[Hotel Review] Kanazawa - The Ryokan with a Noh Stage - Hotel Motoyu Ishiya - Vikingess Voyages

Friday, July 14, 2017

[Hotel Review] Kanazawa - The Ryokan with a Noh Stage - Hotel Motoyu Ishiya

Have you ever dreamt of spending the night at a traditional Japanese ryokan hotel? For foreigners visiting Japan a stay at a ryokan can provide the ultimate Japanese experience, and is guaranteed to leave a lasting memory of the trip. The ryokan has a particular place in Japanese culture, and you can find everything from recently opened ones to ryokans that go back hundreds of years. During my recent trip to Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture we spent a night at a ryokan that can boost of a 200-year history and that even have its own Noh (traditional Japanese theatre) stage. Moto Ishiya is well known for its charm, and even received special recognition in the 2017 award "100 Japanese hotels & ryokan chosen by professionals" (プロが選ぶ日本のホテル・旅館100選) under the category "Small Japanese hotels" (日本の小宿).  
Motoyu Ishiya Onsen has a history that goes back to the Edo period when a hot spring was discovered where the present building stands. In the ryokan you can find two Noh stages where this form of Japanese theatre is performed annually, and the ryokan also has its own little museum displaying objects from the period when the ryokan was founded. I'll get back to that later, but first a short introduction to the guest rooms.

Guest room

Most of the rooms in the ryokan are washitsu - Japanese style rooms where you sleep on a mattress on the tatami (straw mat) floor. Some of the rooms have a history going back more than 100 years, so as you can imagine this is a place for those who know how to value that old atmosphere. Walking into our room felt like stepping back in time to ancient Japan, with painted sliding doors and scrolls with Zen wisdom words written on them.

Above: Notice the scroll on the wall with Zen wisdom words "常行一直心" - A positive attitude makes people grow
It is common that Japanese ryokan give unique names for their different rooms rather than room numbers, particularly the older ryokans that specialize in providing the guests with unique rooms. We stayed at a room that was named "鶏の間" Tori no ma - The room of the bird. This room was beautifully decorated with wood carvings of flying birds.

Tori no ma had two large rooms; an open tatami-mat room that was later turned into a bedroom and a room with the typical Japanese low table where you sit on footless chairs on the floor. The room also had a beautiful view to the outside Japanese garden with an additional small room with chairs one could use to gaze out into the nature. Below are some of my photos from the room:

Above: View of the Japanese garden from the room
Above: Decoration in the room

Above: Complimentary room amenities to the left & refrigerator with beverages (not included in the price of stay) to the right
Above: Room safe to the left and wagashi - a Japanese sweet - to the right


We had dinner in the ryokan's dining hall right down the hallway from our room. The dining hall is also used to hold Noh performances, and we could see both the main outdoor stage and an indoor stage from our table. A very unique feature that made the stay extra interesting!
Above: The outdoor Noh stage seen from the dining hall

Above: Our dining table with the indoor Noh stage in the background.
The dinner itself was a delicious Japanese style kaiseki ryori. If you're picky with your food you might find it difficult to adjust your tongue to the wide variety of new taste. However, if you enjoy Japanese food you're gonna love the small and delicate dishes, which also included a number of local specialities. Not to mention that the exquisitely decorated plates looked like little pieces of art.

When we came back to our room after dinner the beds had already been prepared for us.


After dinner we went to the onsen to relax after a long day of sightseeing in Kanazawa. This was a couple of hours after dinner, and luckily most of the time there were no other guests the onsen so we could have it mostly to ourselves.

Above: Entrance to the onsen. Women to the left and men to the right
Above: From the changing area
Above: In the onsen you use the shower area to wash yourself before entering the baths.
Above: Indoor onsen
Note that the individual rooms at the ryokan don't come with shower, so you will have to use the onsen to get clean. It might feel a bit strange to bathe naked potentially in the same room as strangers (of course the baths are separated by gender) but once you get used to it it is very relaxing to soak in the hot spring baths. Motoyu Ishiya is also known for the healing effect of its onsen, and you can notice that the color of the water is more medicine-like than what you usually get at most onsen.

Other Facilities

The whole ryokan was like a museum with windows into a bygone Japan in its old glory. Just walking from our room to the onsen was like an exploration into this long-gone world with
Above: A Butsudan (in-house Buddhist altar common in Japanese homes)
Above: View of the garden from the common room area
Above: A small cafe on the first floor of the ryokan
Above: A small display showing a variety of coins from the Edo period and tools to make and count them

Motoyu Ishiya Onsen is situated a bit outside of Kanazawa city, with busses only running a couple of times a day. Since there are only a couple of busses running each day you might as well take a train to Morimoto Station (森本) and take a taxi from there, as it doesn't change that much in terms of time or money (a taxi ride from the station to the ryokan costs about 1300 yen, so if you're travelling as a family or smaller group it is definitely more cost effective than the long and slow bus ride from Kanazawa station). If you still prefer to take the bus you can find the schedule of the local busses below:

From Kinazawa Station (金沢駅) to Fukuya Motoyu  (深谷元湯)


From Fukuya Motoyu  (深谷元湯) to Kinazawa Station (金沢駅)

深谷元湯 発金沢駅 着
* Please note that this schedule was updated as of July 2017 and might not be up to date with the current bus schedule

Above: A stone lantern and small Japanese garden outside the entrance to the ryokan
The stay at Motoyu Ishiya was definitely one of the highlights of the trip to Kanazawa (my grandmother even shed a tear of happiness when she saw our beautiful room!! I'm not kidding!). With just a short train ride from Tokyo this is definitely a place that is worth coming back to as well.

Basic Info

Name of Hotel: Fukatani Onsen Motoyu Ishiya
Star Rating: 3 ★★★
Location 7 minutes by taxi from Morimoto Train Station
Check in: Check In 3PM - 7PM
Check Out Until 10AM

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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