Timing is everything when you visit the Noto Peninsula.

In the warmer months, this remote, rural area jutting out from the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture boasts spectacular, unspoiled scenery that rewards leisurely exploration. Arrive in winter, though, and it’s a very different story, especially in the port city of Wajima.

Huddled on the peninsula’s rugged north coast and looking out over the turbulent waters of the Sea of Japan, Wajima’s low-rise old town draws tourists by the busload. They stroll through the narrow alleys and wander down the famous morning market street where residents set up temporary stalls selling seafood, vegetables and local souvenirs. Many also stop to eye up the traditional crafts, most especially the renowned (and often pricey) Wajima-nuri lacquerware.