Noto peninsula is a mecca for nature lovers with the west coast one of its biggest assets. Enduring the daily strength of the Sea of Japan, this rugged coastline features magnificent sights both natural and manmade that run all the way from the base to the top of the peninsula.
Chirihama Nagisa Driveway
One of the first stops up the west coast of Noto Peninsula is Chirihama Beach, otherwise known as Chirihama Nagisa Driveway, which is accessed by turning off at Imahama. Unlike any normal beach, you won’t be arriving at Chirihama by foot but by car with vehicles seen bumping along the hard sand while the tide is out - signs will alert you whether it is safe enough to drive before entering. While a relatively new concept to most, worries about where to park and where to get shelter are eliminated with your car parked up alongside you. This is a popular spot in summer when happy beach-goers can be seen jumping out of their cars for a quick dip in the sea.
Further up the coast towards Hakui City is the Buddhist temple Myojoji which was founded in 1294 with the majority of the buildings built in the 17th century. Among the 10 buildings dotted around the temple grounds, the main attraction is the impressive five-story pagoda which sits at the top of the stairs guarded by the Nio-mon entrance gate. The surrounding buildings include shrines and temples built as symbols of important Buddhist Saints which become enveloped in blue hydrangea during the warmer months.
The Kongo Coast is a section of the west coast known for its jagged cliffs and unique rock formations. Running for around 30km above Hakui and below Wajima, the coast sits within the boundaries of the Noto Peninsula Quasi-National Park. While it is not instantly clear that you have arrived at the Kongo Coast, the coastal roads guide you in the right direction with Ganmon Cave a clear sign that you’ve made it. Formed by the erosion of the cliffs, Ganmon Cave can be explored by foot or on the Noto Kongo Sightseeing Cruise which takes a path through the cave and up the Kongo Coast for a better view of this fascinating coastline from the ocean.
While the majority of the coast of Noto Peninsula is covered in cliff faces, around halfway up the west coast of Noto Peninsula lies a long stretch of sandy beach under the name of Nakisuna, which translates as “singing sand”. Squeaky sand aside, Nakisuna is mostly frequented by locals for its reputation as a surfers paradise. The rough seas roll up gigantic waves which see the beach fill up with pro surfers every morning.
Senmaida, which translates as 1,000 rice paddies, is faithful to its name with over 1,000 rows of rice terraces piling up from the sea to the roadside. Bordering the northern part of the west coast of Noto Peninsula, the terraces have been strategically planted to soak up the water from the ocean to aid growth before the rice is harvested in September. One of the most fascinating things about Senmaida is its transformation over the seasons from a grass-filled staircase in summer to a snow-covered blanket in winter. Be sure to linger a little longer in spring to catch the sunset turn the water-soaked terraces a glowing orange hue and for the nighttime light up between October and March.