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Hokuriku Shinkansen Extension: A foodie and shopper’s guide around Kagaonsen Station | JR Times

Hokuriku Shinkansen Extension: A foodie and shopper’s guide around Kagaonsen Station | JR Times

Welcome back! Following on from my previous article on things to do around Komatsu Station, I’ll be moving on to Kagaonsen Station (加賀温泉駅) in neighbouring Kaga City for the second part of this series on the new stations along the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line!

 

As the station name gives away, Kaga City is best known for its hot springs (onsen)—namely the three onsen towns of Yamashiro (山代), Yamanaka (山中), and Katayamazu (片山津). Much has already been covered in other articles on why you should make your way out to these charming towns, but if you only have time for a short hop off the shinkansen (all three towns require taking a bus out), I’m here to share some hidden gems found just around the station.

 

From extravagant to budget lunch, to savouring sake or sweets, to getting your shopping done at a sprawling souvenir shop or local market, here’s what you can expect to do around Kagaonsen Station! (Spoiler alert: this article is food and shopping-centred, as befitting of an onsen town)

 

Lunch (indulgent option): Enjoy a crab feast

Ishikawa is known for kobako-gani female crabs. (Image credit: (一社)加賀市観光交流機構)

 

Foodies may know that Ishikawa Prefecture is known for its snow crabs, in particular the female crabs branded as kobako-gani (香箱ガニ). While less meaty than male crabs, they are prized for their rich flavour, especially that of the creamy roe, making it a perfect compliment to rice or sake. 

 

With that in mind, Kaga City has had an initiative running for years: “Kaga Kani Gohan” (加賀カニごはん), in which participating local restaurants invent their own crab feast, incorporating kobako-gani into an array of unique dishes.

 

This may have you holding your breath for the price tag, but for 2024 a uniform price of ¥3,980 is maintained across all participating restaurants. For generous portions, possibly amounting to a day’s worth of food for small eaters like me, I would say that this is the most value-for-money chance to try this premium local crab!

 

The other plus point is that while kobako-gani are usually only available in a short window of time from November to January, “Kaga Kani Gohan” are available throughout the year. This means frozen crabs are used off-season, but I have tried it then and it still tasted amazing.

 

The participating restaurants and menus often change each year, but of the four participating restaurants for 2024, two happen to be within walking distance of Kagaonsen Station:

 

Kuimonya Furusato (くいもん家 ふるさと)

Kuimonya Furusato’s kani gohan in 2021, giving a modern twist to Japanese dishes. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

For a Japanese-style version, drop by this seafood izakaya just outside the station.

 

The crab dishes included in this year’s menu are claypot rice blending in the meat and roe of one whole kobako-gani (in my opinion the best way to enjoy kobako-gani), and crab hotpot with crab meat stewed in crab-based soup.

 

Kuimonya Furusato (くいもん家 ふるさと)
Address: 1-55 Kosuganamimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0424
Access: Next to Kagaonsen Station
Opening hours: 10:00–15:00, 17:00–22:00 (Closed on Mondays & Tuedays)
TEL: +81 761-73-1135 (Reservation for kani gohan required at least 3 days in advance)

 

Casa Fortuna (カーサフォルトゥーナ)

Casa Fortuna’s kani gohan in 2021, composed of rich creamy Western-fusion creations. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

If you're in the mood for a more Western fusion version, then take a 10-minute walk out to this Italian restaurant. Think crab cream stew, and cheesy crab paella.

 

The ka-veat about these kani gohan is that advanced reservations are usually required. If you are not able to call them, my suggestion would be to try your luck messaging their Facebook accounts (linked below), as early as possible.

 

Casa Fortuna (カーサフォルトゥーナ)
Address: Ra-18-7 Sakumimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0423
Access: 10-minute walk from Kagaonsen Station
Opening hours: 11:30–15:30, 18:00–22:00 (Closed on Wednesdays & the third Sunday of the month)
TEL: +81 761-74-5088 (Reservation for kani gohan required at least 1 day in advance)

 

Lunch (budget option): 140-yen udon?!

For a more wallet-friendly option, just take a few steps further down the road from Casa Fortuna, to this legendary local udon eatery.

 

(Image credit: Hui Min)

 

Bikkuri Udon (びっくりうどん), literally meaning “astonishing udon”, as the cheapest bowl offered here comes at an astonishing price of ¥140!

 

How good can something be for the price of instant noodles? I put this to the test on my first visit by going straight for the shop’s namesake 140-yen “Bikkuri Udon”', a bowl of plain udon with only spring onions in warm broth.

 

The 140-yen “Bikkuri Udon”. Chili pepper is available for those seeking some spice. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

The verdict? It was astonishingly good! Despite being prepared fresh and piping hot, the noodles stayed chewy to the end just the way I like it, and the simple dashi broth had a deep flavour that was yet not too salty. 

 

It was also surprisingly filling—I had planned to have it as just a snack, but it ended up being a meal on its own. Definitely a big level up from instant noodles despite the similar price tag.

 

You can treat yourself a bit more with a topping of freshly fried prawn tempura too. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

Of course, you don’t have to go for the absolute cheapest, there’s plenty of other options such as curry udon or tempura udon with freshly-fried prawns that are also priced affordably at only ¥200–300.

 

I also greatly enjoyed the retro hole-in-the-wall feel of the space, housed in a tiny metal shed. The perfect place for a memorable local experience even if you’re short on time and money.

 

Bikkuri Udon (びっくりうどん)
Address: Chi-94 Tomitsukamachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0421 
Access: 15-minute walk from Kagaonsen Station
Opening hours: 09:00–16:00

 

Sip on sake or savour sweets

If you don’t have time for a full meal or on the contrary itching for an extra post-meal treat, consider getting a quick taste of local sake or sweets (or both)!

 

For sweets: Kaganoyu Pudding (かがの湯プぷりん)

There are plenty of dessert options around, but one particularly trendy one can actually be found right next to the aforementioned Kuimonya Furusato just outside the station.

 

(Image credit: Hui Min)

 

Kaganoyu Pudding (かがの湯プぷりん), offering puddings using local eggs and milk, and flavoured with a wide variety of local ingredients such as Kaga Bocha (加賀棒茶) or pumpkin.

 

You’ll spot the shop easily with its retro bath-house aesthetic, of wooden-latticed storefront adorned with a banner reminiscent of onsen curtains. 

 

The Instagrammable soft serve pudding (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

All the flavours I’ve tried so far were great, but if you’re looking for maximum aesthetic and indulgence, go for the “Kemuri Soft Pudding (湯けむりソフトぷりん)”, which is topped with towering soft serve in the image of rising onsen steam, served in a cute onsen bucket.

 

Unlike the other options, this can't be taken away, so make sure you have time and space to lick it up before boarding your train. They really are generous with the soft serve.

 

Do note that the puddings are also available for dine-in at Kuimonya Furusato.

 

Kaganoyu Pudding (かがの湯プぷりん)
Address: 1-55 Kosuganamimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0424
Access: Next to Kagaonsen Station
Opening hours: 10:00–16:00 (Closed on Tuesdays)

 

For sake: cafe & bar TAKANOKURA

Sake-lovers will also be delighted to know that they can get their pick-me-up right inside Kagaonsen Station at the newly opened cafe & bar TAKANOKURA (髙乃蔵).

 

(Image credit: Hui Min)

 

At first glance it may look like your average casual grab-and-go station cafe, but the menu is actually more extensive and sophisticated than one might expect. Look out for the cafe’s luxurious meal options such as ochazuke topped with Ishikawa’s premium nodoguro fish (のどぐろお茶漬け), or even kaisendon (海鮮丼) or wagyu aburi steak don (和牛炙りステーキ丼).

 

(Image credit: Hui Min)

 

But back to the sake: taster sets of local Hokuriku sake are offered here, with an option of either a set of three, or a set of nine! For the set of three, you have a further option of either the Ishikawa-only set, or the Hokuriku set.

 

Sake tasting with a view of the Shinkansen station gates. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

Despite the temptation of having a whole array of nine sake glasses in front of me, I decided to stay modest this time and go for the Ishikawa set-of-three. 

 

Consider pairing it off with some bar bites; the otsumami assortment (おつまみセット) offered that day included cream cheese, sake lees tofu, and firefly squid currently in season.

 

In fact, you can also satisfy your sweet-tooth here, as they also offer their own rendition of housemade pudding.

 

With their relatively long hours starting from the morning, it’s a good reason to hop off the Shinkansen even just for a quick taste of Hokuriku, from sweet to savoury, to sake.

 

cafe & bar TAKANOKURA (髙乃蔵)
Address: Wa Sakumimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0423
Access: Within Kagaonsen Station
Opening hours: 8:30–19:00

 

Shopping: Expansive souvenir store or local market

Last but not least, here are some recommendations on places to fulfill your shopping and souvenir needs. Here too, I have two options to suggest: a sparkling-new souvenir store, or a very local produce market.

 

Station Souvenir Store: Kaga Hyakusengai (加賀百撰街)

Although not exactly located inside Kagaonsen Station, the souvenir shop at Al Plaza Kaga next to the station (also known as "Abio City") has recently been renovated and expanded in conjunction with the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension.

 

The sake area alone is mind-boggling (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

From sake to sweets, to crafts, all that Hokuriku has to offer can now be found right by Kagaonsen Station. 

 

Kaga’s selection of ekiben, which includes a crab bento. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

It’s also the place to pick up an ekiben (駅弁), or bento box offered at Shinkansen stations, unique to each region.

 

Beyond the display of local ceramics, is a workshop space for a more intimate experience of local crafts. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

As for crafts, while there is a full array of masterpieces for you to pick and bring home, there’s also a workshop area for those looking for a more hands-on experience.

 

Noto products available include baumkuchen flavoured with Noto blueberries. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

Another additional note to make is, since this souvenir store covers products from across the Hokuriku Region, it also includes products from disaster-hit Noto. For those keen to give some support to disaster-recovery, this is a good chance to pick up some Noto products too!

 

Kaga Hyakusengai (加賀百撰街)
Address: Ru-25-1 Sakumimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0423
Access: Next to Kagaonsen Station (inside Abio City Kaga)
Opening hours: 9:30–20:00

 

Local market: JA Kaga

For a more intimately local shopping experience however, consider taking a walk out (15 minutes) to the JA Kaga market, affectionately known as “Genkimura (元気村)”.

 

(Image credit: Hui Min)

 

For those familiar, Genkimura is similar to a Michi-no-eki (道の駅), a local market run by the Japan Agricultural Co-operative (JA), where a wide variety of local products, from fresh produce to local snacks making innovative use of local ingredients, are available.

 

(Image credit: Hui Min)

 

I would love to recommend the fresh Kaga vegetables here, but knowing the impracticality of bringing home fresh produce or cooking during a trip, I will instead introduce my favourite local snacks from Genkimura.

 

(From left) Kaga’s locally-famous baumkuchen, or sake made from local pumpkin. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

Some of my favourites would be the famous local baumkuchen from Kikkado (橘香堂),as well as the sake made from local Ajihei (味平) pumpkin (which is also available at the aforementioned souvenir store).

 

(From left) Fresh parfaits, or fresh local hairy crab. (Image credit: Hui Min)

 

You can even pick up fresh desserts from local patisseries or even fresh crabs to eat on the spot! Just note that, as with all local markets, the locals gather here from the early hours to get their hands on the best produce, so for the fresh stuff, get there early to avoid disappointment.

 

JA Green Kaga Genkimura (JAグリーン加賀元気村)
Address: Ho-10-1 Sakumimachi, Kaga, Ishikawa 922-0423
Access: 15-minute walk from Kagaonsen Station
Opening hours: 08:30–18:30

 

With that, I conclude my rather foodies and shoppers guide of things to do around Kagaonsen Station. Do stay tuned for the last part of this Hokuriku Shinkansen Extension series, as I cover the remaining four stations of Fukui. See you!

 

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