Noto Peninsula 能登半島

by Daniel Simmons

Despite its remote location, sticking out into the Sea of Japan like a crooked, beckoning finger, the Noto Peninsula is a place with a pulse.

Much of that pulse stems from the steady crash of waves against Noto’s western and northern shores. This part of Japan is very much defined by its relationship with the ocean, which supplies its scant population year-round with seafood, salt, and gorgeous scenery in plenty. The Kongo coast offers up a particularly lovely stretch of rock pillars, pine-topped bluffs, and caves. A small visitor center and parking lot services one of the better viewpoints at Ganmon (“Gate Rock”), where it is said that the fugitive Minamoto Yoshitsune hid from his brother Yoritomo’s search parties in the twelfth century. Further along the Okunoto coast is Sosogi, featuring bizarre rock formations (like “Godzilla Rock” and Madoiwa, or “Window Rock”). Local families also tend to a pretty terraced hillside of tiny rice fields called Senmaida.

Part of Noto’s pulse comes, too, from the saucy, singsong entreaties of Wajima’s morning market vendors, beckoning passersby to duck into their bright orange tents for a sampling of Hokuriku’s famous crabs, local sake, freshly roasted piping hot chestnuts, and painstakingly crafted lacquerware bowls. Wajima is northern Noto’s biggest settlement, and museums and shops throughout Ishikawa prefecture showcase the exquisite quality and durability of its wajimanuri; a single item can take up to six months and 124 separate steps before it is completed.

Adding its own ferocious rhythm to Noto’s pulse is the drumming of the Gojinjo Taiko group, which performs at Noto festivals and also nightly (for free!) at the old Wajima train station between the end of April and the end of November. According to legend, this style of taiko dates back to the year 1577, when the people of the seaside village of Nafune warded off the advance of an invading warlord’s army by donning demon masks made of bark, wearing wigs of seaweed, and scaring the warlord’s soldiers silly with terrifying drumbeats. Travelers with kids may wish to pick up as a souvenir a charming and beautifully-illustrated children’s book called The Drums of Noto Hanto, by Alison James.

Noto has its much quieter side, of course. Hot springs abound, including the famous Wakura Onsen on Noto’s sheltered east coast — for atmosphere, though, we prefer the more ramshackle spots along the west and north coast. Lovers (or singles looking for love) will want to pay a visit to Keta Taisha, wherein Okuninushi, the god of finding true love, is enshrined. They can then make further stops at Mitsukejima on the east coast, where a towering battleship-shaped island anchored off shore provides a backdrop to a beachside bell that, when rung, brings lovers luck.

A clutch of other attractions — an aquarium, samurai mansions, medieval temples, and a beach you can drive your car on — should keep visitors happily engaged for several days. But we encourage you to take it slow: to feel the wind in your hair, to taste the salt in the air, and to revel in the susurrant and omnipresent pulse of the sea.

Getting there:

Flights from Haneda will get you to Noto Airport in about an hour. Train service is limited (many of the stations were put into disuse in 2001) and bus service is both expensive and frustratingly infrequent, so our recommendation is to rent a car at Noto Airport or in Kanazawa, just south of the peninsula, and spend a few leisurely days exploring Noto at your own pace.





能登半島の祭事などで活動している「御陣乗太鼓」もエネルギーに満ちたリズムを響かせる。そのリズムは4月末から11月末までの毎晩、道の駅輪島「ふらっと訪夢」で行われている実演でも体感することが出来る。言い伝えによればこの太鼓の歴史は天正5年(1577年)までさかのぼるらしい。当時上杉謙信が名舟町に侵攻してきた時、地元住民たちが古老の指図に従い、樹の皮で面を作り、海藻を頭髪とし、陣太鼓を打ち鳴らしながら上杉軍に奇襲をかけて敗走させたのが始まりと言われる。子供連れの観光客にはアリソン・ジェイムス著「The Drums of Noto Hanto」もいいお土産になる。




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