With 1200 years of recorded history, Wakura is one of the oldest bathing towns around, even by high Japanese standards. But don't come here expecting a time warp into the past: while hotels here are built in traditional Japanese style on the inside, most of them are ugly, hulking concrete monsters from the outside.
Noto Airport is a 40-min shared taxi ride away (¥1100).
Wakura Onsen is the terminus of the JR Noto Line, which connects from Kanazawa and Tsubata on the JR Hokuriku Main Line. However, only limited expresses (from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya) go all the way; all ordinary JR services terminate at Nanao, one stop down the line, from where you'll have to wait for a connecting Noto Railway train (¥180, roughly hourly) or take a bus (¥350, every half hour or so). You can also use the Noto Railway to come in from Anamizu to the north.
All that said, the train station is actually located a rather inconvenient 3 km out of town. Many ryokan offer pickup/dropoff services, or you can wait for the buses from Nanao which stop at the station on their way into town.
The core of Wakura Onsen is easily covered on foot, but if you want to explore the vicinity, rental bikes are available from the tourism office from 9:00-17:30 for ¥800/day. TEL 0767-62-1555 Wakura Onsen Sightseeing Association (和倉温泉観光協会).
Sights in Wakura are distinctly limited. There's a rather contrived Seven Lucky Gods Lucky Lucky Course (七福神福々めぐり) connecting seven spots around town, each housing a statue of one of the Seven Lucky Gods, that can be covered in two hours even by the most leisurely tourist.
- Kadoi Saburō Museum (角偉三郎美術館) and Tsujiguchi Hironobu Museum (辻口博啓美術館), at the seaside behind Yumoto no Hiroba. Located in the same matte black box of a building, the Kadoi side is devoted to lacquerware, while Tsujiguchi is a master confectioner trained in the French tradition, whose delicacies can be sampled in the cafe (no ticket required). Joint entrance ¥700. Open 8 AM to 5 PM daily, cafe from 9 AM to 7 PM.
- Yumoto no Hiroba (湯元の広場). The central point of town, this is the spot where the hot spring bubbles up and is shunted off into all the hotels via a proudly displayed if rather unsexy set of pipes and pumps. It's surrounded by a small park, and there's also a spot to boil your own eggs in spring water (15-20 minutes).
- Showa Era and Toy museum. A museum focusing on toys from yester-year and on daily life in the Showa era of Japan.
- Wakura Fireworks (Visible from the coastline in Wakura). Wakura hosts a spectacular fireworks show twice a year. There's a winter show on the second Sunday in January, and a summer show on the first Thursday in August. With an impressive display of over 1,500 fireworks, it's worth checking out. As parking fills up quickly, make sure you either get there early, or don't drive.
The only worth doing in Wakura Onsen is bathing. Onsen contain Sodium and Calcium, and can be as hot as 90°C.
- Foot Onsen (足湯). There are two free outdoor public foot onsen located near the core of Wakura, one of which features a nice view of Notojima. They can be quite relaxing and are recommended all year round.
- Wakura Onsen Sōyu (和倉温泉総湯). Public baths featuring lots of hot water and a sauna. Entry ¥480. Open 7 AM to 10 PM daily except the 25th of each month (or following day if 25th is a Sunday/holiday).
Private onsen with a view can be had from the upper class hotels such as Kagaya starting from ¥30,000.
- Sunset Cruise Sunset cruises around the area are available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in September, from 17:30-18:00 for ¥800. There are also similar night cruises in August from 19:50, 20:15, and 20:40 for ¥500. Contact Wakura Onsen Sightseeing Association (和倉温泉観光協会) for more information.
There is a small supermarket next to Hosenkaku and a scattering of souvenir/convenience stores around town.
Wakura Onsen has a decent selection of places to eat.
- Hebi-no-Me Sushi (蛇の目寿司). The "Snake's Eye" is a friendly family-run sushi joint specializing in local Noto delicacies. The top seller is akanishigai (赤ニシ貝, ¥500), a mollusk found exclusively in Nanao Bay, but you won't miss much if you skip it. Instead, try their seasonal nigiri set (四季限定にぎり shiki-gentei-nigiri, ¥2000), which gives a good sampling of the best seafood Noto has to offer.
The small alleyway of Yūrakuchō (有楽町) offers a typical selection of mildly dodgy karaoke hostess bars.
Wakura is famous for its ryokan (Japanese inns), which in turn are famous for their fresh seafood. All prices below including two meals and unless otherwise noted require at least two people staying per room.
- Togetsuan, ☎ . (渡月庵). Built like a Taisho-era ryokan using traditional techniques and materials. Gorgeous from the inside and outside, but regrettably surrounded on four sides by concrete monstrosities. Good indoor and outdoor bath, plus free use of the facilities at sister ryokan Hōsenkaku. Bed & breakfast (singles OK) from ¥7300, packages for two with dinner from ¥10000/person up.
- Kagaya (加賀屋), 80 Yobu Wakura-machi (in the centre of Wakura and a 15 minute walk from Wakura station), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Luxurious Japanese-style Inn (though actually a de facto hotel). The rooms, food, hot springs, view, and everything else are of the very best quality. All this luxury comes at a hefty price, but if you can afford to stay even one night, you should. ¥18,900-150,000.
- Tadaya. (多田屋). Very, very old-school Japanese swank. Weekday stays in the proletarian Hana-no-Kan (花の館) annex start from a mere ¥15750/person, while booking the Rikyu (利久) teahouse with private outdoor bath costs a cool ¥57750/person.
- Noto Island — just across the bridge