From Wajima lacquerware to Kutani porcelain Madeleine Barber discovers why the region has earned the nickname the "kingdom of craft".
Had I just heard Masanori Tanimoto, governor of Ishikawa, correctly? That 99% of all Japanese gold leaf is produced in Kanazawa, the capital of his prefecture? After a quick check on the tourist board’s website, I discovered that, yes, he’s correct.
This region that sits on Japan’s north coast between Tokyo and Osaka has earned the nickname “kingdom of craft”, and rightly so. Visitors have a diverse range of arty activities to add to their agenda including gold leaf, Wajima lacquerware and Kutani porcelain workshops, Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing sessions and calligraphy classes in Noto.
This creative scene is just one of Ishikawa’s charms that Tanimoto shared with travel agents at an event in London aimed at building relationships between the UK trade and Ishikawa suppliers.
He said visitor arrival numbers are rising but they hope for them to increase even more.
“Welcoming the bullet train from Tokyo in 2015 has dramatically improved arrival numbers – visitors have doubled in the past five years, and arrivals from the UK are now five times what they were.
"The UK is Ishikawa’s third-largest European source market, and we’re determined to make it the number one,” he added.
With such a diverse range of activities and attractions, that shouldn’t be too hard. Highlights include rubbing shoulders with local shoppers at Omicho market, learning about ancient salt farming in Suzu, taking part in a traditional tea ceremony, visiting one of Ishikawa’s many temples and tucking into its delectable cuisine, which benefits from both warmer weather in the south and cooler climates in the north.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup – taking place across Japan from September to November – is also expected to boost Ishikawa’s UK tourist arrivals, and Tanimoto is excited to see what the sporting event will bring.
“I wish that many people who come for the Rugby World Cup will come to our prefecture. There’s only one game per week, so I would like them to spend time experiencing our touristic [appeal] in between,” he said.