Inside Ishikawa; An Overview of An Artsy Prefecture

Located on Japan’s main island Honshu is many different regions that contain Prefectures. Nestled in between the regions named Kansai to its left, to its east, Kanto (where Tokyo is), and Tohoku, is Chubu. Known as the central part of the Honshu, Chubu is further divided into even more regions. These regions are namely Hokuriku Region, which is its northern stretch that faces the sea, Tokai Region, which encompasses Chubu’s southern divisions, and lastly Koshinetsu Region, which holds the Prefectures found in the center of Chubu.

The Chubu region contains nine Prefectures; the Aichi Prefecture Shizuoka Prefecture, Niigata Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture, Fukui Prefecture, Toyama Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture, Gifu Prefecture, and lastly, Ishikawa Prefecture.

Ishikawa, found along the stretch of the coast of the northern Hokuriko region, may not be as popular as its cousin city Nagoya in the bustling Aichi Prefecture, but this quiet Prefecture carries with it the distinction of being known for the beautiful crafts and arts (lacquerware, ceramics, Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing, Chinese porcelain, pottery) that have been created there, their Abare Festival, as well as its breathtaking historical sites.

A Guide to Ishikawa, A Prefecture in Japan

To understand a place through and through, what you first need to do is familiarize yourself with its history and culture, and immerse yourself in day to day life there. Ishikawa has places for you to sightsee, enjoy nature, shop in, learn about their culture, enjoy outdoor activities, eat, and party.  In case you’re planning to visit Ishikawa, here is some information about Ishikawa and its places that you might find valuable during to help you make the most out of your trip there.

Get To Know The History of Ishikawa

Before the Meiji restoration, powerful shogunate and daimyo (feudal warlords) ruled Japan, each of them belonging to a clan. As for the Ishikawa Prefecture, the clan that was known to dominate its area (particularly the Kaga Domain) was the Maeda Clan. Back then, during the Edo Period, from the early 1600’s until 1868, when Emperor Meiji stepped in, it was still known as the Kaga Domain, its full name being “Kaga Hyakumangoku”.

Because Kaga was famous for its abundant production of rice, it was labeled after the phrase “one million koku of rice”, which is the definition of Hyakumangoku. The word “koku” is a quantitative noun for how much rice would be sufficient for a person for the duration of a year. So, one million koku was a symbolism driving home the fact that Kaga was booming with business. In fact, it was doing so well, that it was the second richest area next to Edo.

Being the second richest area next to Edo did not come without being under the cautious eye of higher ups from the Tokugawa clan in Kyoto. The Maeda Clan wanted to prove to those in authority in Edo that they had no intentions of overthrowing the Shogunate’s power over Japan, clan lord Toshitsune Maeda made sure that all their resources focused on expanding their agricultural industry. This relieved any possible tension between them and the government in Edo. A culture emerged from the Maeda clan encouraging its citizens to engage in creating arts and crafts, 10 of them have resulted in what is known, present-day, as part of the National Traditional Arts and Crafts.

More Details about the Ishikawa Prefecture

Ishikawa's current governor is Masanori Tanimoto. It measures a total of 4,185.22 square km, 35th largest in area rank in all of Japan. As of February 11, 2011, its population was estimated to be at 1,168,929 people, ranking 34th place in terms of the prefecture with the highest population. It has 5 districts, 11 cities – one of them Komatsu, and 19 municipalities.

The flower that is used to represent this prefecture is the black lily, the tree is the “Hiba”, and its symbolic bird is the Golden eagle. The economy of Ishakawa relies heavily on the textile and machine industry. There are 11 universities in Ishikawa, most of them located in Kanazawa.

The Different Areas of Ishikawa

There are three main areas in Ishikawa; Noto Area, Kaga/Hakusan Area, and the most famous of them all, the Kanazawa Area. Noto is a town known for their gastronomic seafood delights (particularly “Kanburi” or mature yellowtail fish, available only during the winter), and is perched right by the oceanside, containing cliffs and mountains that are used to plant crops. Their blueberry jam and juicy strawberries are notoriously delicious.

Kaga draws tourist attention in from their soothing onsen (Yamanaka Onsen and Yamashiro Onsen are a few examples of local hot springs), as well as their Buddhist temples. Lastly, Kanazawa, the Core city Ishikawa, is where the thick of culture, history, and art (such as the creation of the gold leaf or Kanazawa-haiku).  

Points of Interest in Ishikawa, Japan

Kenrokuen Garden is the number one point of interest in Ishikawa. Perhaps because it is notably ranked as part of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan”. It was once part of Kanazawa Castle, the garden of the Maeda Clan, from the 1620’s until the 1840’s. Famous for being beautiful no matter what time of the year it is, the garden currently has around 8,750 trees, and flora numbering in 183 different species. It also has a tea house (Yugao-tei) built close to 300 years ago, and Japan’s oldest fountain in recorded existence that works using natural water pressure.

Kanazawa Station should be your next stop – literally, as this is used as a major railway station by Ishikawa, but at the same time is a modern architectural marvel. The Hokuriku Shinkansen, Main Line, Asanogawa Line, IR Ishikawa Railway Line, and Nanao Line all pass through here. It also serves as a terminal for several bus services. It was opened as early as first of April, 1898.

Higaschichaya Old Town is a landmark in Kanazawa that’ll give you a glimpse of what an old Japanese town feels like. The stark opposite of bustling Shinjuku - walk through quaint streets lined with traditional wooden houses, check out the gold leaf museum, and feel free to grab a refreshing cone of ice cream -  or a souvenir from one of their craft shops. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a geisha pass by.

Myoryuji, also known as for as the Japanese translation of Ninja Temple; “Ninja-dera”, is a must-see for fans who are into the martial art of ninjutsu. Still rooting back to the Maeda clan, specifically Maeda Toshiie, it was constructed as early as 1585, close to the Kanazawa Castle, but was relocated to another area nearer the castle. The building is especially interesting because of the escape pits, secret rooms, trap doors, staircases, and hidden tunnels that are peppered around its structure. Though it seems to be a two-story building, the building has four floors with different layers intersecting every floor.

Eat Great Food in Japan - Your Best Restaurant Bets in Ishikawa

Because Ishikawa is near the sea, you get amazing quality seafood. Experience this firsthand at Kourin Sushi Restaurant, which rates 3 out of 3,029 restaurants in all of Kanazawa. Reviewers call the restaurant worth its value and have turned people who don’t like the taste of raw fish into sushi lovers. They’re open from 5:30 P.M. til 10 P.M. on the hour, and have customers raving particularly about the restaurant’s fantastic fatty tuna.

Next on the list of recommendable restaurants is Fuwari Restaurant. Found in 2-6-57 Owaricho, Kanazawa 920-0902, this restaurant has fresh scallops and sashimi that will make your mouth water. One of their specialties is the mochi pizza, which is a gluten-free alternative to actual pizza; its flour-based cousin. Fuwari’s ratings are 4.5 for service, 5 for food, 4.5 for value, and 5 for atmosphere, rated so far by 205 reviews.

Number 1 out of all the restaurants in Kanazawa is the Curio Espresso and Vintage Design Restaurant – which, surprise, does not serve Japanese food. Its food is made up of basically Western cuisine, and café food. It also has vegetarian options. When you want a break from Japanese food, but still would like something completely unique, this is, without trouble, the ultimate restaurant you should go to. Not only is the food delicious, but the staff are friendly, and are fluent in English.

Art And Culture in Ishikawa

Art is endeared to the culture of Ishikawa because of the Maeda’s intense focus to create and celebrate it during the Edo period. This passion resulted in many kinds of performances, art pieces, and crafts emerging from this prefecture. Here are some examples.

Coming from a Zen Buddhist background, holding a ceremony for drinking tea was considered an art. In Japanese, they how they drink their tea “chanoyu”, while “(o)temae” is what the art of it is labeled as. When performing this ceremony, they often use powdered green tea, or “matcha”. There are many different variations of a tea ceremony, depending on the occasion and place. In Ishikawa, the culture of holding these ceremonies began during 1666, initiated by Maeda Toshitsune’s meeting with a man named Senbiki Shoshitsu.

You can’t have these tea ceremonies without having exceptional teaware. “Ohi yaki”, or Ohi teaware looks a little different from other teaware, in the sense that it’s got a more harsh and imperfect surface texture, with an imbalanced rim, colored cool, dark hues - all of which give the teaware a classic Japanese, rustic, and humble style.

Having an economy that relies much on its silk for income, Kaga silk, or “Kaga yuzen” is a specialty of the region, having a unique silk print technique that entails a difficult process, and gives off a rugged aesthetic.

There is also Noh, which is a drama performance with a history dating as far back as the 1300’s. It is considered the oldest major theater art in Japan. “Noh” is short for “Nogaku”, and indirectly means “talent”. The noh and kyogen, characters in the play, enact stories from Japanese mythology, and other pieces of famous Japanese literature. Ishikawa made their own, more graceful version of the noh, and called it “kaga hosho”

Land Jitters: Earthquake Readings in Ishikawa

Earthquakes do tend to happen often in Japan. When it comes to Ishikawa, the largest earthquake it had during the past year that nearest to this prefecture had its epicenter in Ina, Nagano. That happened on June 24, 2017. The latest one happened on June 25, 2017, reading 4.7 Magnitude, with a depth of 10 kilometers. This happened in Iida, Japan.

If you’re worried about earthquake safety, here are some tips on how to keep safe in case it happens. Open the door as soon as possible so its frame doesn’t have a chance to warp, causing the possibility of jamming the door, and locking you in. Take shelter under a sturdy desk if you’re in an area you can’t easily escape. This is to make sure nothing falls on you from shelves or storage areas around you. If the earthquake starts a fire, cover your mouth with a piece of cloth and maneuver yourself out of the area on fire.

What’s The Weather Like in Ishikawa, Japan?

Ishikawa’s temperatures get relatively comfortable and mildly cool – but watch out for a lot of rain. The weather in Ishikawa is known for its tendency for a lot of rainfall, even during summer. Once winter takes over, you can exchange the heavy rainfall with more rain, and lots of snow. January’s mean temperature reads at about 4 degrees Celsius, while during August – its hottest month of the year – it can soar up to an average of about 25 degrees Celsius.

Get Yourself A Map of Ishikawa, Japan

With the dawn of the internet, procuring a map of any location you want to go to has become so accessible. It has become even easier thanks to applications merging maps into their software to help people get around. As for Ishikawa, you’ll more likely a map detailing the routes of the train stations that pepper the large prefecture. While you may not be able to familiarize yourself with the nooks and crannies of the actual map of Ishikawa, you’ll at least understand the prefecture’s transportation system pattern, which can help you get around and save you from walking a mile or two. It can also help you to get where you need to be from the airport.

Already in Japan? Make an extra effort to travel there, and take the next line that heads for Ishikawa, and see for yourself the diversity, art, history, and culture that Japan has to offer – other than what they suggest in mainstream media.