Friday, 17 September 2010

To Noto Hanto by bike - up the peninsula

Biking down the Japan Seaside
From Renge Onsen we went back to highway 148 till we reached the coast then headed south along the coast through Toyama prefecture and then Noto Hanto (peninsula) in Ishikawa prefecture.   The mere fact of it being a peninsula, jutting out into the Japan Sea gave it appeal as a holiday desitination, that combined with its relative remoteness and reputation for retaining traditional life made it somewhere we were both keen to go.  Regular trains have stopped running up the peninsula, making it an ideal destination for a motor biking holiday.

Pictures of  the Noto coastline in tourist brochures look pretty, but in the age of photoshop even Shanghai has blue skies....until you go you can't be sure!
We travelled around the peninsula anti clockwise with a detour through Noto Island  and stayed at Suzu  Machi. The following day we continued around the coastline to Wajima, some detours inland, a drive along Chirihama Beach, and on to Kanazawa in the early evening.  Having been, I think 2 days is the bare mimimum of time one would want to spend there.  I could have happily spent the rest of the holiday there, but there was biking to be done. ..
We didn't spend very long there, but Noto seemed quite different to other parts of the Japan Sea side that I have visisted - Aomori, Akita, Yamagata, and to some extent Niigata in several respects.  The beaches were strikingly free of rubbish.  The Japan Sea side coast has a reputation for having really dirty beaches with rubbish washing up from Russia, China, Korea, boats, as well as local rubbish.  Ishikawa's beaches were really clean.  Perhaps the currents are slightly different, but unlikely I think,  more likely is that there is a concerted effort to pick up the rubbish.  It seemed to be a feature of the area - people up bright and early trimming edges, picking weeds, everything was so neatly maintained.    In Kanazawa we asked a volunteer museum  attendant - a man in 70s who I assume from the conversation used to work for Mitsubishi in Tokyo - but he was puzzled by the question; it had never occured to him that other places were different. 

The houses on Noto were also different - well built, well maintained, many traditional style houses with shiny dark brown, tiled rooves.  Similar houses are common on the Boso Hanto in Chiba -much more prosperous looking than typical houses of Tohoku, much more traditional looking than new houses of Tokyo. Hiro's comment was that the people seemed to have a refined sense of what a house was 'supposed' to look like. And yet, at the same time Suzu machi, which struck us as having particularly pretty clusters of houses, is one of the most depopulating areas of Japan - between 1990 and 2000 the population decreased 15.5%.  I am not sure of current statistics. 

Seafood on Noto was suberb. Fresh shellfish, fresh oysters, fresh sashimi, fresh grilled fish, fresh fresh fresh. 
We booked a minshuku  -B&B- called Muroya in Suzu machi on our way down the coast that morning - it was simple & inexpensive but the seafood was a sensation.

 I was a bit suprised that at the Wajima asaichi - morning market - that almost none of the dried seafood was local, almost none was from Japan actually.  Most seemed to be from China (though not clearly labelled as such)  or Turkey.  A vendor who we bought some Chinese dried scallops from was saying local products would cost three times as much, and tourists were not generally prepared to pay so much.   She was very honest and pulled out a file of information on every product she sold - each page listed a different product with nutritional information, where it came from, who the original supplier was, the importer's details etc.   She said it used to be that people would sell foreign goods as Japanese, but now the rules were much too tight.  It seemed though even though tourist had come to see the morning market, most of them were getting their obligatory omiyage  - souvenirs - from a souvenir superstore rather than from the stall holders....

Another observation about Noto, which I had been given prior notice of was the notable absence of convenience stores and fast food chain shops.   Healthy home cooking for Noto Hantoites perhaps...

Rice farming on Noto Hanto

Noto Island

An island shrine off Koiji Kaigan dori  Noto Machi

Mitsuke-jima Suzu Machi 

Houses on the north east tip of Noto Hanto

Looking out on to the bay from the north east tip of the peninsula

The coastline near Yoshigaura.  This was a bit of a strange place.
There was a look out that you could enter though a passage way from the
carpark.  The charge for the look out was 300Y - but the charge wasn't for
the lookout perse it was for standing somewhere with lots of cosmic
energy - according to Hiro (cosmic energy is beyond the scope
of my Japanese).  You could walk up an embankment for no charge.
I decided I didn:t really need the cosmic energy.
There is an exclusive resort of sorts - lamp no yado -
at the bottom. It was booked out, which didn:t make much difference to us, as
 at more than 30,000Y/pp ($450), plus 3000Y /hr for  the onsen,
we weren't likely to be staying there anyway. :)

Thanks to Theresa for her helpful hints.  
Demographic data


Anonymous said...

Hey man, thanks for the mention. I'm glad you liked Noto. I haven't traveled much up and down the Japan Sea coast, just Fukui and Ishikawa and once Toyama and Niigata. Actually when we first moved to Kanazawa in 2006 or whenever it was, there was a lot of garbage on the beaches. One little cove used to have a sign that it was a good place to see foreign garbage, and it was! Korean and Russian. But somehow it's really clean now. Chirihama beach is cleaned regularly. We tried to get driftwood but when we got there the place was all swept up, neat piles near the dunes. When we went to Noto last winter we took infinite pictures of fish hanging to dry. Everybody had fish and various items hanging out to dry.Finally after stopping every five minutes to jump out of the car and photograph the hanging things we had used to it. And Wajima market I refused to go to because so touristy. In Omicho market in Kanazawa I could never be sure what was local and what imported. I suspect the tourists get the imported stuff. Sam took an awful lot of pictures of Noto houses, just loved them.

Cecilia said...

Ah, so if it used to be dirty, it's defintitely not that the tides are different! I wonder if places in Tohoku are starting to get on the tidying bandwagon. I only saw one piece of Korean garbage - that was on the beach with shells and the longest bench.

According to Hiro, Ishikawa of all prefectures has the highest satisfaction with living in the prefecture. I tend to take those rankings with scepticism, but I can see why it might be true.