Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Noto's Satoyama and Satoumi, Japan

GIAHS since 2011


Detailed Information



Country/ location : Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

Sites: Suzu City, Wajima City, Nanao City, Hakui City, Noto Town, Anamizu Town, Shika Town, and Nakanoto Town

Area of GIAHS: 1,866 km2

Ethnicity: N/A

Indicator species: Oryza sativa sp, Coix lacryma-jobi var. ma-yuen, Zea mays sp., Vigna angularis sp., Brassica rapa var. peruviridis sp. Cucurbita moschata,  Raphanus sativus L. var. longipinnatus L.H.Bailey sp, Castanea crenata Siebold & Zucc., etc.

Agricultural biodiversity:

The Noto peninsula has been gaining recognition both locally and regionally for its traditional vegetables and rice varieties. There are currently 13 Noto Yasai, 6 of which are traditional varieties distinct to the peninsula. Among these six are the following varieties: sawano gobo (sawano burdock root), kinshiuri (spaghetti squash, type of pumpkin), nakajimana (type of local rape, the green leaf part used in traditional salads), kamouri (type of winter melon), mikohara-kuwai (type of local arrowhead), kogiku-kabocha (Japanese pumpkin squash that is shaped like a small chrysanthemum), ohama daizu (ohama soy bean), and noto dainagon(indigenous adzuki bean).

Over 20 varieties of indigenous aburana (rape varieties of cruciferous vegetables) families grow and are consumed by a majority of satoyama satoumi households on the peninsula. Efforts among rice farmers to return to local varieties of rice have also exhibited growth. Among these are notohikari, yumemizuho (both varieties of rice) and mikoharamai of  Hakui City.

Associated Biodiversity:

It is estimated that over 300 migratory birds pass through the sotoura area of the peninsula yearly. The peninsula is also on the migratory path for migratory butterflies such as the chestnut tiger butterfly.

Endangered species such as the edible water shield (spraganium fallax) and other edible water plants eaten by locals are also found in many of the upland reservoirs. Many endangered species such as sanshoumo (natant salvinia), kikumo (dwarf ambulia) and mizuobako (Ottelia alismoides) live on the peninsula. Many rare amphibians such as hokurikusanshouo (hokuriku endemic salamander), akahara imori (Japanese fire belly newt), mori aogaeru (forest green tree frog) were also recorded living around the edges of rice paddies and reservoirs.

About 5,600 kinds of vascular plants are found in Japan, one third of the plants, 1,950 kinds, are perceived to be indigenous.

Ecosystem functions: the local community has been managing irrigation water in reservoirs so that it is used fairly and sustainably. The upland reservoirs in the satoyama landscapes serve as habitats for predatory birds at the top of the ecosystem pyramid such as the white tailed eagle and northern goshawk, meaning these are also habitats for diverse flora and fauna. The Noto Peninsula’s Satoyama also serves as the home for endangered species such as the edible water shield (spraganium fallax), sanshoumo (natant salvinia), kikumo (dwarf ambulia) and mizuobako (Ottelia alismoides). Furthermore, many rare amphibians such as hokurikusanshouo (hokuriku endemic salamander), akahara imori (Japanese fire belly newt), mori aogaeru (forest green tree frog) were also recorded living around the edges of rice paddies and reservoirs. All these species depend on the human managed rice paddies and reservoirs that are part of satoyama for survival.

Socio-economic and cultural characteristics:

The peninsula is a microcosm of traditional rural Japan where agricultural systems are integrally linked to mountains, forest activities upstream and coastal marine activities downstream. Holistic approaches to integrated human activities of fishing, farming and forestry have traditionally been practiced and continue to coexist. Hilly terrain interspersed with wide valleys and fields forming a green corridor surrounded by volcanic rock coastline typify the peninsular landscape. The peninsula is characterized by a mosaic of managed socio-ecological systems referred to as satoyama, terrestrial-aquatic landscape ecosystems and satoumi, marine-coastal ecosystems. Among knowledge systems and adapted technologies unique to Noto peninsula are techniques for rice drying, charcoal making, salt making, traditional fishing, and water management system.

Traditional customs based on indigenous Shinto and Buddhist traditions such as planting and harvesting festivals, culturally distinct festivals referred to as kiriko celebrating of the Gods protection of marine life and coastal peoples‘ livelihoods, Oku-noto Aenokoto an agricultural rice planting and harvest ritual unique to the Noto region which was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, among other nature-based traditional customs and festivals are a constant of community life throughout the peninsula.

Many of the social organizations in the satoyama satoumi communities of Noto peninsula are based on iriai, collective management of resources in common lands or in coastal water areas. Noto has more than 1300 years of history. People settled in this region a long time ago and they supported themselves through the agriculture, forestry and fishery. Since their religious, farming and other cultures are closely connected to each other, various festivals have been established. Until present times, people still respect these events and festivals.

Threats –main factors affecting the conservation of agricultural biodiversity

The population decline of the agricultural workforce and the aging population leads not only to the reduction of agricultural land, but also makes the level of maintenance of the surrounding environment deteriorate. As regional agriculture helps to retain the surrounding ecosystem, this phenomenon, which directly leads to the destruction of the secondary environment, has become a serious threat to biodiversity. The culture and customs that have been maintained by local people, mainly composed of farmers, are also in danger of extinction.

Main objectives and activities in the pilot system

  • Reinforcement of sales and production by branding agricultural products through regional PR activities
  • Enrichment of sightseeing resources: this aims to increase the number of people engaged in exchange activities through adding activities, including green-tourism and experiential learning, to ordinary tourism, which will lead to more publicity for the agricultural products of the region and acquisition of more customers
  • Promoting the local revitalization through recognizing again the characteristics of the region and reinforcing measures for development of the region
  • Growth in number of people and companies engaged in the agricultural workforce through increasing and assuring income-earning opportunities
  • Conserving biodiversity by continual sustainable development of the farming, forestry and fishing industries
  • Acquiring international recognition and improving skills through exchange with other GIAHS sites