Traditional Crafts and Technologies



Processing techniques for agricultural and marine produce

In Noto, day-to-day knowledge of how to preserve freshly harvested agricultural and marine produce for an extended period of time is still passed down through the generations. It is the accumulated wisdom of Noto’s forebears that has enabled the bounties of the Satoyama and Satoumi systems to be deliciously preserved and safely eaten. People have refined their methods of preservation from long ago when there was no technology such as refrigerators or canning facilities. There are three main methods of extended food preservation – drying, pickling and fermentation, or a combination of these. Pickling using salt or other seasonings increases the salt content in the food, and the lactic acid or alcohol produced during fermentation also works as a preservative.


Drying techniques

Noto has a warm humid climate and thus preserving fresh food was difficult. Furthermore, there was a necessity to accumulate food supplies for the winter when snow covered the ground for long periods. As a result, the practice of drying was developed, to preserve the large amounts of agricultural and marine produce available through the seasons – and drying is still part of life in Noto today.


The water content in fish is around 70-80%, and since self-digestion is rapid, leading to rotting, it is necessary to preserve fish so the water content is below 40%. Drying reduces the water content and creates a ‘skin’ on the surface of the fish, making preserving easier. Drying also creates a unique texture and taste. The wind/air is important in dried food production, and it is necessary to achieve just the right amount of moisture at the right temperature. The sea breeze that blows in the Noto coastal areas and the wind from the satoyama areas is indispensable to dried food production. The people who make dried foods know the winds that are best for drying, and have attached the names ‘Sagari no kaze’ and ‘Ae no kaze’ to the seasonal winds that blow dry wind up from the south and winter winds from the Northwest. There are a range of dried foods, including drying the food as-is in the sun (called natural drying or suboshi), removing some of the water content (called overnight drying (ichiyaboshi) or fresh drying (namaboshi)), drying after gutting the fish (whole drying or maruboshi), drying after soaking in a pickling solution (pickle drying or chomiboshi), and drying after pickling with salt (salted drying or shioboshi). In Noto, one unique method of pickle drying is fish sauce drying (ishiruboshi).


Not only marine produce but also agricultural produce is dried for preserving. The common pickle known as takuan (pickled daikon radish) starts with drying the daikon. In Shika Town and other places, dried persimmon called ‘korogaki’ or ‘turned persimmon’ is a local specialty. It is said that the name came about because the persimmons are turned over and over in full sun to dry. Dried persimmons, which are made carefully by drying in the sun for a long period, are the result of the wisdom of Noto’s forebears.


Table II-3-1: Foods dried in Noto - by season



Agricultural produce

Marine produce


Spring vegetables, mountain vegetables, shiitake mushrooms

Wakame seaweed, Mekabu wakame (wakame sprouts), sea lace (tsurumo)


Umeboshi pickled plums, summer vegetables, spaghetti squash, winter melon

Abalone, turban shell, agar weed (tokoroten)


Potatoes/sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, ginkgo nuts

Saury, gibasa (sargassum)


Persimmon, daikon radish

Puffer fish, kajime seaweed

















Pickling and fermentation techniques

Processing techniques for extended preservation of the bounties of Satoyama/Satoumi include the method of pickling a variety of agricultural and marine produce in various pickling solutions for a specified amount of time. The pickling time varies from several minutes to even decades. For long periods of pickling, it is common for fermentation to occur also. Food processing techniques are influenced by the climate of the area. Noto’s summer is hot and humid, and so it is not unknown for the food to go off before the water content has been removed in the preserving process. As a result, food fermentation techniques developed to make use of the power of microorganisms, and thus fermented foodstuffs are plentiful – so much so that the area has been called ‘Fermented food heaven’.


Fermentation techniques include the use of traditional seasonings such as sake and miso, fish sauce (ishiru or ishiri) and soy sauce, but in addition, the power of lactic acid and alcohol which are by-products of the fermentation process, are used to deliciously preserve a range of foods. In recent years, fermented foods have attracted attention for their active ingredients, and the techniques themselves are essential to making health-conscious food.


In the present day, fermentation is widely known to be the result of the action of microorganisms, but in the olden days, the people simply knew from repetition that ‘I don’t know why, but by carrying out this process, the appearance of the food changes in a similar way each time’. That change has become revered as the working of the Gods. Even today, it is the reason for Sake breweries to hang shimenawa (sacred braided rope) or to have a Shinto altar on site.


Noto has always had a wide variety of fermented foods, but with modernization came the ability to gradually identify the fermentation mechanisms, and thus with constituent analysis and clarification of their functions, the value and effectiveness of traditional fermented foods has been increasingly demonstrated. In recent years, initiatives have been taken to actively promote Noto’s fermentation culture, so that traditional fermentation techniques and cultural aspects, including religious beliefs, are passed down to the next generation. 


Traditional arts

Wajima lacquer ware

In Noto, the dishes used on celebratory days such as ceremonial occasions are Wajima lacquer ware. Typically these are the solid lacquer bowls, and lacquered solid red furniture (such as individual tables). For Buddhist occasions the red lacquer ware is used (for memorial services on the 49th anniversary of death, black lacquer ware is used), and on celebratory occasions, black lacquer ware is used. Wajima lacquer ware is made very solidly since the farming and fishing families tended to have strong religious beliefs and cherish their possessions, and thus expected the lacquer ware to last for a long time – so much so that lacquer ware was often amassed over several generations. Black lacquer ware is called ‘black furniture’ which is as commonly available as the red lacquer ware ‘red furniture’, but since people tended to buy the red furniture on a regular basis, homes don’t tend to have as much black furniture.


Since the use of this type of lacquered furniture is limited to celebratory days such as weddings (black), Buddhist memorial services (red), Buddhist ceremonies (red), and funerals (red); other types of celebratory days use everyday dishes. Furthermore, for the Buddhist monk overseeing memorial services, a red lacquered individual table called a kakeban or choashizen was often used, and it was common for people to borrow these for the occasion.


Wajima lacquer ware pieces are made with an emphasis on strength, by starting with a thick piece of wood then strengthening it with cloth, followed by painting on layer after layer of a thick lacquer preparation made with crude urushi lacquer, rice glue and burnt diatomaceous earth. Thus with the time and effort taken to add more than 75 layers of lacquer, and more than 120 days needed for production, the lacquer ware is very valuable.


In 1975, Wajima lacquer ware was designated as a ‘Traditional Art/Craft’ by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now known as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry). In addition, in 1977 it held a particularly important position in the history of arts and crafts as well as it being notable for its regional flavor and high artistic value, and was thus designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. Furthermore, the Society for the Preservation of Wajima Lacquer Ware Techniques (consisting of artisans experienced in the lacquer processes along with academic experts) has been designated as a Preservation Group for Techniques of Important Intangible Cultural Properties.


Photo: Wajima Lacquer Ware – Black furniture   Photo: Wajima Lacquer Ware – Red furniture


Noto High Quality Hemp Cloth (Noto Jofu)

Noto jofu is a hemp fabric that was woven by women in winter in the rural areas of Nakanoto Town and Hakui City. The summer clothing was known to be high quality, as well as being lightweight and breathable. From the Meiji era onwards, a range of unique methods were used to produce the fabric, including kushioshi printing, board dyeing, roller printing and stencil printing. Among the dyed fabric types are diagonal kasuri (dye patterns), cross kasuri, weft dyed patterns and stretch dyed patterns. In particular there are no other examples of the accurate pattern matching that produces 120-140 cross patterns in one loom width, and in 1960 it was designated as an intangible cultural asset in Ishikawa Prefecture.















Photo: High Quality summer clothing made from Noto hemp cloth



Traditional Satoumi Techniques

One of the typical examples of traditional satoumi techniques in Noto is agehama style (upshore field) salt production. Agricultural land is poor along the Sotoura Coast in the Suzu City area, and thus salt production has continued as a regular job for farmers. This traditional method of salt production is unique in Japan and has been passed down through the generations only in Suzu City. In 2008, the Suzu City Kakuhana family’s ‘Noto agehama style salt production techniques’ were designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan. In terms of salt production as an industry, it began in 1905 with the implementation of the salt monopoly, then slowed with the modernization of salt production, but in 1997, the salt monopoly was abolished, and salt was produced as a local specialty resulting in increased efforts for a revival of agehama style salt production.


A salt maker, or Hamaji, who is the artisan of salt production, learns his trade through experience, based on the knowledge of previous generations of hamaji. Since the base ingredient for agehama style salt production is sea water, the industry has a very deep connection with the satoumi system, but at the same time it has a connection with the satoyama system since there was a necessity to regularly acquire firewood to use as fuel for heating the salt cauldrons. The Hamaji made his salt with a keen eye on the changes in the satoyama and satoumi systems.


Photo: Salt production (Kakuhana Family house) , Heating




Traditional Satoyama Techniques

Examples of traditional satoyama techniques are the techniques of tree thinning, tree cutting and forest management in line with the cycles of the forest which enabled the people to obtain the bounties of the forest such as wood, mushrooms and wild vegetables while maintaining sustainable use of satoyama resources.
Charcoal production is an example of an industry that utilizes one of the resources of satoyama systems – thickets of trees. Noto became known as a charcoal producing area in the Muromachi era, and up until the Edo period it produced good quality ‘tea charcoal’ which was used in Kanazawa for filtering the water used in making tea. Tea charcoal is considered to be a masterpiece of charcoal making in Japan – known as ‘chrysanthemum charcoal’ for its similarity to a chrysanthemum flower at the cut edge. Making charcoal involves knowledge of techniques for speeding up germination for new tree growth, and forest management. The trees used in making charcoal, the Red Oak and the Sawtooth Oak (among others) are managed for 3 to 4 years after cutting. The shoots that appear from the tree stump are thinned leaving just 3 to 4 shoots, and until the shoots mature, their branches are cared for and the area is weeded so that the tree grows, and over a cycle of 20-25 years, it can be cut again and used for charcoal. The surrounding trees are cut out when the wood is harvested, resulting in good airflow and the growth of a nice straight tree suitable for charcoal making.


Firewood and charcoal gradually went out of favor with the energy revolution of around 1955 where the main fuels became petroleum, gas and electricity. As a result, the management of forests (secondary forests) decreased, and large-scale cedar plantations were established. There was a downturn in the price of wood following that, and thus today there are more and more forests that are rarely maintained or have been abandoned altogether. The result of that is a decrease in various forest functions such as the recharging of water sources, prevention of soil runoff, and conservation of the habitats of living things. In addition, there has been an escalation in the expansion of bamboo forests, damage from the ambrosia beetle, and aging of forests.




Charcoal production (x 1000 tons)

Meiji Era, Taisho Era, Showa Era, Heisei Era
Figure: The transition of charcoal production in Ishikawa Prefecture
Source: Ishikawa Prefecture Statistics (1899 -1956) and Ishikawa Prefecture Forestry Directory (1957 onwards)


iv. SHIBATA Masahito (1988) “The Method of Food Preservation, Keeping Characteristics of the Materials : Revaluation of Traditional Foods,” Chemistry and education, 36(3), p.255