Region - Hokuriku
Explore the diverse and fascinating craft and food traditions at the cultural cross-roads of Japan
Visit small lacquerware, handcrafted paper, ceramic and traditional food workshops to observe the artisans at work
Enjoy superbly fresh seafood, discover health-giving fermented foods, and get to know regional heirloom vegetables
Stay in an old country house, experience contemporary rural life in Japan, and learn about local foods and farming
Take in the famous tourist sights of Kanazawa, including the Samurai residences, Kenrokuen gardens and Omicho Markets
The Hokuriku region faces the Sea of Japan in the central part of Honshu. It covers the prefectures of Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata. Much of the region is characterised by heavy winter snowfalls and forms part of Japan’s ‘Snow Country’. It has some of Japan’s most beautiful scenery, with its densely forested mountains, expanses of green fields along the coastal plains and river valleys, rugged coasts and quaint fishing villages—that are framed by the distant snow-covered mountains for much of the year.
Hokuriku is situated at the geographic and cultural crossroads of Japan, with diverse traditions that have developed over centuries of trade and cultural exchange with different parts of Japan and beyond. The natural environment of the region—with its humid, snowy, yet mild climate, and the abundance of water, forest and fishery resources—has also shaped Hokuriku’s traditions, some of which can be traced back to prehistoric times. Despite the long history of external influences, Hokuriku’s indigenous traditions remain strong today, reflecting the cultural pride of the region’s people.
With the recent extension of Shinkansen rail network, the Hokuriku region is rapidly opening up to international tourism. Destinations such as the cultural city of Kanazawa, Noto Peninsula with its seaside terraced fields, the forest Zen temple of Eiheiji, and Gokayama with its distinct Gasshozukuri (thatch-roof) houses have already been on the mainstream tourist circuit for many years. Some of these destinations are starting to suffer crowding that inevitably accompanies mass tourism. However, the region still offers ample opportunities for non-mainstream and deeply cultural travel experiences away from the crowds—it all depends on where you go.
Hokuriku is one of the best regions in Japan for experiencing a range of craft traditions. Many of the Hokuriku’s crafts have an established reputation in Japan and abroad—examples include the Echizen and Wajima lacquerware, Kutani ceramics, and Echizen knifeware. A host of other less well-known traditions, including textiles, handcrafted paper, bamboocraft, woodcarving, furniture and metalcraft, add to the spectrum. Visit small, family- or community-operated workshops, where artisans individually craft their wares with care as they have for generations.
Hokuriku has a truly amazing food tradition. The natural environment has blessed the region with a variety of fresh food ingredients including seafood, vegetables, rice and other grains. In particular, Hokuriku’s seafood is legendary in its freshness and flavour. Many varieties of heirloom vegetables are used in local cooking. Trade and outside influences have further enriched the region’s culinary palette, as seen in the tradition of using konbu, a cold-water seaweed found in Hokkaido. Hokuriku is one of Japan’s ‘hotspots’ for fermented foods, reflecting a climate that is perfect for slow fermentation—which brings out the best ‘umami’ flavours in food. Hokuriku is home to several varieties of fermented fish sushi, the ancient and original form of sushi that are rich in health-giving probiotics. Other regional fermentation traditions include sake, miso and vegetable pickles. Delve into the fascinating food culture of Hokuriku by visiting one of the artisan food workshops, and exploring local markets.
Picturesque villages abound in Hokuriku, where you can experience the quiet and slower lifestyle of rural Japan. Stay in an old country house and relive a bygone era. Learn about regional foods and preparation methods from the locals. Spend relaxing days exploring villages and the countryside on foot, or take day-trips to some of the nearby attractions—in a region brimming with historic, natural and cultural attractions. For the seriously rural-minded, there are opportunities for farm-stays, where you will experience farming in Japan first-hand. A curious aspect of Hokuriku’s countryside is that, beneath the quiet, unassuming façade is a hub of activity, whether it is traditional crafts or more modern industries, and that you are never far away from the attractions of major cities such as Kanazawa.