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Noto cuisine and lifestyles

Life in Noto – Spring

March to May is the season for harvesting wakame seaweed. It is then sun-dried to preserve it.


■Delicious straight from the sea
As cherry-blossom season approaches, wakame harvesting begins in Noto. In Suzu, female divers harvest the wakame, but in Wajima it is done from boats by old men. The wakame is of course delicious eaten right from the sea, but it is first dried in the sun to preserve it. By doing so, it's possible to enjoy fresh wakame all year long just by putting the dried wakame in water.
Wakame is an indispensable item on the Japanese table, whether served in miso soup, pickled in vinegar, or in any of a variety of other ways. The wakame that grows in the seas around Noto Peninsula, where various currents overlap, is particularly well-known for its fleshiness and flavor.
The harvested wakame is rinsed in water and dried carefully, sheet by sheet. The dried wakame is also delicious eaten as is as a crunchy snack. The sweetness of the wakame and the saltiness of the seawater will leave you wanting more!

Here and there, including in the port, you can see wakame drying in the sun.
Here and there, including in the port, you can see wakame drying in the sun.
  The older men use handmade bamboo screens to dry the wakame in the sun. Before beginning the drying process, the screens are carefully mended.
The older men use handmade bamboo screens to dry the wakame in the sun. Before beginning the drying process, the screens are carefully mended.
  To make sure that the wakame doesn’t stick to the screens, they are wiped with rice bran wrapped in gauze. The gauze with rice bran is dipped in water before wiping the screens.
To make sure that the wakame doesn’t stick to the screens, they are wiped with rice bran wrapped in gauze. The gauze with rice bran is dipped in water before wiping the screens.

Life in Noto - Summer

The taste of summer is found in handmade tokoroten (agar-agar jelly), made from tengusa red algae.


In Notojima during the summer, one common sight is tengusa spread out on bamboo screens for drying. Tengusa is a type of seaweed that's vital in the preparation of tokoroten, a unique Japanese food. Tengusa is harvested from the sea, and then dried in the sun, and exposed to rain in between, to preserve it.
The recipe for tokoroten is very simple. Place the dried tengusa in water and bring it to a boil. When it becomes sticky, remove from the heat and pour it into a mold to harden. The finished tokoroten is cut into noodle-like shapes using a special implement, and typically served with vinegar and soy sauce. It's a healthy dish that's cold sliding down your throat - perfect for hot summers, when you don't have much of an appetite. Most of the residents of Notojima still make homemade tokoroten, a food which in general is commercially produced. Time-honored knowledge is kept alive to get the maximum use out of the land they live on.

The first step in making tokoroten. Place tengusa and water into a large pot, add vinegar and boil for about an hour and a half.
The first step in making tokoroten. Place tengusa and water into a large pot, add vinegar and boil for about an hour and a half.
  Strain the boiled tengusa through a cloth and pour the strained liquid into a tray. Use a spoon to carefully smooth out any bubbles on the surface.
Strain the boiled tengusa through a cloth and pour the strained liquid into a tray. Use a spoon to carefully smooth out any bubbles on the surface.
  If the strained tengusa is boiled again and sugar and other flavorings are added, a treat for children can be made.
If the strained tengusa is boiled again and sugar and other flavorings are added, a treat for children can be made.

Life in Noto - Autumn

Autumn is a season of ripening fruit.
Persimmons are everywhere, and this is when they are dried.


■Astringent persimmons make a sweet treat
In autumn, the carefully tended persimmon trees start to bear fruit - and lots of it. Noto residents grow busy with harvesting and preparing for the coming winter. As Noto prepares to face true winter, the eaves of the houses turn orange from all the persimmons that have been peeled and are hanging from them. Drying the astringent persimmons removes the acerbic taste, turning them into sweet treats, something that has been known since the olden days. This process, which is used in nearly every household in the area, is of course the same as that used to produce the dried persimmons that are special products of Shika-machi and Noto-cho. Peeled persimmons are threaded onto a piece of string. After being dried to some extent, the persimmons are carefully kneaded and softened one by one. The dense flavor of the fruit, sweetened naturally, is different from either sugar or honey and is loved by everyone from children to adults. This treat is one source of the energy that helps people get through the harsh winters here.

A machine is used to rotate the persimmons while a peeler is used to remove the peels.
A machine is used to rotate the persimmons while a peeler is used to remove the peels.
  The persimmons are dried in a well-ventilated location for about 20 days. The astringent persimmons lose their bitterness in about 10 days, turning into sweet treats.
The persimmons are dried in a well-ventilated location for about 20 days. The astringent persimmons lose their bitterness in about 10 days, turning into sweet treats.
  The completed dried persimmons are so sweet and delicious that you may not believe no sweeteners have been added.
The completed dried persimmons are so sweet and delicious that you may not believe no sweeteners have been added.

Life in Noto - Winter

A preserved food prepared using the cold water of winter, miso is a vital staple of Japan.


■Miso making is typical of preserved food preparation in winter.
The coldest period here is from the middle of January to the beginning of February. Since the old days, it has been said that the water during this time has the least amount of bacteria, which helps prevent decay, and so it is used to make preserved foods such as soy sauce, pickles and mochi (sticky rice cake). Miso, an indispensable staple in Japanese households, is one of the preserved foods made during this period. Even though the farmers can't work their fields, there's no time for idleness! For the women of Noto, making miso is their most important winter job.
To make miso, the soybeans are boiled and then mashed. Salt and rice malt are added, and the beans are fermented in a cask. The salt amount and texture differ from household to household. Because they're making enough miso to last the year, the volume is large, and it's an all-day task. Some households work together to carry out the preparations for making the miso.

A fire is built in the hearth and soybeans are boiled until soft.
A fire is built in the hearth and soybeans are boiled until soft.
  The boiled soybeans are mashed using a special mincer. In the old days, a mortar was used to mash the soybeans, so this machine has really made life easier.
The boiled soybeans are mashed using a special mincer. In the old days, a mortar was used to mash the soybeans, so this machine has really made life easier.
  Salt, rice malt and broth are added to the mashed soybeans and mixed in. The mixture is poured into a cask and fermented in a cellar or storehouse.
Salt, rice malt and broth are added to the mashed soybeans and mixed in. The mixture is poured into a cask and fermented in a cellar or storehouse.