Famous for The Annual
Exhibition of Bridal Curtains
After a 10 minute-ride from the hot spring town, I arrived at Nanao Station. Nanao is the biggest city in the Noto Peninsula with a population of 58 thousand. I chose to bus there so I could visit the quaint shopping street near the station. The street is famous for the annual exhibition of Hanayome Noren (bridal curtains), though I’ve yet to see it with my own eyes. There are also old buildings preserved as tangible cultural properties where people continue to live. Yet again, I hadn’t visited them—Until now.
It’s easy to get there from the station. After walking three blocks down Misogi-Gawa Oh-Dohri street, you’ll see the red handrails of the Sentai-Bashi bridge. The reflection on the surface of Misogi-Gawa river was beautiful.
At first glance, the area appeared to be a small shopping street for local people, including pharmacies, banks, shoe stores, and other conveniences. “Where are the old buildings?” I wondered. No sooner had I passed by a bakery that I found my answer. The structure was a liquor store with classic signboards. I love retro stuff, especially from the Taisho and the beginning of Showa periods (beginning of 20th century to pre-war Japan)! The signs were straight out of the good old days.
Certain shops have question-mark flags hanging over their front entrance. There are about 20 of these “Kataribe-Dokoro”, or gossip corners, along the street. The shop owners are happy to share anecdotes about the history of the town, local stories, or anything else interesting.
The Sole Traditional
Although the Ishikawa prefecture is home to countless temples, there is only one workshop which can create traditional ceremonial candles, and they happen to be a registered tangible cultural property as well. I dropped by the shop and spoke with the young proprietress who was born in Koyo and married the workshop’s heir. First, she took me upstairs to see how the candles were made. It was like a miniature museum! She explained that the main difference between Japanese and Western candles is that the Japanese ones are all made from plants. The thicker the wick, the larger the flame. If you’re particular about the quality of the flame, it’s important to check the wick, not the wax!
As the sole traditional candle maker in the prefecture, they produce 30,000 candles everyday. Their colorful variations painted with lovely flowers make popular souvenirs.
It’s Own Sauce
Do you like soy sauce? Long ago there were many soy sauce breweries in each region, each with their own original flavor.
Sadly, as large-scale soy companies expanded their market across Japan and the world over, they forced local breweries out of business. But not every maker was swallowed up by big business. Torii Shoyu-Ten has been in operation since 1925 and still brews it’s own sauce. The scent of fresh soy hit me the minute I walked in the door. “It’s the season for new brews,” a female staffer explained to me. She showed me around the brewery in the back of the building. I was amazed to see the traditional wooden equipment still in use. It’s no wonder the Noto people are huge fans of the soy! The sauce would lose its unique flavor if they switched over to modern techniques.
Next the proprietress showed up. She was one of the five women who kicked off the bridal curtain exhibition mentioned earlier. She told me a bit about Nanao city pride. “We have a longer history than Kanazawa,” she boasted. The antique furniture decorating the store interior was coordinated by her personally. She’s got great taste, and it carries over to their soy and miso products as well!
The Owner Speaks English
Let’s move deeper down the street! You have to visit the Kitajima-Ya tea shop. The owner speaks English, and can fill you in on all the details about the town. What do the shop owners talk about at the gossip corner? Do bridal curtains get passed down from mother to daughter? He was happy to answer my questions as I drank my green tea.
He recalled times past. “When this street was a national highway, the town was more lively. Now there’s nothing exciting, nothing special about this place.” Maybe that’s true if you live here, but it’s the perfect escape from the everyday.
”Still, this street is our home, and has many fascinating elements. You’ve seen the old buildings designated as tangible cultural properties? Those aren’t museums or movie sets. People go about their day to day lives in them.” Come to think of it, I felt like I was intruding into a stranger’s house when I poked around in them.
“You shouldn’t be timid about going inside, or feel pressured to buy anything. The locals just love to chat! Meeting new people is everything.” If I had more time I would have tried preparing my own tea leaves with a stone grinder. It's 500 yen with a cup of Matcha green tea and a confectionary.
It's time to head home to Kanazawa.
At this point it was starting to get dark and chilly outside, so it was time to head home to Kanazawa! The Hakutaka #21 (15:20) is the latest limited express bound for Kanazawa. It was nearly 17:00, so I took the slow train at 17:06. This local train is mainly used by people coming home from work or school. With 21 stops between me and Kanazawa, all I could do was sit back and enjoy
the slow ride home. The doors are manually operated, meaning they only open when someone moves to get off the train. This kept the inside nice and warm. Just don’t forget to press the button to open the door when you arrive in Kanazawa, or you’ll miss your stop! My train pulled into the station at 18:30, just to give you a reference point.