If you like the traditional arts and crafts of Ishikawa and feel the need to create and be creative, makes plans to head to Kaga’s Yunokuni no Mori (ゆのくにの森). Yunokuni no Mori is a Kaga Traditional Cultural Amenity and offers guests the chance to watch craft-making, make their own crafts, and make or eat fantastic food. (Yes, handmade food is an artistic creation!)
Photo by Leah Zoller.
The “village” is a cluster of workshops that focus on the traditional crafts of Ishikawa: kutani ceramic pottery（kutani-yaki, 九谷焼）; Wajima lacquerware (wajima nuri, 輪島塗）; Japanese paper-making （washi, 和紙）; Kaga yuzen printed silk （yuzen, 友禅）; gold leaf（kinpaku, 金箔）; Yamanaka lacquerware (yamanaka nuri, 山中塗); music boxes (orugouru, オルゴール); glasswork (gurasu kougei, グラス工芸); Echizen pottery (echizen te bineri, 越前手びねり) and the culinary arts: Japanese and Western sweets (okashi, お菓子) and soba-noodle making (soba, そば). There are three restaurants with delicious local food, a teahouse, an omiyage shop, and some art galleries as well. You pay a flat fee to enter, and then you pay a fee for whatever activities you choose.
The village is gorgeous—set in a wooden area not too far from Natadera by car, the thatched roves and stone paths of the village are gorgeous in the snow. The village boasts beautiful wildflowers and blooms in the warmer months, and maple leaves in the fall.
Photo from Yunokuni no Mori's website.
If you speak good Japanese, around JLPT N2 level, you shouldn’t have a problem making the crafts. A lot of the signs are bilingual, but the staff isn’t really, though they are friendly and willing to help. I recommend going with a Japanese-speaker if you don’t speak a lot.
When I visited, I decorated a tea tray with gold leaf at a workshop. If you have a small group (under 10 people), you don’t need a reservation, so I was able to just walk into the gold leaf house and didn’t have to wait to get started. The gold-leaf decorating, like the pottery painting/sculpture and paper-making, is priced based on the piece. A tea tray is about 1500 yen to decorate, but a vase is 2000 yen. You can view the prices on the website: click on the building on the map, then scroll down and click the activity (Japanese only).
Photo by Leah Zoller
This was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and I can’t recommend Hakusan, the soba restaurant, enough. I ordered a vegetable-based meal of soba and a stone pot of rice and veggies, and it was worth every yen.
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