Ishikawa Prefecture extends a warm invitation to travelers seeking to explore its resilient beauty. While certain areas, such as Wajima, are regrettably off-limits in the wake of the 2024 Noto earthquake, much of Ishikawa remains untouched and is open for business.

Local businesses have been impacted by a sharp drop in tourism after the earthquake, even in cities like Kanazawa, which was largely unaffected by the disaster. This is a chance to do something positive with your travel plans. Here are five reasons to add Ishikawa to your itinerary.

Kanazawa kimono rental
Photo by istock.com/satoshi-k

1. Ishikawa has everything you’re looking for in Japan

Stretching along Japan’s serene west coast, Ishikawa Prefecture unfolds a narrative of cultural richness and unspoiled natural beauty. Add warm hospitality to the mix, and you’ve got a winning destination.

In Kanazawa, Edo-period districts like Higashi Chaya exist in harmony with more modern attractions like the avant-garde expressions at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. The renowned Kenrokuen Garden, a masterpiece, stands as a testament to Ishikawa’s commitment to preserving history and nature.

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Ishikawa’s culinary scene also invites exploration, from the street food at Ōmichō Market in Kanazawa to the intricate kaiseki meals of Kaga. Hot-spring towns like Kaga Onsen offer soothing waters, while Hakusan National Park, dominated by Mount Hakusan, is a great place to get some steps in.

Pro tip: See how to do an overnight trip from Tokyo to Kanazawa for just ¥10,000.

Photo by ©石川県観光連盟

2. Kanazawa is the perfect alternative to Kyoto

Kanazawa is actually known as “Little Kyoto”, and has just as much to offer.

Start your journey at Kenrokuen Garden, which is ranked one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscape gardens — with good reason. Whatever time of year you go, you’re in for a treat.

Then take a leisurely stroll through the Nagamachi samurai district, where preserved residences and traditional tea houses evoke the city’s history. If you’re lucky enough, you might even spot a geisha walking the cobblestone streets.

Head over to the bustling Ōmichō Market for a meal — it’s a seafood lover’s paradise, offering the freshest catches from the Sea of Japan. Try the gold-leaf ice cream for dessert; it’s a local specialty that reflects Kanazawa’s centuries-old tradition of gold-leaf crafting.

Photo by ©石川県観光連盟

3. Kaga Onsen has some of the best hot springs in all of Japan

Escape to the therapeutic waters of Kaga Onsen, where historic ryokan are ready to put you up. There are multiple bathhouses to explore across four different hot-spring villages, each with different mineral compositions. Choose from Yamashiro, Yamanaka, Katayamazu or Awazu — or soak your way through them all.

Add another dimension to your experience with a visit to the nearby Kutaniyaki Pottery Kilns, where artisans create exquisite ceramics. Wrap up your day with a traditional kaiseki meal, a culinary art form that showcases local ingredients in a multi-course feast.

Photo by ©石川県観光連盟

4. Komatsu has cool planes, mindblowing natural beauty — and delicious udon

Komatsu allows visitors to delve into Japan’s technological achievements, while finding solace in its spiritual and natural landscapes.

Aviation enthusiasts can go on a little journey through Japan’s aviation history at the Komatsu Airplane Museum, which features vintage aircraft and interactive exhibits.

Nature lovers will want to head out to Natadera Temple, situated in the Echizen-Kaga Kaigan Quasi-National Park. The temple’s tranquil gardens, together with hiking trails and cascading waterfalls, provide the perfect retreat into nature’s embrace.

And everyone needs to try komatsu udon — a dish famous for its hearty wheat noodles and flavorful broth.

Photo by platongkoh/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

5. Famous Shirakawagō is an easy day trip

Pop across the prefectural border to Gifu, to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawagō, a village frozen in time. You can book an easy bus tour from Kanazawa.

The main attraction is the Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, characterized by steep thatched rooftops resembling praying hands. You can learn all about the cultural heritage of the region at the Gassho-zukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum, where thatched-roof houses from different periods are meticulously preserved. You can also try some hands-on activities, such as making Japanese washi paper.

Things to keep in mind when visiting Ishikawa Prefecture

By choosing Ishikawa, you’re not only embarking on a memorable adventure, but also contributing to the recovery of local businesses. That said, it’s a good idea to stay informed about travel advisories, focus on open and welcoming destinations, and respect the areas currently facing challenges.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

Written by:
BIO: Anne is a writer with a hearty appetite for human interest stories, intercultural relations, and Japanese food. Offline passions include film, writing, hiking, pilates, hunting down good coffee, cooking ugly-delicious meals, and Momofuku Chili Crunch.
Filed under: Things to Do | Travel

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