Chubu's dignified cultural center
Rich cultural heritage, great seafood and some stunning coastal scenery - if you're into that sort of thing.
Ishikawa Prefecture is a thin strip of land in the eastern Chubu region that looks as though it’s trying to offer the Sea of Japan an elegant hand. Reaching out into the water is the remote Noto Peninsula which boasts breathtaking coastal scenery best viewed from the winding highways that run along the peninsula’s edge. The historic cultural center of Kanazawa with its beautiful Kenroku-en gardens marks the entrance to the peninsula. A handful of beaches, mountains, hot springs, rice paddies and temples are scattered in between – elements that feature in Ishikawa’s rich arts and crafts heritage.
The recent opening of the Hokuriku bullet train line connecting Tokyo to Kanazawa has made access to Ishikawa’s sights much easier. Kanazawa is hugely popular with tourists, drawn to the famed Kenroku-en gardens which are ranked as one of the top three gardens in the country, as well as the picture-perfect former geisha and samurai districts. The reconstructed castle in the center is the city’s dignified landmark with an approach lined by cherry blossom trees.
Southwest of the castle in the Teramachi temple district, you can take a guided tour of Ninja-dera, a former shogun hideout full of secret rooms, trap doors and concealed corridors. In between sightseeing, Omicho Market, a maze of local seafood shops, is a good place for sushi. Kanzawa is also the spot to pick up lacquerware, Ohi pottery and Kutani porcelain souvenirs crafted in the region.
Rent a car if you can and head north into the Noto Peninsula for gorgeous coastal vistas, rural traditions and renowned arts and crafts. On your way to the historic fishing port of Wajima, home to colorful Wajima-nuri (lacquerware), swing by Chirihama for a drive along the beach and some fresh seafood or stop at the Wakura Onsen resort for a quick dip in one of the well-equipped hot springs along the water. Towards the end of the peninsula along the rugged Okunoto coast you can see the 1000 rice fields at Senmaida.
At the opposite end of Ishikawa, south of Kanazawa, you can make like the monks 1300 years ago and discover Kaga Onsen, four hot spring towns close to the holy Mount Hakusan.