the first in Japan). The view at the top of the ropeway is a majestic skyline of contrasting, craggy diagonal mountain lines juxtaposed against the sky.
TOUR: Okuhida Entire Value Ticket 2 days from Takayama
This is a great ticket with a 2-day free ticket for the section from Takayama to Shinhotaka Ropeway and a round-trip ticket for Shinhotaka Ropeway. Includes lunch.
Trek in the Mountains of Kamikoch
Within the Chubu Sangaku National Park lies the picturesque plateau of Kamikochi. Kamikochi is an ideal starting point for many hikers, whether it be for day trips or to reach the peaks of the Northern Japanese Alps.
Due to its protected status within a national park, no private cars are allowed into the area. One must leave the car at the designated parking spots and take a bus. From April to November, small hotels/lodges/shops/campsites and public transportation are available, but from winter these all close and access to Kamikochi is only available by walking and submitting your trekking itinerary “Mountain Registration Form” at Nakanoyu Gate. It is advised to hire a local guide to assist you.
Sip and Savour Matsumoto’s Local Sake
Established in the mid-1800s, the sake brewery Yoikana has had a long and varied history. Initially beginning with the Maruyama family whose son-in-law (Hotaka-san) took over the family business, the family suffered personal losses in the World Wars. Over time they joined forces with three other family breweries – Aoki, Aoyagi and Momose – to form Yoikana. The current head is Sandaime (3rd generation) Hotaka Keisuke.
Spend the morning touring the sake brewery itself, learning about the process from Hotaka-san’s family, and then enjoy tasting their sake selection in their intimate shop. Don’t be surprised if locals pop in their Head to say hello or have a rest!
Stay at the Matsumoto Feudal Lord’s Honjin.
Satoyama Villa Honjin is nestled in the Shiga district of Matsumoto and was the resting property of the Matsumoto Daimyo as he travelled from Matsumoto Castle to Edo (Tokyo). These types of property were known as honjin.
Refurbished and renovated for modern luxury needs whilst still maintaining its traditional architecture, Satoyama Villa Honjin provides an opportunity to truly relax and recharge in a timeless piece of history.
The property features the main house and a detached house, which can be fully booked out (perfect for private gatherings) whilst breakfast and dinner are prepared by Yuki Takahashi, the head chef of all Japanese cuisine, or washoku.
For more information on the Three Star Road click here
Photos & Words by Lia www.ryokanwanderings.com, www.instagram.com/ryokanwanderings