The Noto Peninsula lies some 500 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, that computes to about $200 in gas and an equal amount in tolls round trip normally, putting it out of our reach for the past 35 years. This year the new discount highway policy reduced the tolls to $50. So we were off to the long forbidden “dark side” of the island.
Evidently, the area’s nickname does not apply in the autumn, at least not during our two-day sun-drenched stay. The scene along Chirihama beach drive rivaled that of Malibu or Daytona Beach.
A few kilometers inland we stumbled upon the serene grounds of the 13th century Myojoji Temple with its five-story pagoda. I have visited too many shrines and temples to be easily impressed, but this ancient Nichiren retreat was bathed in an unusually pleasing aura of serenity – or was that just Amaterasu’s autumn smile sedating us again. When I later inquired as to how this seemingly precarious structure survived so many earthquakes over the centuries, I was amazed to find that it acts like one of those jiggle heads people put on the car dash; each story moves in a different direction sending the kinetic energy into the center where it dissipates harmlessly.
Our Alpha Romeo was right at home on Noto’s famously winding roads, which were as clear and dry as the sky overhead. All along the way we encountered bikers giving their machines a chance to perform as they were meant to. (I later found out the great roadways were paved with pork – politically speaking – provided by local politician and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.) But even under these ideal driving conditions, I was beginning to get a little weary when, after 16 hours of nearly constant driving, we finally reached our minshuku at the tip of the peninsula. The payoff was dropping to sleep at the ungodly hour of 8pm – after a solitary onsen bath and a scrumptious seafood dinner – which allowed me the rare pleasure of walking the dogs on the beach at sunrise.
TO BE CONTINUED