Noto peninsula and the Seihakusai festival 3-5.5.2003

Noto (能都半島) is a relatively sparsely inhabited peninsula reaching some 70 kilometers to the Japan sea. In the beginning of May 2003 I rented a car with Olo, Konrad, Nina and Lubi for three days, spending the first two days driving around the peninsula and then heading to Nanao (七尾) for Seihakusai (青柏祭) festival.

Especially the west coast of Noto has many impressive rock formations and nice villages by the sea. Our first target was Gammon (巌門), which gathers perhaps the biggest load of tourists with it's impressive cliffs, including a stone tunnel formed by waves rushing through it. From Gammon we took the coastal route and found the two next superb places by accident using the method "Hey, see that bunch of cars stopped by the road - there must be something interesting". The first of them was a beautiful shrine built between two small isles and the second Yoshitsune no Funakakushi (義経の舟隠し).

Funakakushi means a hiding place for a ship and Yoshitsune was the name of some ancient warrior who according the legend had been hiding with his ship there. It a few dozen meters long narrow passage from the sea towards inland, indeed a good place to hide. However, we didn't just take a look at the marked sight but turned right and climbed down where the cliff was not so steep. It was low tide and going down revealed all the details of the geological formations: different colors, small caves, complex shapes, in short one of the most varied rock sceneries I've seen anywhere. A few locals were standing on the outer cliffs fishing and enjoying the sunny day.

We had still time before 17:00 which seems to be the time when all the sights close in Japan, so we paid a visit to Sōji-ji temple (総持寺) and appreciated it's nice surroundings. Then we continued to a small village called Minazuki (皆月) where we had made a reservation at a youth hostel. It had simple but nice tatami rooms, some of them with direct view to the sea. Unfortunately they didn't serve dinner and apparently there weren't any restaurants in the village either so we had to drive about 15 kilometers back to get food. Then back to the hostel where we had a beer each chatting with the owner and a couple of other guests before going to sleep. One of them was an eccentric Japanese who had tried to learn English completely by himself - resulting in a half-decent vocabulary but next to no knowledge about sentence structure. He refused to speak Japanese and wanted to use his "English" even when talking to the hostel owner who naturally didn't understand a thing.
Tight, but everything in.
800x600 (83 kB)
1600x1200 (267 kB)
Gammon viewed from above.
800x600 (70 kB)
1600x1200 (260 kB)
The tunnel in the middle is filled with water.
800x600 (104 kB)
1600x1200 (343 kB)
Nina praying for safety in traffic.
600x800 (99 kB)
1200x1600 (359 kB)
Hatagoiwa shrine.
800x600 (77 kB)
1600x1200 (265 kB)
Funakakushi, not a bad place to hide.
600x800 (96 kB)
1200x1600 (354 kB)
Shore near Funakakushi, dreamland for geologists.
800x600 (144 kB)
1600x1200 (494 kB)
More rocks revealed by low tide.
800x600 (99 kB)
1600x1200 (350 kB)
Fisherman looking to the sea.
800x600 (98 kB)
1600x1200 (350 kB)
Sōji-ji temple.
800x600 (89 kB)
1600x1200 (307 kB)
Roof paintings inside Sōji-ji.
800x600 (90 kB)
1600x1200 (272 kB)
Many buildings had beautiful wooden carvings (Dentō-in, Sōji-ji).
800x600 (129 kB)
1600x1200 (448 kB)

The next day we started early to see the morning market in Wajima (輪島) around 8 o'clock. The famous market turned out to be of only medium interest, it might have been more enticing if we would have had means and knowledge how to prepare some of the special seafood and other local goodies sold there. The best sights of the day were a couple of huge old thatched-roof houses in Sosogi (曽々木) and a slope full of tiny rice known as Senmaida (千枚田) or Thousand paddies which was by the roadside between Wajima and Sosogi. We also had fun at the lighthouse at the outermost cape of Noto, where we found a stone plate on the ground showing directions to some major locations in the world and used small stones to add a few relevant cities they seemed to have missed. :-)

It was a bit rainy and cold so we gave up our initial plan to camp and called another youth hostel. Surprisingly they had room despite it was the Golden week (very popular time to take a short vacation in Japan) but we called a bit too late to have dinner. Too bad, because they were serving some delicious-looking food just as we arrived, and the restaurant they recommended as "backup plan" had maybe the slowest service and worst tempura I've ever got in Japan. The hostel owner's instructions to a nearby hot spring were also heavily misleading, but after a good deal of driving around we finally found it and had a relaxing bath in the outside pools. The hostel itself was superb, again a nice location by the sea, clean Japanese-style rooms and friendly service.
Dried seafood at Wajima market
800x600 (96 kB)
1600x1200 (304 kB)
Thousand ricefields, or 1004 according to the sign.
800x600 (53 kB)
1600x1200 (187 kB)
A waterfall by the roadside
600x800 (107 kB)
1200x1600 (385 kB)
Kami-Tokikunike house (上時国家) at Sosogi.
800x600 (113 kB)
1600x1200 (404 kB)
Having tea next to the traditional fireplace.
600x800 (54 kB)
1200x1600 (181 kB)
Koi-nobori (鯉のぼり)for celebrating the children's day (actually mainly boys' day).
800x600 (81 kB)
1600x1200 (273 kB)
These drummers seemed to have a lot of fun.
800x600 (93 kB)
1600x1200 (270 kB)
Lighthouse at the cape of Noto.
800x600 (41 kB)
1600x1200 (145 kB)
Adding a few cities missing from the figure.
800x600 (108 kB)
1600x1200 (394 kB)
Two eagles were sitting on the torii, but fled before we had cameras ready.
800x600 (38 kB)
1600x1200 (123 kB)
Hostel on the seaside.
800x600 (74 kB)
1600x1200 (250 kB)
Apparently in the middle of nowhere.
800x600 (64 kB)
1600x1200 (247 kB)

On Monday we drove to Nanao (七尾) to see the Seihakusai (青柏祭) festival. We had prepared for traffic jams but the trip went surprisingly smoothly and we even found a parking place less than a kilometer from the center. As many festivals in Japan, Seihakusai featured a lot of people wearing bright-colored festival clothes, having fun while not hiding of being a bit drunk, different kinds of music and presentations plus numerous small booths selling food and gadgets. The special part of Seihakusai were three huge 20-meter high festival floats which were dragged around the town. The height was apparently dictated by the electric power lines which were less than a meter higher than the tops of the floats.

The float pulling was definitely worth seeing but the music and dance program for the afternoon didn't seem to be as good as we had already seen on various occasions in Kanazawa. Therefore we continued to Notojima (能登島) island which we hadn't explored yet. I took a swim in the sea, others labeling me as a crazy Finn and just watching without any intention to join. Actually the water was quite warm, I'd estimate 16-18 degrees.

On the way back to Kanazawa we had still a chance too see sunset at the "beach highway", a five-kilometer stretch of beach which can be legally driven by car. Maybe there have been disputes over it in the past but at least currently the local authorities seem to consider it a permanent tourist attraction: the exits leading to it from the highway are clearly marked and impossible to miss. A perfect place to take photos for car advertisements - I have one to sell for Toyota if they're interested. :-)
Seihakusai, the yama (mountain) float.
800x600 (91 kB)
1600x1200 (300 kB)
Lifting the front wheels to prepare for a turn.
800x600 (92 kB)
1600x1200 (282 kB)
Ready, note the extra wheel in the middle.
800x600 (101 kB)
1600x1200 (328 kB)
Decorations in more detail.
800x600 (97 kB)
1600x1200 (316 kB)
All three floats.
800x600 (65 kB)
1600x1200 (204 kB)
Would be fun, but didn't go in.
800x600 (58 kB)
1600x1200 (176 kB)
A peek inside one of the floats.
800x600 (88 kB)
1600x1200 (273 kB)
As usual, dozens of small stands selling food and other stuff.
800x600 (91 kB)
1600x1200 (268 kB)
Exploring one of the smaller streets.
800x600 (91 kB)
1600x1200 (279 kB)
A cliff in Notojima.
800x600 (59 kB)
1600x1200 (214 kB)
The beach highway.
800x600 (26 kB)
1600x1200 (93 kB)
Sunset on the beach.
800x600 (40 kB)
1600x1200 (140 kB)
<< To the Japan index

Copyright Arto Teräs <> 2002-2003.
Redistribution of this document as a whole or any of the pictures individually is permitted in any medium provided this copyright notice is preserved.

Last update 17.07.2003.