In 2011, Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi [*1] was the first in Japan to be named as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) [*2]. Here, the residents carry on the traditional food culture, which was born from the vast nature as well as the lifestyles of earlier generations.

With the mission of communicating the charms of Noto to Fashion Headline readers, Isetan Mitsukoshi food buyers and the Ishikawa New Agriculture Total Support Organization (INATO) along with gourmets came together and hosted a tour of Satoyama and Satoumi.

■ A Visit to Wajima City

“Fishermen of Wajima eat sashimi (raw fish) by dipping it in sweet soy sauce sprinkled with one-flavor chili pepper,” explained Takaaki Tanigawa, the fourth president of soy sauce/miso manufacturer Tanigawa Jozo. The company was founded in 1905 as a sake brewery and began to make soy sauces and miso in the Taisho period. The Sakura Soy Sauce and other seasonings/condiments used to cook the food of Noto are the main products of Tanigawa Jozo today.

In Japan, there are nearly 1,500 companies manufacturing soy sauces, and 5 out of this group account for almost half of the entire production of soy sauce in Japan. Since 1963, when the SME Modernization Promotion Act was enacted, most of the smaller soy sauce manufacturers have been purchasing kiage soy sauce (unpasteurized soy sauce) and using it as the main ingredient for the sauces they produce. Each company adds their own flavors and touches to make their products different from the others.

“Our Sakura Soy Sauce is created in this way too. When I took on the company from my father, I also began to create soy sauces using traditional methods. I brought back old tools and wooden barrels to make traditionally brewed soy sauces. I’m proud to be using local ohama soy beans and wheat and also to be able to show my son the authentic way of producing soy sauce,” continued Tanigawa. The Okazu Miso mixing Japanese ingredients with the traditionally made Sakura Miso paste is a new product created by Tanigawa’s wife Chiho.

■ Experiencing Wajima Lacquerware

Wajima is known as the city of lacquerware. The smooth glossy texture of the lacquer is often associated with Japanese beauty by other countries and Wajima’s lacquer is the only one in Japan named as an Intangible Cultural Property. The entire process involves 124 steps, including the nuno kise (cloth-sticking), a technique used to reinforce parts that have weakened, and the process of painting the surface with a special mixture of the local soil and lacquer many times to create the final texture. Each of the steps is handled by a different craftsman and passed onto the next.

There are around 190 nushiyas (lacquer houses) in Wajima today. Tutaya Lacquerware, founded in 1860 during the Edo period, lines up products which “retain heat but do not emit the heat to the exterior and also prevents condensation to the exterior when cold items are placed inside”.

The designs of Wajima lacquerware are very refined and elegant, but they are durable and can be used as daily tableware. “We want people to use Wajima lacquerware for different types of cuisine, not just Japanese dishes,” explained Yoshiko Daiku, the owner of Tutaya Lacquerware. The house’s gallery presents a large selection of lacquerware designed by famous artists and also those for everyday use.

■ Shiroyone Senmaida, the Beauty of the Rice Fields and Ocean

Heading north from the city to the coastal area, Noto’s beautiful Shiroyone Senmaida rice fields make their appearance. The 1,000 or so paddy fields covering the sloped land are cared for using Nawa Shiroda farming techniques[*3], which have been carried on from ancient times, and the entire process from rice planting to harvesting is done by hand. The rice harvested from the fields is sold in stores under the brand names Noto Terrace Rice and Noto Rice. The Noto Terrace Rice is popular for its sweet taste and soft texture. In the past, the local people had a hard time making good use of the sloped land, but with their efforts, Noto Peninsula’s paddy fields play a big part in Satoyama and Satoumi’s beauty and attract many visitors from different areas.

[*1] Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi include the cities Nanao, Wajima, Suzu and Hakui, as well as the towns Shika, Hodatsushimizu, Nakanoto, Anamizu and Noto.
[*2] Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) are remarkable land use systems and landscapes which are rich in globally significant biological diversity evolving from the co-adaptation of a community with its environment and its needs and aspirations for sustainable development. Definition taken from http://www.fao.org/giahs/giahs/en/
[*3] A type of farming that grows seedlings by sowing rice seeds and allowing them to germinate.

In cooperation with:
Tanigawa Jozo http://www.tanigawa-jozo.com
Tutaya Lacquerware http://www.wajima-tutaya.jp
Shiroyone Senmaida http://senmaida.wajima-kankou.jp
Ishikawa New Agriculture Total Support Organization (INATO) http://www.inz.or.jp

Find out more in Part 2.