Lake Katsura and Wajima

Sunset on the Sea of Japan coast - Wajima. The sunset partially reflected in the water. Rocks in the middle ground, pensions and guesthouses far off in the distance.

I first visited the small town of Wajima (輪島) on the Noto Peninsula (能登半島) while on a bike packing trip back in 2015. Protruding out into the Sea of Japan on the Hokuriku coast (北陸), the Noto Peninsula is one of my favourite places in Japan, and one that has been regularly visited since that first trip.

Anyone subscribed to my newsletter will be aware that we recently went on a short ‘road’ trip as a family for the first time – first to Lake Katsura on the border of Toyama and Gifu prefectures (Lake Katsura incidentally serving as a base camp for a number of Tokyo 2020 Olympic rowing teams, although they’d long departed after we arrived) – and then the main destination, Wajima.

Lake Katsura on the Gifu – Toyama border

Wajima is a sleepy coastal town at the best of times but even more so due to the pandemic.

  • The beach. My shadow. The Coast. A double exposure gimmick.
  • An ocean swimming pool in the foreground. An only-just-visible boat heading back to Wajima port hidden behind the cliff. Mountains and a weather station in the distance.
  • The famous but not that photogenic Senmaida Rice Terrace. A man working in the rice paddy. The vast ocean just a stone's throw away.

What did we do in Wajima? Not that much to be honest but that was the whole point. We visited the ‘famous’ but hugely disappointing Senmaida Rice Terrace, the morning market where we bought fresh fish and had it grilled in a local restaurant (absolutely delicious!), and for most of the time, the beach. This was the first time our daughter actually enjoyed being in the sea, which is fitting as the kanji for her name roughly translated as ‘a love of the ocean’.

  • Inside the cafe. Yep, Asahi beer is available. Of course it is. What's this? ¥600 for? I can't make it out but look at that sea in the background. Deep deep blue.
  • Yeah! Says the beachside cafe. Bright but deep blue sky. Makeshift cafe looks like an advert for Asahi beer.

The morning market left me with mixed feelings with some of the stall owners openly complaining about the shortage of visitors due to the pandemic. Their livelihoods depend on tourism and the lack of tourists seem to have hit them badly. But as with trips earlier in the year to Magome and Tsumago, as well as Kyoto late last year, as visitors the lack of other tourists was a blessing.

Wajima morning market

The Sea of Japan coast at sunset. A fishing boat approaching the final rays of sunlight reflecting off the water.

If you’re in Japan and haven’t made it to the Noto Peninsula I highly recommend it. I’ve only ever been there in summer but always find myself wondering what it would be like in winter covered in snow.

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