Better than Kanazawa? Okunoto is the most underrated travel destination in Ishikawa Prefecture  (Wajima City, Okunoto Region)

Better than Kanazawa? Okunoto is the most underrated travel destination in Ishikawa Prefecture (Wajima City, Okunoto Region)

Oku Noto sits at the tip of Noto Peninsula. A road trip haven deep in the countryside where you can hang loose and let time slip by.

 

Oku Noto region consists of two towns (Anamizu and Noto) and two small cities (Wajima and Suzu) in the northernmost tip of Ishikawa Prefecture. For most people, Kanazawa comes to mind when you say Ishikawa, but there is actually another world deep in the prefecture that's bursting to the seams with awesomeness.

 

Join me as I lay out all the driving routes in Oku Noto, the new home of the "Inaka backpacker" Ikuma Nakagawa. (Read introduction here. / Read about Anamizu here.)

 

From Anamizu to Wajima

  

I suggest leaving "Inaka Backpacker House" by 9:00 AM and taking your time driving around Okunoto for half a day.

 

 

A lot of people suggest going counter clock-wise from Inaka Backpacker House towards Noto, but I disagree. I think it's way better to go north to Wajima first before heading down to the tip of the peninsula and drive along the sea. If you're going to drive in Okunoto, might as well drive with a view of the sea!

 

Wajima usually reminds people of the morning market, native lacquerware, and Senmaida Rice Terraces, but NHK also introduced salt ponds and Magaki no Sato when they covered Wajima in their morning TV series Mareh ("Extraordinary") in 2015. Let's go to Osawa, the actual site where they filmed that episode. (Location: Osawa, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture)

 

 

A traditional Japanese village. Osawa village is known as Magaki no Sato or "Bamboo-Fence Village." The bamboo fencings are about 3 meters high and meant to protect the houses from the strong winds coming from the sea, but they also prove indispensable for the locals during summers as they provide shade from the sun.

 

 

If you drive up to the Osawa mountain, you'll eventually run through a lush forest called Okedaki no Mori ("Okedaki Waterfall Forest") with a footpath leading to the waterfall. Its soft gushing water drops 30 meters from a hole in a big rock and flows out of the chamber in three wide steps, creating an idyllic lullaby that resonates throughout the silent forest. This spectacular natural formation is a rare sight in Japan and truly is impressive. (Location: Osawa, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture)

 

After Osawa, we're going to the morning market.

 

Towards Wajima's famous morning market

 

The morning market is perhaps the most famous thing about Wajima. You can find all kinds of fresh seafood, farmed vegetables, and traditional crafts like Wajima lacquerware. This is the perfect place to go shopping for your dinner later. 

 

 

Lots of stalls line the streets of the morning market where most vendors are friendly local women. The atmosphere makes for an interesting experience even if you're just window shopping.

  

<Wajima Morning Market>

Location: Kawai, Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture

Contact: Wajima Morning Market Association / +81-768-22-7653 (morning only)

Hours: 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Closed: 2nd and 4th Wed of every month, Jan 1-3

 

Next stop is at Shiroyone Senmaida Rice Terraces

 

 
Shiroyone Senmaida Rice Terraces have over a thousand rice paddies. They're located right next to the roadside station and face the Sea of Japan. The farmers revived and are using an ancient farming technique called "Nawashiroda," which involves raising seedlings from pods to cultivate rice. These rice terraces symbolize the Noto Peninsula and remain as one of the hidden treasures of Japan while also making it to the "100 Best Rice Terraces in Japan."
 
 
During Golden Week in spring is the rice-planting season. In summer, the terraces are filled with water which reflect clear skies like mirrors. By fall, the fields radiate with golden brown rice plants. And when winter comes, the fields hibernate and turn into silvery, glistening wonderland. No matter the season, the scenery in Shiroyone Senmaida Rice Terraces is glorious!
 
After the harvest season between fall and winter, the terraces are illuminated with candles and LED lights, further creating an even more otherworldly fantastic view of a lifetime!
 
You can buy your favorite souvenirs at the roadside station (we recommend the local "onigiri" rice balls!). Timing your visit after the harvest season is important if you want to eat Senmaida rice, but you can still enjoy other locally produced rice. You don't know what real rice tastes like until you've had rice balls here!
  
 

Other awesome souvenirs include wakame and mekabu seaweeds, rock paste, and dried fish. I also highly recommend grilled "Hoka Hoka" red snapper with yomogi (a Japanese herb).

 

<Senmaida Pocket Park Roadside Station>

Location: 8-99-5 Shiroyonemachi, Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture

Contact: +81-768-34-1242

Hours: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM daily (Rest House)

 
Now on to Noto Peninsula's Wajima Salt Farm "Wajimashio"
 
 
People take in salt into their bodies every day. Needless to say, salt is an essential mineral for our bodies that's why I want to take only the best and healthiest kind of salt into my body.
 
 
There are actually many different kinds of salt, including "natural salt" and "real salt," and the friendly staff in Wajima Salt Farm will gladly explain all that to you.
 
 
Did you know that sun-dried salt and the salt sold in grocery stores are completely different kinds of salt? It’s good to ask questions like this to their staff. 
 
 
You'll even get a chance to see this big boy with your own eyes. That's the amazing salt processor.
 
 
Then there's soft cream. And who doesn't like ice creams? Besides the common chocolate and vanilla flavors, they also have sesame flavor. All soft creams are sprinkled with salt, creating an exquisite experience in your palate that you will not quite taste anywhere else again, ever.
 
 

<Wajima Salt Farm "Wajimashio">

Location: 8-17-2 Okawa, Machinomachi, Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture

Contact: +81-768-32-1177

Hours: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (daily in Mar-Nov, only weekends and holidays in Dec-Feb)

  
By the way, there's another robust salt production area in Suzu at the tip of Wajima, where NHK shot their episode Mareh ("Extraordinary"). I'll tell you everything you want to know about it in the next article.

 

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能登での移住生活/田舎暮らし、国内外の田舎旅スポットやライフスタイルを、バックパッカー×クルマ旅をしながら発信。Inaka Backpacker Twitter: @iku203
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