October 19th and 20th.
Well, what a wet night at Himi michi no eki and, sadly an equally wet morning. We are marooned in the car as the rain lashes around. About 10 am the rain begins to ease, and it is possible to venture outside in the, still, intermittent rain.
And so begins our tour of Noto Hanto (peninsula). We drive, in a very leisurely fashion, as there is little else to do. Pulling into the michi-no-eki at Noto Shokusai Ichiba, we look at fish. We leave around lunchtime and head on up the peninsula.
At Mitsukejima or Gunkanjima (warship island) we make a stop, so called because the steep cliffs rising out of the sea, close inshore, give the distinct impression of a large vessel steaming towards you.
Here, we noted what appeared to be rubbish washed up on the shoreline but on closer inspection turned out to be ART. The rubbish was in fact fake; made of various shards of pottery, fake flotsam; ceramic shoes or toys along with broken pots and so on. This was an exhibit by a Chinese artist consisting of various shards of pottery strewn along the beach as if it were washed up rubbish. Perhaps that is an apt description.
Michi-no-eki Noroshi 狼煙
Dragging ourselves away for this exhibit and the vessel perpetually heading for shore we head on up the peninsular to Noroshi. We arrive just around dusk and walk to Rokkosaki lighthouse.
We decide to stay in the michi-no-eki Noroshi which has a large car park and a modern toilet but very few other people obviously staying the night.
Though there were few other shachuhaku people staying at Noroshi, there was one family that stood out. Two adults, one child (around two) and a dog plus an impressive amount of gear – all in a K-wagon. How they slept in such a small vehicle I am not sure. The car had Yamaguchi plates, so the family had done some travelling. I was impressed.
Noto Peninsula West Coast 能登半島西岸
The morning was grey and dry though there had been a considerable amount of rain during the night. We drove slowly along the western coast of Noto Peninsula this, we found, was more interesting than the East. The coastline is generally rugged and geologically interesting, made up of different types of lava and conglomerates. If the geology does not interest you the jagged headlands should.
Noto Art Project
Frequently, we stop to view exhibits of the Oku-Noto International Art Festival as we realize these are scattered about along the coast of Noto as a tourist enticement. There are posters, we discover, promoting the event and signposts to direct tourist to the art sites along the route. We stop, more particularly, to admire the view and examine the rock formations. The ART is an added extra but I did find one of the artworks, by a Korean artist, interesting.
This consisted of a natural lava dome, almost entirely hollow, that the artist had adorned with some washed up ship’s rope. This, in turn, had been decorated with strips of plastic or sacking hanging down from it, like a Shimenawa in a shrine. There were also boxes made of driftwood with some object of rubbish inside. All evoking a local shrine. The large, white Torii made of flotsam, I felt, was a little over the top but the fake shrine was really quite convincing and thus gently, or not so gently, taking the piss.
The rocks were interesting too, many different lavas and we, unfortunately, collected lots of pebbles to take home.
Senmaida Pocket Park 千枚田ポケットパーク
Next, we stop at Senmaida Pocket Park, the michi no eki we had planned to stay at the previous night. The car park is on a headland overlooking the sea. The main feature, however, is the hillside, or steeply, sloping cliff face dropping down to the sea. This precipitous slope, Hakumai Senmai Da, (Thousand White Rice Fields) is terraced with tiny rice paddies. One so small it had supported only 11 rice plants. I counted.
The terracing is very old and an indication of how tough life must have been to induce people, to go to such extraordinary lengths, to grow rice in such an unlikely place.
The rice paddies are still cultivated but as a tourist attraction more than serious agriculture. It is possible to buy, or more probably, lease these rice paddies and some had wooden stakes in them proclaiming the ownership. Many of the names were of LDP politicians but celebrities featured as well. This would suggest that ownership of this scrap of Japanese heritage does not come cheap.
All the tiny fields are ringed with LED lights so the whole thing is illuminated with blue fairy lights at night.
D. and I were relieved we decided to stay at Noroshi for the night.
Noto Kongo-Ganmon 能登金剛巌門
We next stopped at a place called Ganmon. For miles Ganmon was signposted before we arrived but it did not seem to warrant the billing.
The were some caves that a boat will take you to, on a short 1000 Yen trip. This we did not try so cannot comment on but the rest of the place was of no interest at all. There also seemed to be some debate about which place actually was Ganmon. We stopped at a couple of places that claimed to be Ganmon, a closed down campsite for example, before we reached the definitive let down.
From Ganmon we press on to Korogaki-no-sato Shika a michi no eki with an onsen where we plan to stay the night. The onsen was fine but not memorable in any particular except, perhaps, hot.
So, a day of hopping from one place of interest to the next, though the interest of recognised places was often less interesting than the interest we discovered for ourselves. We did stop at one place that boasted the longest bench in the world. We didn’t sit on it.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.