I was in Kanazawa a couple of years back and really enjoyed my stay there exploring the quaint little city, hence I was thinking of spending a few days in the Ishikawa region again when I was in Japan earlier this year. I was researching on staying for a couple of days at an onsen, and that was how I ended up in this place called Kaga Onsen. Kaga Onsen is about over an hour away by train from Kanazawa, and is more of a provincial village as compared to some of the other more touristy onsen towns like Takayama and Hakone. But that’s what I love about the different characteristics of each these little Japanese towns, because you really don’t know what you’re going to get until you reach the place!
I discovered this Kaiseki restaurant on the local map that I was given when I had checked into the hotel and was asking for restaurant recommendations around the area. What drew my interest about the restaurant was that it was set in a little Japanese garden and each private dining room has its own garden view.
For those who are not familiar with what Kaiseki is, it’s a traditional multi-course Japanese meal served in small portions and the food is beautifully and delicately crafted to look like mini art pieces. If you’re booked into an onsen ryokan anywhere in Japan, this is what they usually serve for dinner in your room and I highly recommend experiencing this at least once when you’re in Japan, because this is probably as close as you can get when it comes to its traditional culture. Think of it as similar to a degustation meal, except most of it comes together in a perfectly assembled lacquer or wooden lunch box. For me, part of the joy in having a Kaiseki meal is watching the hostess uncover the lid of each box because you just don’t know what kind of surprise lies within!
According to Wikipedia, “Modern kaiseki draws on a number of traditional Japanese haute cuisines, notably the following four traditions: imperial court cuisine (有職料理 yūsoku ryōri), from the 9th century in the Heian period; Buddhist cuisine of temples (精進料理 shōjin ryōri), from the 12th century in the Kamakura period; samurai cuisine of warrior households (本膳料理 honzen ryōri), from the 14th century in the Muromachi period; and tea ceremony cuisine (茶懐石 cha kaiseki), from the 15th century in the Higashiyama period of the Muromachi period. All of these individual cuisines were formalized and developed over time, and continue in some form to the present day, but have also been incorporated into kaiseki cuisine. Different chefs weight these differently – court and samurai cuisine are more ornate, while temple and tea ceremony cuisine are more restrained.” Enjoying this meal especially in the midst of a Japanese tea garden surely does make one feel like you’re a part of history!