| Bonnie Chow
A Beautiful Coastal Drive in Ishikawa Prefecture
Ishikawa Prefecture, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, is in the central part of Japan's main island, with a population of about 1.1 million people. It borders Toyama Prefecture to the east, Gifu Prefecture to the southeast, and Fukui Prefecture to the south. The capital is Kanazawa City, and to the north is Noto Peninsula Nature Park, famous for its azure coastline, and to the south is Hakusan National Park, a popular destination for hikers and skiers.
The prefecture has a long history; During the Edo period (1603-1807), the wealthy Kaga clan ruled Ishikawa, and the Maeda family invested resources in developing crafts, art, tea ceremony, and cuisine. Today, historic buildings from the Maeda family's era in the streets, temples, gardens, and theaters of Ishikawa Prefecture, with Kanazawa's famous Higashi Chaya-machi and Kanenroku-en being the best examples of preserved-historical buildings.
Since Kanazawa is only two hours away from Tokyo by Shinkansen, tourism in Kanazawa is booming compared to the Noto Peninsula in the northern part of Ishikawa. If you travel by car, I recommend the Sea of Japan coastal route, which is very relaxing without too many tourists, and appreciate the beautiful nature of Ishikawa Prefecture.
Weather and Clothing
The weather in Ishikawa is similar to Tokyo. Summer heat is over 30°C and winter nights drop to about 1°C. As it is a coastal area, it rains half the year, so you should check the weather forecast and bring rain gear before going out.
The tour starts from Kanazawa and heads up the coast taking in several sights along the way before ending up in Wajima for the morning market.
It takes about two and a half hours to complete the 122km route from Kanazawa Station. When you include sightseeing and breaks, staying overnight at a hotel or ryokan in Wajima makes the most sense if you want to attend the Wajima Morning Market. If the weather is good on the return trip, take the Chirihama Beach Road and enjoy a run on the beach.
Kanazawa Cruise Terminal
Kanazawa has a new popular destination, the Port of Kanazawa Cruise Terminal, which opens in June 2020. The drive from Kanazawa is about 15 minutes. The cruise terminal has an impressive roof, designed like the waves of the Sea of Japan, and the coastal side is floor-to-ceiling glass, providing unparalleled views of the sea and a 2nd-floor restaurant. I recommend driving there on a sunny day. There are two pillars with traditional Kanazawa art on the first floor, making it a bit like going to a free art museum.
Chirihama Nagisa Driveway
From Kanazawa Port Cruise Terminal, take a ride on the only beach in Japan you can drive on, Chirihama Nagisa Driveway. Chirihama Nagisa Driveway is 8km long, and visitors can rent a car and drive along the beach. Located at the end of the Chirihama Nagisa Driveway is Chirihama Rest House.
I recommend the Sunrise Sunset Touring Rally café (SSTR), recently opened in May 2022, for a cup of coffee or ice cream at sunset and sit on the deck while enjoying the sun as it sets.
There is also a seafood barbecue restaurant and a souvenir store, so it is a great way to taste the food of Ishikawa Prefecture.
Keta Taisha Shrine
Keta Taisha Shrine is famous in Japan for good fortune and fame and is a 10-minute drive from Chirihama. It has a history of 2,000 years and is a cultural property of national importance.
On the shrine grounds is a "forbidden forest" inside the shrine, considered an energy point in Japan. Visitors can absorb the positive energy of the earth here to eliminate fatigue and quickly recover physical strength.
The shrine also sells a variety of amulets with beautiful colors and designs.
About 30 minutes drive along the coast from Keta Taisha brings you to Noto Kongo in Noto Peninsula National Park. Uniquely shaped rocks and cliffs are here, caused by long-term coastal erosion. If you have time, take a boat tour and fully experience the area.
Wajima Morning Market
Booking a one-night stay in Wajima is the best way to enjoy the morning market as the drive takes about 1 hour, so you could easily miss it if you don’t. Traditional Japanese Inns are a great choice in Wajima, and you can get a room with a sea view to watch the sunset and soak in a hot spring.
When you get up, check out the oldest morning market in Japan - Wajima Morning Market. It starts at 8 am and goes on until 12 noon. In addition to culinary delights, Wajima painted crafts, chopsticks, dishes, tableware, groceries, and more are all available and make perfect souvenirs.
How Do I Get to Kanazawa City?
Driving to Kanazawa is the best way to get the most out of your journey, and the beach drive. It takes about 3 hours to reach Kanazawa by car from Nagoya, and the one-way trip by train is about ¥8,200. If you are coming from Takayama, you can choose the train or a bus, with the train only taking two hours.
Kanazawa Station->Kanazawa Port Cruise Terminal->Chirihama Islet Waterfront Highway->Kita Taisha->Noto Kaneko->Wajima Asaichi
(Kanazawa Cruise Terminal->Chirihama Nagisa Driveway->Keido Taisha->Noto Kaneko->Wajima Asaichi)
If you want to drive along the shore of the Sea of Japan and taste seafood, consider this itinerary the next time you visit Kanazawa and discover the many sights of Ishikawa Prefecture.