I S H I K A W A
Ishikawa Prefecture is tucked away on the west side of mainland Honshu, coast-lining the Sea of Japan which extends into the Noto Peninsula. The absolute best way to take in the rural settings of
Ishikawa Prefecture's more secluded beauty is to take a rental car and cruise by the mountainous coastlines of Noto and visit some of the lesser-visited shrines and temples, such as Myojoji Temple and Keta Taisha Shine that lay tranquil within the peninsula. After this mental detox, absolutely make sure you stop by Ishikawa's capital city, Kanazawa, one of the fulcrums of art and culture in Japan.
1) Traditional Townscape
Dubbed Little Kyoto, Kanazawa is the perfect place to step back in time, as it's one of the most well-preserved historical sites in Japan. Once one of Japan's most powerful cities just two to three hundred years ago, Kanazawa today is a diamond destination for both domestic and international travelers, that often goes missed by the latter. Kanazawa is home to the Kenrokuen, one of Japan's three great gardens. Over these massive green hills are serene ponds and streams, fit with fountains and teahouses, making it the perfect place for a morning stroll. Post-World War II, Kanazawa fortunately laid unscathed from the war which means a vast majority of its traditional architecture is still standing today, creating an elegant and picturesque townscape to get lost in time in. These beautiful wooden homes and shops now house local businesses who specialize in traditional handicrafts and performing arts.
In some of the major airports in Japan, you'll see bright gold face masks and bottles of skincare boasting it's golden contents at the duty-free shops. But it's best you get gold at the source, which is none other than Kanazawa. Kanazawa actually produces nearly 100% of Japan's gold leaf, with an uncontested reputation in its production since the Azuchi Momoyama Period (1568-1603). The pristine water quality of Kanazawa creates a gold leaf with pure color and scintillating shine, perfect for decoration on ceramics, furniture, and accessories. What makes Kanazawa's gold different from anywhere else? It doesn't oxidize or discolor over time, maintaining its brilliance from the day it was produced. As you walk the alleyways of Kanazawa, you'll find plenty of opportunities to embellish items such as chopsticks, compact mirrors, trinkets, and more with speckles of gold leaf. And did we mention there's edible gold leaf too? You'll also find desserts such as soft serve ice cream and Kanazawa Ukeian's fluffy castella topped with sheets of gold leaf, for the perfect bite of decadence.
Now back to the skincare we spotted at the airport, our number one recommendation, out of the plethora of gold beauty products available, is the aburatorigami, or oil blotting papers that are famously made in Kanazawa. These sheets were historically used in the gold leaf making process, separating unprocessed sheets of metal. With it's effectiveness in gently pulling away oils, these papers began to be used facially for geisha, when they freshen up their makeup. You can find gold leaf mosaiced onto these blotting papers, that makes for a luxurious look and feel of the papers, as they glide on your skin.
As we mentioned earlier, Kanazawa's excellent water quality creates products of the highest standard, including sake. The temperate climates with frequent precipitation and generally unpolluted air of the Hokuriku Region that Kanazawa resides in, makes for plentiful amounts of crisp and clean water for use. Pure water cultivates high quality rice, which when brews delicious sake. There are tons of sake breweries in Kanazawa alone, and even brewery tours and sake tastings which we definitely recommend on your visit, such as Higashiyama Shuraku where you can taste over 120 different sakes from the area. However, even just pairing your evening's dinner with a local brew, and even buying a bottle for home, is more than enough to a taste Kanazawa's expertise! Remember, sake is more than just a drink, it's an experience. So take note of the beautiful glassware and porcelain sets that your sake is served in, the atmosphere of your dining room, and just the smell of the sake-filled air.