If you are staying in Kanazawa and want to get away from it all, you can drive up into the mountains just twenty minutes and find yourself in Yuwaku, a sleepy hot spring village. Here, you can visit a small public onsen for just 350 yen (about three US dollars) and have a soak. The onsen itself is a bit utilitarian, but it’s still lovely. You can also go for a walk just up the hill …
… and find yourself at this beautiful shrine in the woods:
Two dogs, or komainu, stand guard at the shrine’s entrance:
At the open-air shrine just beyond …
… visitors pray, leave offerings, and select omikuji, fortune-telling paper slips that you draw from a jar and then tie to a nearby stand (the stand is on the right below):
There’s also a second, much larger shrine just a few meters up the hillside.
Before you visit, you are supposed to clean your hands and mouth at this purification trough:
Unfortunately, the shrine itself was closed (we’re finding this to be a theme in Japan) …
… but we found all sorts of religious icons and tiny shrines nearby. One section of the ground was beautifully laid out with long stones:
Small enclosures held even smaller deities …
… all nearly faceless and wearing bibs, both of which seem to be the norm:
I really liked this mossy pot on a rock, which has been strung with a shimenawa, or rice rope.
These ropes mark the boundary to something sacred — they represent the places where the heavens and the earth meet. Shimenawa are nearly always hung with little brooms and folded pieces of paper that look like lightning strikes, called shide.
At this shrine, someone has also put a shimenawa high up in a tree:
Just beyond the shrines, a trekking path leads steeply up into the woods:
You can also walk (or drive) a short distance up the nearby road to the local duck pond.
Here, you can inspect the old ice house …
… stand on a lovely bridge …
… and take a leisurely stroll around the water.
If you wander back into town, you can visit this odd fountain …
… which is watched over by an even stranger plastic-bag doll:
Before you leave Yuwaku, I would highly recommend a coffee lunch visit to Cafe Lente. The space — which includes handmade furniture and a piano — is beautiful.
The cafe looks right out over the woods:
The food menu is very limited, but everything is delicious. We loved the pumpkin curry — and everyone should try the fruit sandwich!