The Noto Peninsula extends about 100 kilometers into the Sea of Japan from the Ishikawa Prefecture coast of Honshu. Rural and remote, the region continues to support agricultural systems first developed for the terrain more than one thousand years ago. Noto’s land and marine landscapes, shaped through long human activity linking the mountains, forests and sea, have not only sustained local populations but also secured rich biodiversity for future generations. The beauty of Noto’s satoyama and satoumi scenery attracts many visitors, adding green tourism to the region’s traditional agricultural economy.
Rice terraces such as the coastal Senmaida (thousand paddies) in Shiroyone (pictured) are among the distinctive features of the Noto satoyama. In spring, the small paddies are filled with water from snow-melt stored in hundreds of age-old reservoirs before they are collectively planted with rice seedlings in May. As with the harvest in September, the work is carried out cooperatively and entirely by hand; the kind of machinery employed in most commercial rice farming today cannot be used on the steep, small-plot rice terraces of Noto.
People on the Noto Peninsula continue to practice other techniques long lost to most other parts of Japan as well. These include the haza-boshi method of air-drying rice sheaves; sumiyaki charcoal-making as part of the natural cycle of forest management; free-diving for shellfish by the semi-nomadic ama (sea women); agehama-style salt-making through the evaporation of hand-drawn seawater on sand banks; and the multi-faceted processes of Wajima-nuri lacquerware manufacturing. All of these techniques bring added value to abundant local commodities.
In 2011, “Noto’s Satoyama and Satoumi” was designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The GIAHS award aims to promote and pass on agricultural systems and practices that conserve rural culture and landscapes. With the environmental sustainability of industrial farming and domestic food self-sufficiency both now matters of immediate worldwide concern, policymakers may come to reflect more seriously on the kind of “local” wisdom accumulated, exercised and conserved on the Noto Peninsula.