One of the must do experiences when visiting Japan is to visit an onsen. When you think of what an onsen should be, it should be relaxing, welcoming, clean, and with great food. In short it should be an escape and Kohan no Yado Morimoto (Morimoto Lakeside Inn) lives up to that. From the purifying mineral baths, the wonderful local cuisine, traditional hospitality, and gorgeousness views it truly is a place to unwind and find tranquility.
Getting to the inn is relatively simple. I came via Kyoto where I departed Kyoto Station and took a limited express train to Kagaonsen Station. The ride was completely covered by the JR Pass and took an hour and 50 minutes. There are other routes from Kyoto Station that only take 85 minutes but require changing trains. For me I was okay taking a little longer and not changing trains in part because the countryside you travel through is gorgeous. It's this same countryside that helped me calm down after the hustle and bustle of staying in large cities for the prior two weeks. Once at the station I was greeted by country houses with gardens and the giant golden Jibo Kannon (Compassionate Mother). From the station, I boarded the Inn's complementary shuttle bus and took a 10-minute ride to the onsen. You can take a taxi or bus to the onsen but both cost additional money and the bus frequency is not great. It is just easier to ask for a shuttle ride in advance.
Upon arrival I was greeted by the staff and was checked in for my two night stay. They had on member of staff who spoke decent English and helped me through the process. It meant the world to the staff though that I was trying to speak Japanese despite my limited skills. After checking in I was brought to an area where they attempted to find a yukata in my size. For most this will not be an issue but I am on the larger size at 6'2". After, I was taken to my room where I was poured a fresh hot cup of green tea and given a few little tea snacks. I was left on my own until dinner so I changed into my yukata and enjoyed the view of the lake and shrine from my room. After a while I went down to try the indoor bath which also has a view of the lake. After washing myself I immersed myself in the therapeutic hot water. at that point I was the only one in the whole men's onsen. The water was very hot and I could only handle about 15 minutes before I felt the need to get out. I showered off and got back into my yukata. From there I sat down for a few minutes in a massage chair in the locker room. At that point it was time to go to my private dinner. I headed to a private room where my meal was brought to me course by course. The staff always making sure I was finding everything to my pleasure. I had one issue with the meal; I have a shellfish intolerance and had asked in advance for no shellfish to be included in my meal but there was a dish with a hidden shrimp in it. It was a not a big deal but if I had a worse allergy it could've been worse. The staff was very apologetic and misunderstood the meaning of shellfish in my request. They thought it only meant the shell portion of something like a crab or lobster. I did not have any issue though with the next three meals that were provided to me during my stay. After bathing some more and enjoying the outdoor bath I called it a night. The next day the staff took me back to the station so that I could travel to Kanzawa for a day trip. Once my day trip was over and I was back at Kagaonsen station I called the inn and they sent the staff to come pick me up. I repeated the actions of the prior day and attempted to enjoy the baths as much as possible. It was slightly more crowded the second day but still very tranquil. The next morning I packed up, had breakfast, and checked out. While waiting for the staff to come back from another drop off at the station I browsed the souvenirs area and purchased a locally made handkerchief. At last the shuttle arrived and it was time for me to part ways with the inn. The whole staff came out to thank me for staying and then I was off.Outdoor bath (courtesy of rakuten.com)
View of Shibayamagata Lagoon (courtsey of rakuten.com)
From the onsen there are multiple tourist attractions you can go see. The lagoon that the onsen is on has a fountain that shoots water 70 meters into the air. In addition the onsen is right next to a small shrine that is on the lake. The Museum of Snow and Ice is also near the onsen. It is open everyday except for Wednesdays and holidays. Note that English is limited though. Near Kaga is Natadera Temple of the Shingon Buddhisy sect that is open to tourist and never has a closing day. It is a 25 minute bus ride from Kagaonsen station. Also the many sites of Kanzawa are a 30 minute train ride from Kagaonsen.Kado hall of Natadera Temple (photo courtesy of japan-guide.com)
Staying at this onsen was absolutely wonderful because it was the embodiment of hospitality. I would recommend it to anyone staying in Ishikawa. It offered a good spot for day trips while remaining secluded enough that relaxing is not an issue. A couple of things struck me though that I was unprepared for. The first was child nudity of the opposite sex is okay in the baths. This took some getting use to especially as an American where past a certain age it would be considered wrong to have a little girl in the men's bath or a little boy in the women's bath. Finally nudity is a normal thing at onsens and its nothing to be embarrassed about. I swam for 18 years so modesty was never something I was too concerned with but I know for several of my American friends it would have been slightly uncomfortable to be bathing with a lot of other people around. If this write up has made you want to stay there for yourself, you can book the inn through bookings.com or japanican.com. Here is the link to their page offered in English and Japanese- http://www.oyado-morimoto.com/index_e.html