Published: July 10th 2012July 10th 2012
Jouneyed from Tokyo to Matsumoto on good bus through the rain. Green and pleasant countryside with big mountains as we neared Matsumoto. Rain suddenly vanished as we came into town.
Matsumoto is a pleasant and quiet town. Had an enjoyable day wandering around, the main attraction is the 16th
century wooden castle. All that’s left is a big 6 story keep surrounded by a moat and nicely laid out garden where the rest of the castle used to be. Interesting to wander around and up the many stairways. The old town is pleasant to wander around, lots of small houses, mostly converted into gift shops or cafes. Lots of paper lantern shops.
Another comfortable bus journey, this time with only 3 passengers for the 2hrs 20 min to Takayama. Went in search of an ATM , this merry game lasted over 2 hours and achieved nothing. Not one bank had an ATM that would accept our card. The one at the post office was supposed to and it didn’t. Did come across some lovely people who went out of their way to try and help us. We have had a problem in other countries with our HK ATM card, surprised that here it’s as issue. This was a big problem, not enough money for a room and transport out of here to anywhere else that might have an ATM. Used the internet to find nearest places that take out type of card, all miles away and none in this or the next town on our list. Ended up having to stay in a business hotel that would take a credit card rather than the cheaper hostel as planned. We then decided to cut out our next town, Kanazawa, and head straight to Kyoto, 2 days early, hopefully a touristy place like Kyoto will accept our card! Having arrived here at 11 am it was 3pm by the time we were settled. The good things about this and the business hotel we stayed in in Matsumoto both had the same lovely crisply ironed kimonos to wear and the same plastic self-contained bathroom unit.
Had a late afternoon walk through the old streets the town is known for and up to the ancient temples. Were shocked to find as we re-entered town at 6pm that nothing was open. Cafes, shops the lot, all closed. Absolutely no atmosphere and this is supposed to be quite a big draw for tourists
Spent the next day having a good look around Takayama. Had a picnic breakfast down by the river after a disappointing stroll through the market, just a small collection of trinket stalls with a few veggie stalls by the river, no atmosphere and very few people. Walked around the Merchant’s Houses from 16th
century. Walked around to the Takayama Jinya, Samurai prefectural office building of the shogunate of the time from 1650. Lovely English speaking guide showed us round for free, she really brought the place alive. All the subtle differences between a room for the high ranking officers, medium and local. The shogun of Tokyo ruled the Takayama area at this time in the Edo period so he had his officials work there and rule. The building is huge with offices, prison and home of the big chief. Everywhere was very simple, lots of tatami mats on the floors, few desks, no seats. The main building is raised on a platform. Commoners would have come in to make their complaint and an officer would have looked down on them from above making judgments about land border disputes etc. All very pleasant and airy at this time of year, I’m sure the thin walls and small mobile fires would not have kept it warm in deep snow. The main entrance for the chief had lovely wallpaper in a sea wave design, supposed to bring wealth, a display of what looked like spring blossom but was twigs with rice cakes as there were no flowers in winter time. In the living quarters, which were lovely, each room is again very simple, pretty, formal garden that many rooms of the home opened out onto. Small details like the rabbit nail ends that warded off fire, a bridge design and a fish over a fire place all representing the same protection. Enjoyed this look into a traditional Japanese place of work and residence. In the afternoon went for a good walk over the hill in town and up to the ruined castle (nothing there but the platforms). Nice walk through the cedar and pine forest. A snake slithered right past us!