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November 15th 2013
Published: November 16th 2013
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It's a bit of an arduous journey to get to Takayama from Tsumago. Both are deep in the mountains of the Gifu prefecture. We had to travel all the way back east to Nagoya and then venture west again on another line again to get to Takayama. The scenery made the troubles worthwhile.

Takayama is a bit of a Japanese hillbilly town. If rednecks are in Japan, they live around the hills here. But it is also a town of craftsmanship, history, cooking and Japanese pride. Here is where some of the finest lacquerware is made. And here is where the finest carpenters were sourced to build the temples of Kyoto. We had the chance to visit the Yoshijima House. The owner, a wealthy sake brewer and money lender, commissioned a local carpenter to build a house for him in 1905. The result was a piece of architecture which clearly must have had influence on modernists like Mies van der Rohe. It is a very traditional Japanese house based on the grid system of the tatami mats. It's spaces flow beautifully from one room to the next, only separated by simple sliding shoji screen of wood and paper. Light comes from above via clerestory windows into a central space. The wood from the central fire pit has made the cedar and red pine wood structure dark. The lady who looked after the house spoke English very well and offered us some tea. We had a nice talk with her about the house and it's history. She was so welcoming! We exchanged addresses and I hope to speak with her again sometime.

Also some of the best sake is brewed around Takayama. I discovered that you can do sake tastings in some of the breweries. The first I tried was a bit strong... But ok. The second is was really yummie. I drinked that again. The thurd was a cloudy vursion called Nigoree, no Nagro, no Nigorizake. Much like did I. The forth... I cain't reeelly remembre. It must have been yummeee because I jest bawt it. I think my credit card is hurting, because I also have a suitcase full of lacquerware. And chopsticks. And sake.

And there was Cafe Don. A place we went to twice because their coffee was that good! And the special beef raised around the area called Hida. Just like Kobe beef but without the price tag. We had lunch at a grill-it-yourself restaurant. It was some of the best beef I have ever had.

This was also the fourth night in a row in a ryokan. It is very charming sleeping on futons on tatami mats, but my back is now begging for a western bed!

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