Ishikawa’s Must-See Fall Spots

The fall scenery at Natadera Temple in Komatsu.

Fall is here and Japan – never wanting to miss an opportunity to admire nature – is getting ready for the changing of the leaves. Going to a great 紅葉 spot is THE fall outing. So grab some friends, get a car (most of these locations are only accessible via car), make sure your camera has a fully charged battery and get to admiring those leaves.

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Ishikawa’s Shunran-no-Sato finalist for BBC World Challenge

All across rural Japan, many young Japanese are leaving their hometowns to pursue life in the more metropolitan areas. This has left the older farming generations wondering how to get young people to return to the farm. Up in the Noto Peninsula, Shunran-no-Sato (春蘭の里) has found a way to get younger people to return to the farms via eco-tourism. This endeavor has made them a finalist for the BBC World Challenge Project.

Villagers converted their own homes into guesthouses for travelers who come to the village to take part in traditional agricultural activities. Each guesthouse offers different activities from fishing to picking wild vegetables in the mountains to jam making. The owners and other people in the town act as guides for the guests and help younger generations return to their agricultural roots.

Click HERE to vote for the project. Voting is open until Nov. 11.

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Noto Abare Matsuri 暴れ祭り (Fire and Violence Festival)

Yes, yes, yes, summer festival season is here! This guest post was written last year by Ginny Middleton, a second-year ALT working in the Noto. This festival is one of Noto’s most famous, so if you aren’t taking the July 2011 JLPT (or even if you are), plan to attend!

Noto Abare Matsuri 暴れ祭り(Fire and Violence Festival)

Arguably the best festival in the Noto, Abare Matsuri (the Fire and Violence Festival) will take place from 9 am on the first Friday and Saturday in July every year (1st and 2nd July 2011  same weekend as the JLPT)although most of the best parts are after dark. The festival is held in the rural town of Ushitsu 宇出津 in the northern Noto peninsula and has been running for 350 years!
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Noto “Mottainai” Gelato

If you’re on the hunt for a new local ice cream, check out Noto “Mottainai” Gelato (能登のもったいないジェラート). The Japanese phrase もったいない means a variety of things depending on context, but in this case, it means “What a waste!” Why name an ice cream this? Anamizu’s Noto Wine, which prides itself on creating little waste and using most parts of the grape to make wine, has teamed up with Malga Gelato to create a gelato that uses the skin of wine grapes so as not to waste them.

Image from Malga Gelato

According to the Kanazawa Keitai Shimbun, the gelato was created during a campaign to reduce material waste during the wine-making process.  The result is a rich, creamy vanilla gelato with hint of red wine and a jam-like paste of Yama Sauvignon grape peels mixed in. I love trying unusual ice cream flavors, and I really enjoyed this. It’d be great served as a classy dessert after a homemade Italian meal. According to the article linked above, 6000 units have been sold  as of 15 April.

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15th Annual Noto Yosakoi Festival

This year’s Noto Yosakoi Festival will take place on 4-5 June 2011 (Sat. and Sun.) on the streets of Wakura Onsen. Yosakoi is an high-style dance style that originated in Kochi prefecture in 1954 and employs the use of naruko, distinctive (typically) red, yellow, and black noise-makes. A combination of the traditional music and dance with modern elements, yosakoi is as fun to watch as it is to dance. And where better to watch a yosakoi competition than the picturesque streets of Wakura Onsen in the Festival Country of Noto (祭りの國能登)?

The opening of the 2010 festival. From the Noto Waccha! Blog (Noto Yosakoi)

New to yosakoi? Watch a video of the 2010 winning team, Noto-guni Wakuura Shichishi, (能登國涌浦七士; known among JETs as “Hot Man Team”) here. There are pictures of all the teams on the official website.

Ginny M. and I competed in the festival last year, and I was really touched at how happy the festival-goers were to see foreign dancers and the JET friends who came to watch us. Ginny has repatriated, but I will be dancing again this year. The event is a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll come watch all the exciting dances and see the creative costumes.

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How to Donate Goods in Ishikawa

Many thanks to our crack team of JETs who have been working tirelessly to get this information out: Julia Caffrey, ALT; Sophie Bocklandt, CIR; Megan Lam, AJET Charity Rep & ALT; and Bill Smith, PA. 誠にありがとうございます!

Below is a list of locations accepting donations of goods; includes restrictions and maps.
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Daishoji Star Festival and Ushitsu Buri Festival

Don’t let the winter doldrums get you down! On the weekend of Jan. 15-16, there are two winter festivals to check out. Watch priests perform a cold water ritual in the south or eat Ishikawa yellowtail in the north!

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Martial Arts in the Noto

First off, I’m a first year ALT for new Noto-Cho, and I can only unfortunately provide information therefore on Martial Arts in Ushitsu and the surrounding area for now. However, if you happen to live in this area or travel through often, then you can stop by the 雄志館 (ゆうしかん) a small unmarked building next to Noto-Cho’s  Ushitsu-Chuugakko 宇出中学校. Here you will have the opportunity to practice/learn your choice of Karate, Kendo, and or Judo from well qualified teachers who will all tell you how weak they are. The official address is

〒927-0441 石川県鳳珠郡能登町字藤波井40

For the schedule and more info on other locations for martial arts, click more.

Note: the schedule changes on a semi-regular basis depending on whether other locations are booked, or there is a special event.