View of Ishikawa's satoumi from a local train window
"This was such a wonderful place, and meeting the local people made it truly a great journey!"
For us, it is genuinely delightful to hear our customers say that. At the same time, when local residents tell us "Please come again! Next time, take your time and relax even more" it inspires us to provide our customers with longer and more leisurely journeys.
Touring famous tourist destinations is great, but our goal is to design and deliver journeys that go beyond that—journeys that allow our customers to encounter local people and experience deep and meaningful places. To achieve this, we make sure to visit the regions as much as possible, meet with local residents, listen to their stories, and even immerse ourselves in the experiences they offer.
This time, we visited Ishikawa Prefecture in the Hokuriku region and would like to share the wonderful aspects and thoughts we had during our trip.
Ishikawa Prefecture: Diverse Expressions in Different Regions
Located in the Hokuriku region, Ishikawa Prefecture stretches from north to south with Kanazawa City at its center. Kanazawa City is known for its historical streets that preserve the atmosphere of a castle town from the Kaga Domain, such as Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle, and Higashi Chaya District, making it a popular destination for tourists. To the south lies the Hakusan region, home to three famous mountains of Japan. To the north, there is the Noto region, known for its scenic coastal landscapes and famous lacquerware from Wajima. Each region within the same prefecture boasts distinct geographical and cultural features, making it a remarkably unique area to explore.
Facing the Sea of Japan, Ishikawa Prefecture naturally offers delectable seafood. Sushi, seafood bowls, and other rare fish dishes using locally sourced ingredients are among the major attractions.
Living Culture in the Satoyama and Satoumi of Noto Region
We started our visit in the Noto region, where we were greeted by Mr. Koyama and Mr. Hirata from Noto DMC at the airport.
Our first stop was a traditional thatched roof house called "Kayabuki An", which serves as a unique hotel experience where visitors can immerse themselves in the lifestyle of Noto. The entire community comes together to run the "Satoyama Hotel", providing visitors with opportunities to experience traditional agricultural practices, enjoy meals at the thatched roof house, and even try their hand at thatching. The representative of the hotel, Mr. Yamamoto, was a person who came to Noto from Tokyo. He fell in love with the rural scenery and lifestyle of Noto and decided to move here. He now offers travelers the chance to experience the traditional way of life, and local grandparents warmly welcome guests at the thatched roof house, sharing the charms of Noto with them. It was heartwarming to feel the warmth of the people in this place so close to the airport.
The representative of the hotel, Mr. Yamamoto, was a person who came to Noto from Tokyo. He fell in love with the rural scenery and lifestyle of Noto and decided to move here. He now offers travelers the chance to experience the traditional way of life, and local grandparents warmly welcome guests at the thatched roof house, sharing the charms of Noto with them. It was heartwarming to feel the warmth of the people in this place so close to the airport.
After visiting the famous Wajima morning market, we then headed to the residence of Mr. Zenko, a skilled craftsman in Wajima lacquerware.
Wajima lacquerware involves carving patterns into the surface of lacquerware with special chisels called "chinkin" or sunken gold, filling the grooves with lacquer, and embedding gold or silver powder to create intricate designs. Mr. Zenko, who single-handedly manages the entire process from designing the patterns to maintaining the tools, continues to express beautiful designs on Wajima lacquerware with his thick, experienced hands.
“I want to offer authentic experiences to visitors, not just tailored for tourists” - Mr. Zenko says.
This encounter with him was precious for us, as it aligned with our mission to deliver local culture experiences that the region wants to share with our customers.
The Samurai Culture in Kanazawa City
After enjoying the scenic views from the local train since our departure in Wakura Onsen, we arrived at Kanazawa Station.
The Kanazawa City Tourism Policy Division staff warmly welcomed us and introduced us to some of the people and places they wanted to showcase in Kanazawa.
One of the places we visited was "Maida Somega Kougei," where Kaga Yuzen textile dyeing is practiced. Kaga Yuzen, with its 500-year history, features paintings of plants and flowers, and its meticulous dyeing technique is truly captivating.
At Maedasome-ga Kougei, they perform all the approximately 15 steps required to complete Kaga Yuzen, allowing the artist's design to be fully expressed.
The third-generation of craftsman, Mr. Maida, shared how they preserve traditional techniques while innovatively creating to meet contemporary needs. In the face of the shrinking kimono market, various challenges are being taken on to connect Kaga Yuzen to the next generation and ensure its continuity into the future.
When we think of samurai culture, images of warriors and swords often come to mind.
However, not many people have had the opportunity to see and touch authentic Japanese swords that have been passed down through the ages.
During our visit, we had the privilege of meeting Mr. Shijimaya Masahisa, who descends from a samurai family and carries on the samurai culture to this day. We were deeply moved by the beauty of the authentic Japanese swords that we could observe up close.
Mr. Shijimaya shared with us how Japanese swords and samurai culture continue to live today.
"Shinogi wo kezuru" or “fight desperately” - literally means “scrape the ridge of a sword”.
"Seppa tsumaru” or “under the gun” - "Seppa" refers to thin oval-shaped metal pieces placed on both sides of Japanese sword guards. When these seppa get jammed (tsumaru), you won't be able to draw the sword. If you find yourself in a tight spot and unable to unsheathe the sword due to seppa-tsumaru, it becomes impossible to escape or engage in combat.
These are expressions that originated from the creation of swords. It's fascinating that these phrases, which we still commonly use today, have such origins.
Finally, we had the experience of drawing the sword using a real sword. As we wielded the weight of the authentic sword, we unified our minds like samurais, savoring the essence of the warrior culture.
Mountain Worship and Buddhist Culture in Hakusan Region
Hakusan is one of Japan's three famous mountains, alongside Mount Fuji and Mount Tateyama. It is known as a sacred mountain, and the sight of the sea of clouds from its peak is a mystic spectacle.
After about an hour's drive from Kaga Onsen Station, we reached the mountaintop where we experienced an unforgettable stay.
Hakusan Ikumo is a lodge located at the summit of Hakusan mountain that offers a serene escape. In the past, ascetics practiced at a temple here, and that's how Hakusan Ikumo began.
Here, one can experience a sense of peace while listening to nothing but the sound of the wind, without any nearby lights. It was a truly luxurious experience to have the entire mountain to ourselves, as if it were rented solely for us, allowing us to forget the everyday world completely. This invaluable accommodation experience granted us a sense of inner peace like no other, an experience we never felt elsewhere.
The next day, we received blessings and prayers at Nata Temple, concluding our unforgettable three-day journey.
Every encounter during this trip left a profound impact on our hearts
Ishikawa Prefecture has become increasingly popular among travelers in recent years. During this trip, we observed that certain tourist destinations in Kanazawa were crowded to the point where it was difficult to pass through. The revival of tourism after the pandemic has brought back the issue of overtourism in popular tourist spots.
On the other hand, most of the places we visited were peaceful, allowing us to take our time and spend quality moments with the people we met in each region. We enjoyed a leisurely journey, cherishing each encounter and contemplating the landscapes through the eyes of the locals.
Every word spoken by someone at the place, the scenery of that place seen through the lens of the local people—every single encounter left a deep impression on us, making our journey truly meaningful.
Isn't this the true essence of travel?
Japan is home to many wonderful regions. We will continue to explore each of these regions and craft journeys that leave a lasting impact on your hearts.