2023.02 Discover Buried Riches, and Enjoy World-Class Cuisine, Sake, and Art in Kanagaso [PR]
A former quarry becomes a contemporary art site
The former Kanagaso Quarry has become a symbol of the area, with impressive stone walls over 50 meters high, cut into the mountainside. The beautiful stone with a warm yellow hue is called nikkaseki, and it has been used for several important structures, including the National Diet Building, completed in 1936. Full-scale mining of the Kanagaso Quarry began in the early 20th century, and at its peak (around 1965), there were more than 10 mining sites. In 2019, British artist Julie Brook created “Ascending”, a set of stone steps which rise from the rubble, and lead towards the stone walls of the quarry. It is possible to climb the staircase (be careful and watch your step).
Continuing a heritage of exceptional sake
In Kanagaso, you can taste outstanding sake that combines the riches of the natural environment with decades of knowledge and innovation. Under the brand Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute, sake is brewed with pure underground water that gushes forth from sacred Mt. Hakusan. It is brewed under the supervision of one of Japan’s most famous sake brewers Noguchi Naohiko, who is widely acclaimed as the “god of sake brewing”.
Noguchi started making sake in 1949, at age 16. At age 28, he became a Toji (master brewer), and has been at the forefront of innovation in the sake industry. He came out of retirement in 2017 to pass on his skills and pursue the study of sake, founding the Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute in Kanagaso. The mission of this new brewery is to take sake into the future by weaving together technology and Noguchi’s desire to "make delicious sake and make the people who drink it happy"—the inspiration behind his 70-year-long sake brewing career. Young brewers at the facility take on the challenge of creating sake using the latest technology to build on the wealth of data that Noguchi has recorded over the years.
In the Tasting Room Toan, you can enjoy sipping sake in a quiet space inspired by a tea ceremony room. The calm atmosphere created by the plastered walls and the views of the countryside through the window make for a unique sake tasting experience (more details at the link at the end of this article).
An auberge that celebrates the natural riches of Kanagaso with fine cuisine
An accommodation and restaurant “Auberge eaufeu” opened in July 2022 in a former elementary school. The school that nurtured the town's children for around half a century has been reborn as a space that skillfully combines the school’s nostalgic atmosphere with modern art and sophisticated design.
Dishes are created with local ingredients nourished by the area’s famous pure water and rich natural environment. The chef behind the cuisine is Itoi Shota, who fuses his training in French cuisine with inspiration from local ingredients. Itoi has been acclaimed as one of Japan’s most promising young chefs, having won the Grand Prix at RED U-35 (one of Japan's largest chef competitions) at the age of 26, the youngest in competition history.
Staying overnight at the auberge allows visitors to enjoy the cuisine and explore the area. The restaurant is also open to non-guests for lunch and dinner. Reservations are needed for the restaurant, but the onsite cafe, is open without reservation. The cafe uses Kanagaso stone in its design. Customers can visit the roof terrace to see the old Kanagaso Quarry.
A mountain with a special connection to Buddhism
The name Kanagaso means “under Kannon”, and it relates to a local legend that dates back about 300 years: a thief tried to steal the village's statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon. As he attempted to abscond with the statue, it became heavier and heavier by the power of Buddha, until he was forced to leave it. The villagers then moved the temple to a cave further up the mountain, and enshrined another Kannon statue, and named the mountain Kannonyama, or “Mt. Kannon.” The mountain trail to the temple is lined with 33 stone statues of Kannon all the way to the 189-meter-high summit, and the 583 nikkaseki stone steps lead to a distant view of the Sea of Japan. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to reach the summit. Be sure to bring a bell or something that makes a sound to ward off bears.
Walk through the tunnels of a former copper mine
A short drive from the Kanagaso Quarry is the Ogoya Mine Museum. The old Ogoya Mine was one of the most prosperous copper mines in Japan for more than 90 years from the latter half of the 19th century, until the mine closed for production in 1971. Walking along "Mine Road", one of the old tunnels, you can feel the atmosphere of the mine’s heyday (as of December 2022, a 200-meter section of the tunnel is open to the public). Around the former mining town, you can see walls made from hexagonal “karami” bricks that were made with copper slag from the smelting process.
How to get there
Kanagaso is accessible from Komatsu City. By air, Komatsu Airport is just over an hour from Haneda Airport in Tokyo, and 1 hour and 15 minutes from Fukuoka Airport. By train, it takes about 2 hours and 50 minutes from Tokyo Station to Komatsu Station via Kanazawa Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, and then transferring to the Limited Express Shirasagi or Limited Express Thunderbird. It takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Osaka Station by the Limited Express Thunderbird.
To get to Kanagaso from Komatsu, take the bus from Komatsu Airport to Komatsu Station (approx. 12 minutes). From Komatsu Station, it takes about 20 minutes by taxi to Kanagaso. You can explore Kanagaso on foot. The Ogoya Mine Museum is about 7 minutes by car from the center of Kanagaso.
EXPLORE KOMATSU(Komatsu City Official Tourism Site)
Komatsu Travel Navigation
JAPAN HERITAGE OFFICIAL SITE The Gemstones of Komatsu
Julie Brook Official Page (on quarry artwork)
More on Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute
More on Auberge Eaufeu (incl. booking link for rooms/restaurant)
Ogoya Mine Museum(Select a language on the homepage)