Published: September 20th 2010August 25th 2010
Ready to leave the city, we hopped on a night bus which would take us to Nagoya, where we would then catch a train to Takayama, arriving right around lunch time. We had a 3hr layover in Nagoya and after a sleepless night on a bus that had seats that were too small for even my legs (don't even ask Mike about how he enjoyed that ride!), we were exhausted and so we found a quiet spot in the train station to sit and rest. Before long, the "sitting" turned into "laying" on the floor, and the next thing we knew 2 security guards were poking us saying "No beachee. No beachee. Up." Oh, wait, you mean the beach and the train station ARE NOT the same place? Oh wow, good to know! I guess that was their way of telling us that laying on the ground was unacceptable there, even though there was no seating area in the large station. Sightly embarrassed and annoyed, we got up and went to wait for our train and napped on the 2.5 hour ride to Takayama.
It was pouring in Takayama when we arrived but luckily our hotel was close. We stayed
at a temple in a tiny room near the garden. We were told our room used to be a tea ceremony room and the temple was a great change from a typical hostel.
Donning our ponchos, we set off from the temple, eager to explore this awesome city! We had ramen noodles with "Takayama" pork in it, which really was just a way to charge more for pork ramen, but it was decent tasting and the workers were dressed up as ninjas and pirates which was fun! The streets of Takayama have been kept in the traditional style and walking down any street is so beautiful! The buildings are all wood, with red lanterns, white paint for words and pretty flowers in front of them.
We visited an old government office, part of which was still the original building and dated from the 1800s. It is the oldest remaining building of it's kind in Japan and was still set up in the traditional style and setting as it would have been used back in the day. They also had bathrooms, torture/interrogation chambers and huge buildings where they stored rice.
We toured Matsumoto house next, which is a
house preserved in traditional style as well. It was great to walk around the house (no one else was there) and see the way they lived, from the kitchen to the heating system (fire pits in the centre of big rooms) and the way they slept and ate on tatami mats.
We walked around a lot that afternoon, in constant awe of the beauty of this town. We visited a small shrine and went on a walking tour that took us through small villages, up a hill with great views into the surrounding mountains and passed some temples with huge, old trees and bells.
Just as we were sitting down enjoying our handmade burgers for dinner, we heard a crackle of thunder, followed by a flash of lightning. Being the storm-chaser wanna-bes that we are, we quickly finished eating and found a bench from which we could watch the storm. Unfortunately the storm turned out to be nothing special so we wandered the quiet streets before going back to the temple for the night.
Day 2 in Takayama kept us very busy! We woke up early to check out the morning market along the banks of the river.
This market sold lots of fresh produce and unique, handmade handicrafts. It was a small market but full of energy, even early in the morning! We followed another walking trail that lead us for 3 hours (probably would have been shorter if we hadn't taken so many wrong turns :s) through temples old and new, cemeteries, villages, along rivers, into a mountain trail and back to the city. The temples were beautiful but we didn't stop in all of them because our next stop, Kyoto, is famous for it's temples and we didn't want to spoil the sight too much before arriving in Kyoto! This day was one of the last days of Obon, a huge festival where the Japanese worship their dead ancestors by visitng graves, giving offerings and praying for their loved ones. Walking through the cemeteries on this trail, we saw many families visiting their ancestors with flowers, watering cans, food and enjoying each other's company while standing around the grave stone. After this, they would go to a temple and each take turns ringing the bell. This was all very solemn but great to experience it first-hand!
With just a few hours left before our
train to Kyoto, we jumped on a bus that took us to Hida no Sato, a folk village. This folk village featured actual farm houses from the province,, some dating from the 1700s. Set in the mountains, this place was breathtaking! The houses were all straw roofs, most with moss or weeds growing in them! There were excellent explanations about the reasons for each part of the achitecture (ie, shorter straw roofs on the houses where silk worm were bred to allow in extra sunlight) and other buildings, such as a mill, a woodsmith's shed and water transportation devices. It was like stepping back in time and it was awesome! We easily could have spent hours in that place, but we had non reserved seat tickets for the 3 hour train ride to Kyoto so we had to get to the station in time to get in line and hopefully score one of the few seats in the "non-reserved seat" car.
Back in Takayama, we had one of the best meals of the entire trip! It was a simple ramen noodle dish, but it had corn and garlic in it and was in a tomato soup broth rather than
a pork or clear broth. Thinking about this dish makes me crave more and my mouth is watering right now...mmmm...delicious!
We were lucky and did managed to get seats for the train ride to Kyoto and enjoyed beautiful country-side scenery as the train headed south to the Kansai area...and the next Chapter of our trip!
There are more photos below