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2023.02 Discover Buried Riches, and Enjoy World-Class Cuisine, Sake, and Art in Kanagaso [PR]

Komatsu City in the southwest of Ishikawa Prefecture, faces the Sea of Japan and is bordered by mountains to the east. It is the manufacturing area of Kutani ware, a celebrated style of fine porcelain, known for its colorful glazes. The village of Kanagaso is about a 20-minute drive from Komatsu, towards the mountains. The area is characterized by verdant fields, mountains, forests, and pure water. Kanagaso has a rich heritage of stone production and is one of the areas that comprise the designated cultural heritage of Komatsu, known as the Japan Heritage: The Gemstones of Komatsu.

In this secluded region with a bygone atmosphere, you can indulge in fine cuisine and sake, and explore the area’s history while enjoying the natural scenery.

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Kiba near Kanagaso

 

 

 

 

 

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former Kanagaso Quarry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ascending” is a stone staircase by artist Julie Brook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Julie Brook working on the stone staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view of the village and surrounding mountains is beautiful in winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sake brewing at Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute takes place under the gaze of Noguchi, in a large portrait. Noguchi Naohiko explains parts of the brewing process (pictured lower right).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasting Room Toan is a calm space to enjoy sake with scenic views.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 former elementary school building was transformed into an auberge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restaurant at “Auberge eaufeu” in Kanagaso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A typical dish combining sake lees from Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute, loach, freshwater crab, and sansho pepper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Komatsu udon with softshell turtle, nameko mushroom, onion, Javanese long pepper. Right: Fillet of ayu (sweetfish) with cucumber, holy basil, and coriander.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A junior suite in the former elementary school

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The steps to the summit of Mt. Kannon lined with statues of Kannon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A statue of Kannon is enshrined in a small cave near the summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The summit affords views across the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full size diorama in the old “Mine Road” tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hexagonal karami bricks made with copper residue

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Related Links

 

EXPLORE KOMATSU(Komatsu City Official Tourism Site)

WEB:https://www.explorekomatsu.com/heritage-of-stone/ 

 

Komatsu Travel Navigation

WEB:https://www.komatsuguide.jp/index.html 

 

JAPAN HERITAGE OFFICIAL SITE The Gemstones of Komatsu

WEB:https://www.japan.travel/japan-heritage/popular/683c9f09-a089-4128-bc61-67af533021c6

 

Julie Brook Official Page (on quarry artwork)

WEB:https://www.juliebrook.com/Ejapan_ascending.html

 

More on Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute

WEB:https://www.explorekomatsu.com/news/english-noguchi-naohiko-sake-research-institute-2/

 

More on Auberge Eaufeu (incl. booking link for rooms/restaurant)

WEB:https://www.explorekomatsu.com/news/eaufeu/

 

Ogoya Mine Museum(Select a language on the homepage)

WEB:https://www-city-komatsu-lg-jp.translate.goog/kanko_bunka/rekishi_bunkazai/10193.html?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=ja

 

 

 

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