Looking to get off the beaten path and discover some of Japan’s hidden gems? Look no further than the Noto Peninsula, a gorgeous and remote area of Japan that’s full of history, small villages, gorgeous coastline and few tourists.
Noto is an easy road trip from Kanazawa, just two hours north via the Noto Satoyama Kaido freeway.
Up for the adventure? You’ll need a car, a map and this handy guide to explore the area, as public transportation is limited.
Things to Know
- The Noto Peninsula is very remote and weather can be extreme in the winter. Be sure to bring a sweater!
- Brush up on your Japanese. In this area, you are unlikely to find many people who can speak English. The other option is to hire a licensed guide to tour/interpret for you.
- The freeway north of Kanazawa is free, unlike many others in the country, making this an awesome road trip.
- You can take public buses from Kanazawa Station to Wajima. The ride takes roughly 2 hours and costs 2260 yen. Be advised though, some of the best sights come from the freedom of having a car!
- Be sure to bring cash with you, as few places accept credit cards.
Bring your car right onto the sand for this one! This is the only beach in Japan that you can drive on, and one of only a few in the world. Take in the smell of the ocean and some sweet summer rays as you cruise down the beach, and stop off at local shellfish stands along the way to grab kame-ya, fried shellfish.
About an hour north of Kanazawa on your way down the Noto Satoyama, you’ll come across Sojiji, a zen Buddhist temple that’s arguably one of the most beautiful on this side of the island. If you plan ahead you can book a tour with a zen Buddhist monk, who will tell you everything you wanted to know (and more) about living that lifestyle. The grounds are gorgeous and the history impressive. It’s certainly worth a stop!
Wajima Morning Market
In the old days, this morning market was for locals—these days, it’s much more of a foreigner’s affair. It’s still very cool though, and is one of the three largest morning markets in all of Japan. Stop by for a great selection of souvenirs, mochi, seafood and more! Open from 8 a.m. to 12 noon daily.
Lacquerware at Wajima Shikki Kaikan
Continuing on, you’ll reach Wajima, the biggest city on the peninsula, which is famous for its lacquerware. Visit Wajima Shikki Kaikan, where you’ll find several serving platters, sake cups, tea sets and more, all lacquer-ized, in a process that takes roughly three months to create. You may not be able to afford the majority of it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look—take a tour of how these products are made, and after, wander around the showroom to see if anything strikes your fancy.
Salt Harvesting at Okunoto Salt Farm Village
Despite the technological advances to the industry, there are still farmers harvesting salt directly from the sea in the Noto Peninsula, in a process known as agehama, which dates back to the 5th Century. See it in action at the Okunoto Salt Farm Village, where you can also take salt-making classes. The backbreaking method is nothing short of impressive, and the salt you’ll find here is packed with minerals that are great for you.
Kirikos Festival Hall
Japan is famous for the hundreds of festivals it holds per year, and this museum houses 30 kirikos—tall, massive structures that display messages to the gods and are carried by hundreds of men. Some are as tall as 12 meters high, built as far back as 160 years ago, at the end of the Edo period. 610 yen admission.
Hotel Route Inn Wajima
There’s not a whole lot memorable about this place, aside from the on-site onsen and breakfast buffet, but it’s location is great in the center of town, which makes it a popular stop for visitors. Comfortable, but no-thrills found here.
The other western-style hotel in town. The location is not as central as Wajima Inn, but the rooms are clean and they have an on-site onsen & sauna, and free toast, milk & coffee for breakfast. Free Wi-Fi in the lobby.
Wajima Onsen Yashio (Japanese-Style)
Located in the Wajima Nebuta hot-spring area, this upscale Japanese inn is a great option if you want a more authentic experience (re: sleeping on futons on tatami mats). Meals include locally-caught seafood, and after dinner, take in all of the splendor of their indoor/outdoor hot-spring baths.
Notonosho (Japanese Style)
A very upscale Japanese inn where the meals will consist of fine dining items like abalone and Noto beef. Prices run at about $300/night, but you’ll get what you pay for. If you’re in the mood to splash out, head here.
Have you ever been to the Noto Peninsula?