Noto Peninsula (Noto Hanto) is a large, scenic peninsula jutting into the Sea of Japan like a dorsal fin. Lots of tourist sights, but the train line goes only halfway up the peninsula (to Anamizu Station), so buses are the main means of public transportation, especially for touring the scenic coast.
If you don’t have a car, the best way to tour Noto is by tour bus from Kanazawa. There are various tours to choose from. One major stop is Chirihama Nagisa Driveway (千里浜なぎさドライブウェイ) where buses and cars can drive right on the beach, right on the sand (upper left photo). Japan’s sole public thoroughfare where motor vehicles can drive on a beach. Eight kilometers long in the city of Hakui (羽咋市). Since the sand grains are about half the size of normal sand, the beach becomes a very packed and solid sandy surface. Solid enough for vehicles. Our tour bus also stopped for us to walk on the sand. Real cool.
Another must-see is the Shiroyone Senmaida (白米千枚田) in Wajima (lower left photo). One of Japan’s most famous terraced rice paddies. It’s in a remote location (10 km from central Wajima), but very picturesque with the ocean right below it. Senmaida literally means “One-thousand Rice Terraces.” The rice paddies are owned by many owners who meet ownership requirements. Volunteers plant and harvest the rice here. Designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS).
Near the tip of the peninsula is the rural city of Wajima. With major sights, I recommend lodging overnight here. Wajima is famous for Gojinjo-daiko drummers (upper right photo) and Wajima-nuri lacquerware (lower right photo). Gojinjo-daiko (御陣乗太鼓) is a powerful, crazed drumming performance by several men donning demon masks and wigs. Their drumming and fierce-looking masks drove off the invading forces of a neighboring samurai in the 16th century. They perform for free on weekend evenings (or every evening in summer) at Wajima Kiriko Art Museum.
Wajima-nuri lacquerware is very famous and the lacquer is very durable. Very expensive though. (A pair of Wajima lacquered chopsticks can cost ¥20,000.) It takes 75 to 124 meticulous steps to produce Wajima lacquerware. You can see Wajima-nuri craftsmen at work at the Wajima Lacquerware Hall (輪島塗会館). Also visit the Wajima Museum of Urushi Art (石川県輪島漆芸美術館), the only museum in Japan specializing in lacquerware. Noto Peninsula is off-the-beaten path, so it’s another great place to tour without large crowds.
At JR Kanazawa Station, take a tour bus for Noto Peninsula. Make sure Chirihama Nagisa Driveway and Senmaida are included in the tour. Stopping overnight in Noto is recommended.