Discovering some of the best parts of Japan without the crowds, are closer than you can imagine on your next ski trip to Japan, writes Phil Osborn. The Noto Peninsula, located on the main island of Honshu’s west coast, and the northern tip of Ishikawa Prefecture, is the perfect destination for those seeking to explore the coast and rustic rural Japan. Allow 2 to 3 days to explore Noto Peninsula at your own pace.
Photos: Phil Osborn
I’m often asked to recommend great travel experiences in Japan that are authentic and not swamped with foreign tourists. Most skiers and snowboarders are looking to experience Japan’s culture beyond the resort boundaries, before or after a ski trip. So if this sounds like you, then you may want to read on.
I first discovered Ishikawa Prefecture in 2015, when the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) finally linked up from Nagano to Kanazawa. From Iiyama Station in Nagano, to Kanazawa is an hour and 15 minute trip on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The bullet train originally was opened in 1997 in time for the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, to transport people quickly from Tokyo. Incredibly, the work never stopped on continuing the bullet train to Kanazawa and 18 years later, the Shinkansen finally made it to Kanazawa in 2015. And by March 2024 the Hokuriku Shinkansen is scheduled to connect to Kaga.
My first trip to Kanazawa opened my eyes to exploring Ishikawa Prefecture with its rich cultural history of samurai, arts and crafts, traditional gardens and incredible seafood. Once I had visited the city of Kanazawa, I was intrigued to explore the coast and countryside in more detail. What I discovered, I hope inspires you to keep discovering more of Japan.
Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture – Where is it?
The Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa Prefecture, on a map reminds me of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The Noto Peninsula is surrounded by water as it extends around 100 kilometres into the Sea of Japan. From the top of the Noto Peninsula you can look directly across to the snow covered Japan Alps. It’s these same chilly waters, that help create the moisture that blankets Japan in its famous powder snow.
Accessing Noto Peninsula
Most people will come up via Kanazawa, either via train or hire car. I had booked a ticket with ANA Airlines that gave me a free internal flight in Japan, so I actually flew into Noto Satoyama Airport from Haneda Airport, Tokyo. Access to Noto Peninsula is easy, with lots of options to suit your travel situation.
The most convenient way to experience the Noto Peninsula is by car. Driving in Noto Peninsula is safe and easy. Just use google maps for navigation and google translate if you need any help communicating. Everything else will become one big adventure of discovery! If you had plenty of time, cycling the Noto Peninsula would be great fun. To learn more about travelling times to and around Noto Peninsula click here.
Photos: Phil Osborn
Wajima Morning Market
Wajima city, with its population of 23,000 citizens offers many unique experiences and is the centre of culture of Noto Peninsula. A must visit is the Wajima Morning Market, held on most days for over 1,000 years, the 200 stalls are selling fresh local seafood, vegetables, and hand made local crafts. Keep an eye out for the female AMA Divers of Wajima. I loved discovering the local women for over 400 years have been diving off the coast of Wajima for abalone, seaweed and turban shells and selling their catch at the morning markets.
Famous Wajima lacquerware
The incredible skill of the Wajima lacquerware craftsman has put the Noto Peninsula on the world stage. Wajima as an important port and trading route helped develop Wajima lacquerware into an industry. Their patience and talent for creating beautiful artwork needs to be seen to be fully believed. You can visit the master craftsman who produce this stunning artwork and tour their workshop. And to give context to their skill, you can try and create your own Wajima lacquerware, which is loads of fun and really creative.
Kiriko Lantern Floats
A visit to the Kiriko festival museum in Wajima gives deeper insight into the local culture. Kiriko, the towering lantern floats carried during summer festivals across the peninsula, are on display at the Wajima Kiriko Art Museum.
If you are foodie, Flatt’s Noto should be on your radar. The accommodation is a small ryoken, hugging the Sea of Noto. This picturesque accommodation absolutely punches above it’s weight in the food stakes. The Master Chef, Ben Flatt, is originally from Australia and his Japanese wife Chikako from Noto, have crafted a destination worth travelling to experience. Ben trained as an Italian Chef and is focused on locally sourced, fresh produce. Regular guests include famous chefs Tetsuya Wakuda and Maggie Beer. Trust me, this is a destination that won’t disappoint. For more info click link to Flatt’s Noto
Photos: Phil Osborn
Farm Stays – Forest
Slowing down and embracing the rustic rural life of the Noto Peninsula gives a fresh appreciation for Japan. The architecture of the Noto Peninsula is stunning. The traditional farm houses are large. The craftsmanship and design can be appreciated when you stay as a guest. I stayed at a wonderful property called Forest. The owner prepared stunning meals and was organically growing her vegetables. To learn more about Forest click here.
Photos: Phil Osborn
Shiroyone Senmaida rice terraces
A cool photo opportunity is the Shiroyone Senmaida rice terraces. As you drive along the Western side of Noto, you’ll come across the Shiroyone Senmaida rice terraces facing the Sea of Japan. The patterns carved into the mountain and the colour of the rice fields contrasts beautifully against the ocean.
Keep Discovering – Noto Peninsula
Japan is a country worth exploring. The Noto Peninsula will suit Australian skiers and snowboarders looking to extend their time in Japan, who are wanting to experience authentic Japan before or after a ski trip. You’ll be rewarded with unique experiences and hosts that will welcome you warmly.
For more information on visiting Ishikawa Prefecture from Australia go to: https://www.ishikawatravel.jp/en/
And check out the overview video of Ishikawa below for more inspiration.