Ishikawa Prefecture is located in the center of Honshu, the main island of Japan, on the Sea of Japan side. It is in the Chubu region, one of the country’s 8 regional divisions. Ishikawa is approx. 100 km wide and 200 km long, with an area of 4,185 km² and 580 km of beautiful coastline. It has an elongated shape, a little like an hour glass, and if you look hard enough you might make out the letter ‘F’ too! Neighboring prefectures are Fukui to the south, Toyama to the east, and Gifu to the southeast.
The population of the prefecture is around 1.16 million, about 40% of which is taken up by the prefectural capital of Kanazawa City (460,000), the largest out of the 3 prefectures in the Hokuriku region. Kanazawa City is the center of economy as well as culture in the Hokuriku region.
Because Ishikawa Prefecture escaped from being damaged by air raids during the war, traditional buildings and landscapes are still evident throughout the city. Kenrokuen Garden, adjacent to the Kanazawa Castle remains, is famous as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. It is highly regarded not only by Japanese people but also by international tourists, and is a sightseeing spot representative of Ishikawa. Neighboring the downtown area of Kanazawa, there are townscapes that still maintain their traditional look, such as the Higashi Chaya District and Tera-machi to the north of Asanogawa River, where you will be able to come in contact with some authentic culture.
One characteristic of Ishikawa Prefecture is its thriving traditional crafts. Because the Kaga Domain that ruled over Ishikawa in the Edo Period encouraged learning and literature, traditional culture in the castle town of Kanazawa flourished and continues to be passed down. In Kanazawa these include the Noh theatre by the Kaga Hosho school of Noh, silk dyeing techniques of Kaga-yuzen, Kanazawa lacquer ware decorated with gold or silver lacquer, and Oi-yaki used in tea-making utensils. Wajima lacquer ware from Wajima City, and Kutani ware Kaga Region are other examples of these traditional techniques with high artistic quality. Ishikawa has had the largest number of successful competitors per capita at the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition and the Museum of Japanese Traditional Art Crafts throughout Japan. In 2009, Kanazawa was registered as a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art within the Creative Cities Network.
Kanazawa is known for its Japanese confection, alongside places like Kyoto and Matsue. The culture of the Japanese tea ceremony, that has flourished since long ago, has brought about the development of Japanese confection. It has spread into the lives of ordinary people too, becoming an essential part of seasonal situations, and various events throughout life. You will be able to enjoy each of the 5 senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and sound, which are the characteristics of Japanese confection from Kanazawa.
One thing that is an absolute must when you come to Ishikawa is to try the fresh seafood. Accompanied by some local sake, made with good quality water and rice, will bring out the flavor even further! At the Wajima Morning Market, with a history that spans more than 1,000 years, an huge aray of freshly caught fish and seafood are on sale, and another true charm of visiting is being able to haggle with the friendly local old women while you shop. The traditional way of making salt known as the Agehama-type salt production is absolutely fascinating. Recently the Noto-don, an original type of donburi (rice bowl), which uses local ingredients, has been gaining popularity among visitors. In this way, a huge attraction to the area and something that is certainly not to be missed is the wonderful local cuisine that uses beautifully fresh seafood and Noto vegetables. In 2011, "Noto's Satoyama and Satoumi" was designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Another characteristic of Ishikawa Prefecture is its abundance of picturesque natural landscapes. The landscape of Noto Penninsula, with cliffs running along its coast and natural caves formed by wave erosion, is dotted by oddly shaped rocks such as the small island known due to its shape as ‘Battleship Island’ (Gunkan-jima) which has become a representative symbol of the Noto-hanto Quasi-National Park. Another renowned sightseeing spot is the Shiroyone Senmaida rice fields. Built on the steep slopes facing the Sea of Japan it creates wonderful scenery and the magical sight of it when lit up by candles at night is also very well worth seeing.
Mount Hakusan, with an elevation of 2,702m, is one of Japan’s 3 famous mountains, alongside Mount Fuji and Mount Tateyama. Okumiya is located on Gozengamine, the summit of Mount Hakusan, and is the satellite shrine of Shirayama Shrine which has been used for mountain worship through the ages. The Hakusan National Park, which spans the borders of Toyama, Fukui, Gifu and Ishikawa prefectures, is known as a rich repository of alpine flora, where abounding alpine meadows can been seen in summer. The area at the foot of Mount Hakusan is always bustling with visitors, picnicking while admiring the cherry blossoms in spring, camping by the river at the Hakusan Tedorigawa Geopark with the spectacular Tedori Gorge in summer, enjoying the beautifully colored leaves along the Hakusan Super Rindo Forest Road in autumn, or visiting the ski resorts in winter. The area is also famous for being a soba noodle producing area.
The Kaga region, in the south west of Ishikawa prefecture, is famous for being a prominent hot spring area. Kaga Onsen-kyo is formed by the 4 hot spring areas of: Awazu Onsen, the oldest hot spring in the Hokuriku area and gentle on the skin; Katayamazu Onsen, located near the Shibayama Lagoon; Yamashiro Onsen, with its quaint and elegant townscapes; and Yamanaka Onsen, with its appealing abundance of nature. Together they create one huge hot spring resort.
Awazu Onsen is conveniently accessible from the town and surrounding tourist facilities, with a folkcraft village nearby where you can try your hand at Kutani pottery, Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing, Yamanaka lacquer ware, and glasswork.
You can enjoy superb views from the Japanese houseboat that operates on the Shibayama Lagoon at Katayamazu Onsen, where exciting events are held such as the large fireworks festival in summer.
The traditional townscapes and Kutani pottery of Yamashiro Onsen create a wonderful atmosphere, and the Yamashiro DAIDENGAKU Traditional Festival held in autumn, is becoming renowned as a festival that combines elements of traditional performing arts and music from around the country.
At Yamanaka Onsen, there are numerous places to eat and unique galleries with Yamanaka lacquer ware and Kutani pottery, or another attraction is to enjoy a 30 min stroll on the path along the Kakusenkei Gorge to see the strangely shaped rocks and stones, and the beautiful green trees reflecting off the river.
Superb Cultural Attractiveness