Helmets unnecessary, riding on the footpath preferred by locals, a bell essential.
Arrived in the afternoon and, thankfully, it was a short and flat walk to the hotel. Another Japanese style room, complete with everything you didn't know you needed. Hungry, we had a bite to eat in a very ordinary noodle place. Ten items on the menu but all basically variations of the same dish; soba noodles with cabbage. A walk around town revealed Takayama's charms just as tourist brochures promised; a well-preserved historic town. Because we had eaten a late lunch, our dinner options were somewhat limited at 8pm (forgot we were out in the sticks!). We found a Japanese style brasserie where Dean cooked his meal on a leaf over a flame, while Eleanor ate her pork cutlets (crumbed kebabs) in record time. Ear update: the morning's eruption had considerably reduced the discomfort. No need for a Van Gogh operation.
A peaceful night's sleep meant we nearly missed breakfast. Eleanor was excited to see what the hotel provided, I think due to happy times at the buffet in Paris. We had been self catering up until now and I have to admit that I was looking forward to somebody else sourcing breakfast. The 'Western style light breakfast' included boiled
eggs, cabbage salad, toast and a sultana bun. Unusual, different, nice.
A stroll through the morning markets and a visit to the laundromat took up the first part of the day. While Dean and Eleanor sampled giant apples and kebabs of unknown origin, I wrestled with the intricacies of a Japanese laundry. Sometimes less is more and I think this rule applies in the case of a washing machine. The Japanese are big fans of the washer/dryer combo but after my experience in Tokyo with one, I prefer separate machines (faster and cheaper). They are also fans of 'too much information is never enough', so the machines (like everything else with a surface in Japan) are plastered with what I could only presume were instructions. With the help of the cleaner and his trusty mobile phone translating instructions into English, I got it working. Thank goodness he wasn't around later when I moved the clothes into the dryer and bits of tissue floated all over his spotlessly clean carpet. The security camera will have recorded a crazy foreign woman on her hands and knees picking up tissue remnants.
The rest of the morning saw us visit the place
Lunch at Suzuya
No need to eat for the rest of the day.
where the Autumn festival floats are stored and a museum with scale models of the shrines and temple of Nikko. The hall was filled with amazing and colourful floats. We had picked up the audio tour but it wasn't really needed because there were some signs in English which provided a basic guide to what we were looking at. Dean enjoyed the extra details though.
Lunch was an extravagant smorgasbord of yumminess. The trusty Lonely Planet pointed us in the direction of Suzuya and we indulged ourselves on the most expensive meal so far. The region's specialty is Hida beef and mountain vegetables (mainly varieties of mushrooms) so we had a bit of that, along with other tasty morsels. Fortunately the waitress was very patient with us and explained the intricacies of the menu. When the food arrived, the process of eating it looked fairly complicated but we muddled our way through and, I hope, didn't make any serious blunders. The Japanese are very serious about their customs and we really don't want to offend anybody's sensibilities, however I'm sure some people are horrified at the way we chew or hold the chopsticks or sit on the mats or....whatever.
Prawns for lunch
Eleanor's eyes lit up at these crumbed monsters.
The hotel provided bicycles for free so we took advantage of that wonderful situation. We spent the afternoon cycling around a walking path (just a few steps hindered our progress at times), glancing at giant bells, temples and shrines and historic houses. Takayama has some well preserved traditional houses, shops and inns so we were able to experience some wonderful sightseeing without the thousands of people which would be arriving the next day for the Hachiman Matsuri Festival. We nearly found ourselves in a tunnel heading away from town but luckily we spotted a small sign indicating the opposite direction before we had ventured too far off track.
Before dinner, Dean and Eleanor went to the public footbath for a little feet cleansing. I was perfectly happy to stay back and clean my feet in the privacy of my own bathroom with the option of being able to adjust the temperature of the water. I also borrowed an iron from reception in a somewhat futile attempt to dewrinkle some clothes. The miniature ironing board which came with the small iron was clearly incapable of dealing with large Western-style clothes sporting excessive wrinkles brought about by our poor packing
Where do you start?
I just wanted to wash some clothes!
Once again we left dinner until too late and we didn't have a lot of cash on us. ATMs are virtually non-existent and if you're lucky to find one, it has opening hours like a bank. Takayama's equivalent of 7/11 took credit card (most places don't) and we bought a few choice items from the five storey bain marie for dinner and some snacks for the train the next day. Not ideal, but we'd had a big lunch so we weren't starving.
We woke bright and early for our long trek to Kinosaki. Dean wasn't particularly looking forward to this leg of the trip, claiming that I hadn't planned it too well. We were heading towards the western side of the country, so he really shouldn't complain. Also, I had booked us into a really lovely place which included a magnificent dinner (we wouldn't have to worry about credit cards or finding a place open past 7pm!!). Breakfast included the same delights as the previous day, however the cabbage salad was joined by a lettuce salad and a creamy pasta salad. So many choices...
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