Noto is a town in Ishikawa prefecture, well-known for its beautiful nature, delicious cuisine and for its traditional culture. In this article, we will introduce the traditional agricultural ritual called “Aenokoto”, the Wajima lacquerware, which is known as the best lacquerware crafts in Japan, and the Kiriko Festival, which we recommend to everyone who enjoys traditional Japanese festivals.
The “Aenokoto” Ritual (inviting Gods to homes)
In the Oku-Noto region there is an agricultural ritual that has continued since the ancient times. It is the “Aenokoto” ritual. It is not widely known among Japanese people either, but Aenokoto is a very unique religious ritual that has been designated as an important folk cultural asset by UNESCO.
Aenokoto is held twice a year – once in February and once in December. In December, after the harvesting season has ended, the head of the household goes to the field with a sickle and digs the ground, summoning the guardian deity of the field, whom he invites to his home.
The deity is welcomed in the home with a recipient and a bath.
“Is the water hot enough?”, “Please relax and enjoy your bath…” The head of the house addresses the deity in the bath tub just as he would address a guest. This ritual shows the sacred belief that has been passed on for generations and generations in the farming comunity in Noto.
After the deity enjoys the bath, there is an explanation of the food offerings that are brought to the deity. Because the deity of the field cannot see, the head of the household explains what each of the dishes consist of.
Arranged in wonderful Wajima lacquered tableware, delicious looking dishes are brought in as an offering. They are spread on the tatami, and two sickles are placed along with the food.
The crops are heavily influenced by the weather. During the time when people paid their taxes with rice instead of money, the villagers used to worship the deities that protected the field and prayed for the protection of crops. For this reason, gorgeously arranged food is brought in as a token of gratitude toward the deities.
Rice with tofu, yellowtail sashimi, miso soup, daikon radish and chestnuts – all of these dishes create a gorgeous sight. There is special meanings tied to each ingredient used, and each of them embodies a prayer for good crops and for the health and well-being of their children.
Moreover, in order for the rice fields to be kept safe from fire, the fish and other ingredients are not “fried” and are brought raw in front of the deity. The sweet rice wine that is said to be deity’s favorite is also offered. In order for the deity to be pleased with the offerings, each detail is considered carefully.
After the ritual that takes place in December, the deity will be kept in the farmer’s home until February when the work on the field begins. The deity will have a holiday until February, when it will be offered with a bath and food again. It is then brought back to the field, along with the farmer’s prayers for good crops.
Let’s Actually See the Aenokoto Ritual!
This ritual is usually performed in the farmer’s household. However, at Gorokuan – a facility within the Yanagida Park in Noto, it is possible to watch a part of this ritual. It is a unique experience to be able to observe this folk ritual which has been handed down among the citizens of Noto for centuries.
In addition to seeing the Aenokoto ritual, at Gorokuan, you can organize traditional ceremonies and feasts. The guests will be surrounding the irori (sunken hearth, *1) and they will enjoy delicious local specialties of Noto, such as Noto beef and sashimi of freshly caught fish from the Japanese sea.
*1: Irori… A sunken hearth created in the center of the room. It is used to heat the room or for cooking.
For a feast to take place during lunchtime, there should be 12 to 25 guests present. The menu costs 5000 yen per person. Evening feasts are held for groups with 8 to 25 people, and it will cost 8000 yen per person.
Please visit the website of Gorokuan to find out more about experiencing the Aenokoto ritual and how to make reservations for the feasts.
Address: Ishikawa, Hosu district, Noto Kanmachi 1-1
Noto’s Traditional Craft – Wajima Lacquerware
Noto is also famous for its traditional crafts. The most well-known craft of Noto is Wajima lacquerware, a specialty of Wajima district.
Wajima lacquerware has a history of over 600 years. There are 124 processes involved in creating a Wajima item, and all the work is performed by experienced craftsmen.
Each vessel is made from the special clay of Wajima, and the basic stage of covering a vessel in lacquer takes about 3 to 4 months. Wajima lacquerware takes a lot of time and effort too make, but it distinguishes itself from other types of lacquerware through its robustness and elegant color.
The most interesting quality of Wajima lacquerware is that the luster of the vessels and the depth of their color become more beautiful as you use it. When you visit Wajima, do take a look at the original Wajima ware! You will be impressed by their quality.
Let’s Visit A Wajima Lacquerware Workshop!
The Shioyasu Lacquerware Factory was established in 1858. At this facility, you can actually visit a workshop that makes Wajima lacquerware. For those who wish to find out how the lacquerware is made, a member of the staff will explain the whole process in a simple manner.
Some of the stages involved to make this very special lacquerware require the highest precision when covering the surfaces with lacquer. They use brushes made from women’s hair in order to get the lacquer to cover the surface completely.
In addition to tableware, there are also decorative lacquerware objects made with gold and silver. Inside the shop of the facility, there are objects that are worth millions of dollars on display.
There are many other items that can be purchased as souvenirs, such as chopsticks made with Wajima lacquer. They are made so that the food does not slip when you eat, which makes them very easy to use. We recommend that you take a look at these souvenirs!
Wajima Lacquerware Shioyasu Lacquerware Factory
Address: Ishikawa, Wajima city, Oise, Hizume 20
Each Summer in Noto – Kiriko Festival!
For the locals of Noto, when summer approaches, it symbolizes the Kiriko Festival season. The Kiriko Festival is held from July until October in all of the areas of Noto districts. “Kiriko” are lanterns that are carried in mikoshi (portable shrines) in cheerful parades that go around the city. There are variations of the festival specific to each area. Some of the parades even enter the sea! Others use immense lanterns carried by more than 100 people.
Let’s Try To Carry One Of The Lanterns!
In Noto there are several places where guests from abroad can experience the atmosphere of the festival, by taking part in the events. We had a group of visitors try carrying the Kiriko lantern kept at the Miyaji Exchange Accommodation Facility Kobushi.
The participants put on a happi overcoat and tie a hachimaki headband around their foreheads. Then they start making the portable shrine. This is how the event begins.
As soon as the prayer for safety is performed together with the Shinto priest, the participants raise the portable shrine onto their shoulders and start carrying it around the city while shouting cheerfully in unison.
In Noto you can experience the traditional culture of ancient Japan. Upon visiting Noto, enjoy the delicious local dishes of Ishikawa and the wonderful cultural activities that are specific to this region!
For your information:
Address: Ishikawa, Hosu, Noto, Miyachi 1-2
Related links: http://www.hot-ishikawa.jp/sys/data?page-id=5324
For bookings: 0768-76-0021 (Japanese, Chinese speaking staff available)