Dr. Tadanori Matsuda, a hot springs expert, says there are two kinds of hot springs: real and pretend. I don’t know Dr. Matsuda’s definition of a real hot spring, but my definition of a real hot spring is this: ① naturally-flowing hot water from the earth, ② no circulating filtration, ③ no added water, ④ no added heat. If these four conditions are met, I say it’s a real hot spring. But real hot springs make up less than 10% of the total. The majority are not real, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good. It just means that the real hot springs are totally amazing.

There are several such totally amazing, real hot springs in Ishikawa prefecture. One is at the Nishiyama Ryokan at Nakamiya Hot Springs. Of course, it a member of the Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns. Nakamiya Hot Springs is located in the Hakusan National Park, just before the Hakusan Shirakawago White Road Toll Gate. It’s one of the more secluded inns among the Association of Secluded Inns, about an hour’s drive from Kanazawa. It’s closed from late April to mid-November because of heavy snow, which means it’s closed most of the year. That alone makes it a must-see, but there’s more.

The bathroom and bathtubs have an elegant feel. The whole interior of the bathroom is made of wood, but the wooden floor is designed to be non-slip. This is a thoughtful consideration for a rustic lodge. The hot spring water is milky white, but the sodium chloride carbonated hot spring has a slightly greenish tinge. Soaking in this water feels slightly unusual, but it energizes you. Many guests are long-term hot spring customers. In addition, it’s possible to drink the water; the bicarbonate elements in the hot spring water are said to neutralize gastric acid and activate digestion. That’s why it’s long been called “ichou no yu” (gastro-intestinal hot water). One sniff will tell you it has a strong metallic odor – actually, not so pleasant. I supposed it’s like the old saying, “Good medicine tastes bad.” Visitors not staying overnight at the hotel are also welcome to use the hot spring bath – 550 yen. .