Ishikawa is on the coast of the Sea of Japan and is bordered by the Japanese Alps on the Eastern side. Although you may be hard pressed to describe precisely Ishikawa's position in Japan, saying that it is due north of Nagoya just might do the trick. To describe Ishikawa to people from other places in Japan, use your left thumb and curl the tip slightly to resemble the Noto peninsula and use the lower left part of your hand to show Kanazawa and Kaga City's position.
The northern part of the prefecture is made up of the Noto , while in the center is Kanazawa , the capital city of Ishikawa. The mountainous southern part of Ishikawa consists of Hakusan , Komatsu and Kaga .
Ishikawa is a prefecture with a long, interesting and varied history. Civilization in Ishikawa dates back as far back in time as any other place in Japan, and evidence of past civilizations endure to this day in large burial mounds known as Kofun (古墳). Prior to the establishment of the Edo shogunate, a people's rebellion (一向一揆) broke out that ended in a period of self-rule that lasted for over 100 years. During the Edo period of protectionism and forced peace, the Kaga clan that controlled Ishikawa was second in power only to Edo (Tokyo). It was at this time when culture flourished and money sank into Kanazawa much like a golden wetland for which it is named. Remnants of the original castle in Kanazawa remain, as do the haphazard roads that followed old divisions of rice fields that were taken over when the samurai moved in.
To call Ishikawa a well-spring of traditional Japanese culture would not be an overstatement. Kanazawa is one of three places known for their exquisite Japanese sweets (和菓子), the other centers being found in Kyoto and Matsue. Kanazawa also boasts a rich history in making gold leaf, and products using it are of high quality and beauty. In the south, you have the intricate and colorful silks of Kaga Yuzen (加賀友禅), the Yamanaka lacquerware (山中塗) and the traditional and immensely well respected Kutani Ceramics (九谷焼). Wajima lacquerware produced in the north (輪島塗) is also a highly respected product. The Japanese taiko drummers are known throughout Japan and anyone interested should be able to find a group to join if they feel so inclined. This also goes for pretty much any other traditional Japanese art including tea ceremony and ikebana. For martial arts, you will also have no trouble learning karate, judo, kendo, kyudo, aikido and others.
The largest mountain in Ishikawa Prefecture is Mount Haku, which is also one of the "Three Holy Mountains" (三霊山Sanreizan) in Japan, along with Mount Fuji and Tateyama. You will find no shortage of things to do if you are a nature buff. Camping areas are plentiful, well maintained and can be found in a variety of settings; including on the beach, in the mountains or along rivers. Hiking trails are abundant and generally well marked, but you will likely need a detailed book to find out about all of them. Hiking up to Hakusan is an experience that all living in Ishikawa should attempt. In south and central Ishikawa, the landscape is relatively uniform with a straight line of coast followed by plains followed by foothills and then mountains as you move from west to east. The Noto Peninsula has a varied landscape with a mountainous center, with beaches and breathtaking cliffs along the long coastline.
Ishikawa's population is suffering from the same problems as the rest of Japan. People are leaving the rural areas for the city, which then creates a shortage of youth in the rural areas. School closures, mergers and student decreases in these areas are not unusual. Along with the overall declining birthrate and aging of the society come the inevitable social and economic consequences that are only just now starting to show. Efforts by the Ishikawa government to entice people back to the rural farming life are shown by programs teaching people how to farm and by some local governments offering up to 500,000 yen if you choose to move to a rural area and start farming.
Overall, Ishikawa is the kind of place that you can experience a tea ceremony lesson in the afternoon, the night life in Kanazawa that same night and then go hiking and exploring up in the Noto the next day. There is no shortage of things to do year round.