Ishikawa Prefecture Overview
Located along the wild west coast facing onto the Sea of Japan, Ishikawa Prefecture has maintained its bucolic charm throughout the years in spite of the popularity of the region’s traditional crafts, some of which are world renowned today. While Kanazawa, with its preserved wooden tea houses and serene Japanese gardens, is Ishikawa’s biggest attraction, the prefecture’s allure spreads all the way up into the rural Noto Peninsula.
While somewhat out in the sticks, the Hokuriku Shinkansen has made Ishikawa easily accessible with Kanazawa Station just 2.5 hours from Tokyo. Nicknamed Little Kyoto, Kanazawa is famed for its quaint streets of preserved wooden buildings both in the old entertainment district Higashi Chaya, where wooden slats hide traditional tea houses and crafts shops, and the Nagamachi samurai district made up of a tangle of cobbled streets and old samurai houses.
Much of Kanazawa has been beautifully architected including the central Kenrokuen Garden. Once the property of the Maeda familyーwho ruled the Kaga Clan for around 300 yearsーKanazawa’s central green space was so beautifully designed and well-preserved that it won the title as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.
With creativity apparently in the waters, Ishikawa is the birthplace of many a creator who are to thank for the craft culture of Ishikawa that still thrives today. Vibrant pottery is ever present with the most famousーKutani ware, irresistible for its colorful, intricate designsーfound in shops and workshops across Kanazawa. While Kanazawa produces some lacquerware, it’s Wajima up in the reaches of the Noto Peninsula that has the biggest name in the production of Japanese lacquerware defined by its beautiful designs in black, red, and gold.
Not only is the Noto Peninsula a center of crafts but its elongated thin shape is naturally home to long stretches of beaten coastline where a combination of fascinating rock formations and beaches run for miles. Among forest-covered roads, small port towns and cities house the thinly spread population with unmissable spots including Wajima for its morning markets and the festival floats at Kiriko Art Museum, Nanao, where lacquer Buddhist altars are ubiquitous, and the hot springs of Wakura Onsen.
There are a number of national parks in Ishikawa Prefecture with the most celebrated Hakusan, an easy day trip from Kanazawa. Winding roads lead past fantastic verdant scenery and through isolated villages into the heart of the hills. Heading into the south of the prefecture, the small city of Kaga is renowned for its onsen, as well as Kaga Yuzen silk kimonos which are beautifully dyed in delicate designs.
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