The Hokuriku area is known for its four distinct seasons, & the White Ring Tour Bus & Ichirino Kogen Hotel Roan offer a great way to experience each of them. The White Ring bus offers different tours depending on the season, taking you to some of the area's most famous & beautiful locations, such as Mount Hakusan's Hime Shrine, the thatched roof houses of UNESCO world heritage site Shirakawago village, & the traditional old streets of Takayama. Paired with the relaxing peace & quiet of the Roan, the tour is the perfect way to enjoy all the area has to offer.
Departing from Kanazawa Station, the White Ring bus offers a hassle free, relaxed environment as they bring you to your hotel. Passing through beautiful mountainous scenery, we stopped for a brief visit to the Hime Shrine, which is dedicated to the nearby Hakusan, one of Japan's three holy mountains. Upon arriving at the Roan, a traditional Japanese syle inn, I was warmly welcomed by the extremely friendly & personable staff. The main purpose of a stay at a hotel is relaxation, & the Roan offers the perfect opportunity to unwind & get away from the stress of everyday life.
The Roan has two main onsen, natural hot spring baths, as well as two private onsen, in addition to offering a luxury suite with its own personal onsen. The terraces & onsen overlook the surrounding forest, which has paths & carp ponds to explore, as well as a small camping ground (complete with a slack line!) where they sometimes hosts luxurious cookouts called "Glamping (Glamorous Camping)". The hotel itself is a beautifully renovated building and it has an over 100 years old wooden restaurant, with gorgeous wood carvings & antique furnishings. They also offer entertainment such as game rooms & a movie screening room.
The food at the Roan is amazing. Dinner consisted of course after course of fresh, local delicacies, such as grilled Hida beef, wild boar, & Iwana fish, along with fresh vegetables & sweet Nashi pears for dessert. The breakfast offered both Japanese style vegetables & soft boiled "onsen" eggs as well as Western style bread, cereal, & sausages. The multi course meals will leave you stuffed & satisfied & really relaxed.
After breakfast the White Ring bus picked me up & we headed out for part two of our adventure. The tour was hosted by our extremely friendly guide, who spoke fluent English & gave us insights about the beautiful scenery we passed. We traveled along the Hakusan Shirakawago White Road, stopping along the way the some of the many waterfalls & view points in the area to take pictures & soak up the atmosphere. Both our driver & guide were very personable, & went out of their way to make everyone feel at home. The casual & friendly way they conducted the ride made it feel less like a "tour" & more like a vacation with good friends. This encouraged all of us to get to know one another & as a result I could make some lasting friendships.
Our first main stop of the day was Shirakawago, which is known for it's traditional sloped roof houses. After about an hour & a half of exploring the winding streets we headed to Takayama, which is known locally as "Little Kyoto" for its traditional streets & wooden houses. There you can sample local favorites like Hida beef sushi & grilled rice cakes from the street vendors, or visit one of the craft shops, including the oldest sake brewery in Japan.
After spending two days exploring the area with the White Ring Tour Bus & relaxing at Ichirino Kogen Hotel Roan, it was time to head back to the real world. It was sad to say goodbye to all the people I met, the driver, guide & passengers on the bus, & the staff at the inn, but thanks to my experiences with both of these wonderful companies, & the friendships I made along the way, I felt rested, relaxed, & ready.