Day 5 - Traditional Japanese Village

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December 12th 2010
Published: December 15th 2010
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(Blogged on 12 December 2010, posted on 15 December 2010 - Dates have adjusted)

We woke up bright and early today to visit the Miyagawa morning market before catching the first bus into Shirakawa Go. Shirakawa Go comprised of traditional Japanese houses and they are authentic. If you have enough time, then head into Shirkawa Go instead of Hida no Sato as the latter was reconstructed for tourists. After viewing the in Shirakawa Go, we were surprised to discover that we have enough time to head back into Takayama to visit the Shishi Kaikan before they closed and to have a short stroll into the Shrioyama Koen.

Miyagawa Morning Market
Because we were afraid of missing the bus into Shirakawa Go (catch a bus from the terminal beside Takayama train station – apparently the only way access Shirakawa Go), we woke up really early for the Miyagawa market which opens at 7am and closes at noon. We were so early that we witnessed the neighbourhood shrouded in mist, and a few stalls were not yet opened! The first few stores were mainly crafts catering to tourists – a lot of pretty handmade items but they are pricey (but still cheaper than the conventional stores if you can even find the items there!). There is a store that sells handmade wooden jewellery (i.e.brooches, necklaces, earrings etc) made from Japanese Cyprus trees. They are really beautiful but it costs 1000yen minimum, and I am just not sure if there is any point in investing so much. Another store sells the Sarubobo dolls – beautiful handmade dolls that come in different colours and each colour represent something – red means general good luck, blue means work or study success, gold means prosperity and so on. I thought they were really cool and completely Japanese, so I bought quite a few for my friends back in the Homeland and Workland. I asked the stall owner and she said that she made the dolls herself with her mother/grandmother. I was glad to be supporting the local community.

Shirakawa Go
We then went to Shirakawa Go, a place where traditional houses are still preserved, and people still live in them. It was fascinating to see these houses of a different era, and is fantastic for photo-taking opportunities. Go in the morning to avoid the afternoon crowds which can be unbearable if you are trying to get a clear photo shot. There are also a number of stores selling snacks and various knick knacks. I finally tried the Hida beef bun and the Mochi with miso sauce. Really love the food – I reckon I need to find a place to run soon lest I gain weight.

Shishi Kaikan
The Shishi Kaikan is a museum displaying all sorts of lion masks. In addition there is a puppet show demonstrating how the mechanism works. The show is conducted in Japanese but the speaker attempts to translate in English although the English version is much much more condensed and it is difficult to understand parts of the heavily accented English. This was one of the museums I really wanted to visit and so I was pretty glad we managed to find the time to do so. Coming from a Chinese background, I have been exposed to lion dances and even tried my hand in it once, but gave up after a day. I lack the coordination. I was curious and wanted to know if the Japanese lion masks are any different from the Chinese ones. They are vastly different. I was also delighted to find out that the museum sells a photographic book detailing all the masks they exhibit – I bought it. It costs 1000yen and I think is worth every cent although it is in Japanese.

Also as mentioned in the previous entry, we decided to try the Hida beef steak on our last night here. Since Hida beef is so famous, and I do not eat much Japanese food, hence I can’t tell if the beef is more delicious or not; we decided to have some steak cooked in the French cuisine. The price was exorbitant but I decided since I already spent so much coming all the way to Japan; I might as well get the full experience. And that includes trying to understand what makes Hida beef so popular. The Tobi steak I tried was of the highest grade of Hida beef and it came with a hefty price tag of around 7500yen. It was the fattiest steak I ever tried but when I reached the central portion of the steak, I understood then there is some truth behind the reputation of Hida beef. It was tender, succulent and strangely sweet – the best steak I have ever tasted so far. I may have possibly ruined my life with this steak because I am going to compare any subsequent steak I eat with this Hida beef steak and I have a nagging suspicion that I will forever be disappointed. Oh well. Give the steak or the medium-rare beef a go – it’s marvelous!

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