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Published: November 1st 2017
Hello my fellow travellers!
Today Bárbara and me left quite early to have as much time as possible in Takayama before we had to return to Shizuoka. First we took the shinkansen
(bullet train) to Nagoya where we switched to an express train bound for Takayama. When Junko first asked me to go to Takayama with Bárbara I read up a bit about the city since I didn't really know much about it beforehand. I learned that the Takayama Festival (Takayama Matsuri
), which is the third largest festival in Japan, is held here at this time so that's why I switched my plans around to allow for this excursion.
However, Junko's and Bárbara's plan for this trip was for us to go to Shirokawa-go to see the historical villages spread out across that area. However, because of my mess up with the accommodation as well as us having already attended two festivals, me and Bárbara agreed on a different plan last night.
We decided to skip the festival because we both feel that the festivals we've already been to will suffice for us and neither will we go out to Shirokawa-go because it requires changing several busses and
with our tight schedule for today it would be difficult to match it up properly. Instead we will go to an open air museum called Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato
) which was created by moving various Edo period (1603–1868) houses in from around the Hida region in 1971 and setting them up to create a traditional Edo period village open to the public.
Already at the train station in Takayama it became evident that this festival is a big deal as it was packed full with people, we remained at the station in spite of this though in order to charge Bárbara's phone. Her battery is apparently pretty bad and it was almost completely drained just on the train ride here. While the phone was charging she bought an apple to eat and I checked out the route to the Hida Folk Village. I also took a look at possible restaurants on the way, because I was getting pretty hungry and we had a thirty minute walk ahead of us to get up to where the museum was located.
On our way up to the village we stopped briefly at the small Genkôji Temple (Kingeizan Genkô-ji
Praying to Buddha
Former House of the Arai Family, Hida Folk Village
quite beautiful and certainly worth a stop on the way. Unfortunately I couldn't find any information about the temple in English but from what I could garner, with my limited Japanese, the history of the temple seem to begin in 1473 but the current hondô
(main hall) is from 1719. As far as I could tell there's a legend that the temple was founded at the request of a baby fox who petitioned a passer-by to construct him a home here and to keep him there. Take all of this with a grain of salt though as my Japanese is not up to par to really get this kind of thing fully.
I was a bit surprised to find the mon
(emblem) of the Minamoto clan on the gate at the entrance to the temple as I don't associate that clan with Takayama. Though it was a large clan and they became the rulers of Japan during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) so I guess it's only natural to find their influence everywhere.
From the temple we kept walking upwards, enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way. We couldn't quite decided on where to go to eat so I
ended up gulping down a delicious bowl of udon
(buckwheat noodles) with mushrooms in a restaurant called Matsukuraya just outside of Hida Folk Village, It was a beautiful old-style restaurant which also had power outlets so that Barbara could charge her phone a bit more which meant that we were both happy about the choice
After the meal we went into the Hida Folk Village where we began by getting dressed up in traditional farming clothes to take a few picture while viewing the beautiful Goami Pond (Goami-ike
) located in the centre of the village. It is a really picturesque village and thankfully it wasn't very crowded, I guess most people are sticking to the festival grounds for today. We first walked together along the Goami Pond, but while I wanted to veer of the track for some deeper exploration of every nook and cranny of the village, Barbara wanted to remain by the water and relax so we simply split up and decided to meet again later.
The village is well set up, the houses are authentic and there have plenty of good information around so it's a great opportunity to learn about Edo period village life
in Japan and the entire village is very picturesque so I enjoyed myself a lot here. The site is about 99,000 square meters and has some thirty houses in it, and is more than enough to entertain you for several hours, so we stayed here up until the closing hours.
You are free to walk around where you want and it's possible to go into all the houses. There is plenty of interesting information about the houses, their former owners and of village life and customs in general. The first house that I visited to was the former house of the Arai family (kyû Arai-ke
) which also contained an interesting exhibition with beautiful old kimonos and tools. I also found a beautiful butsudan
(Buddhist altar) and offered up a small prayer there before I continued.
On my way to the next house, the former house of the Nakayabu family (kyû Nakayabu-ke
) I passed by some statues of the Rokujizô (lit. six Jizô). They are the six guardians who each protects one the six realms of Buddhism; hell, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, heavenly beings, and asura
After the former house of the Nakayabu family I came
Statue of Toyo
Takumi Shrine, Hida Folk Village
to one of the two shrines in the village, the Tateho Shrine (Tateho Jinja
). The entrance to the shrine grounds was through an old and worn, yet beautiful, torii
(shrine gate) and then up a short flight of stairs. The shrine itself didn't really catch my attention though so I didn't linger there for very long, though I think it's only the old festival stage that still remains of the shrine though.
Next I came to the former house of the Wakayama family (kyû Wakayama-ke
) which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful houses in the village due to it's gassho zukuri
(lit. "palms of hands put together") which is an architectural style with steep thatched roofs.
From there I continued to the former house of the Ôno family (kyû Ôno-ke
), the former house of the Taguchi family (kyû Taguchi-ke
) and the former house of the Hozumi family (kyû Hozumi-ke
) all of which was quite beautiful and spacious. I would say that they all represent a quite impressive living standard for their age.
Next to the former house of the Hozumi family stood a shôrô
(belfry) which I was quite surprised by since it's something
Beautiful Ceiling Paintings
Takumi Shrine, Hida Folk Village
that I've come to associate with Buddhist temples which I couldn't find any in the village. As far as I could tell this was donated to the village by a Buddhist temple though I don't know for what reason.
From there I headed up a steep hill, passing a shiitake mushroom orchard on the way, to reach the Takumi Shrine (Takumi Jinja
). I also passed by two statues of the Dôsojin (lit. road ancestor deities) who guarded the path I walked on.
As I came up to the shrine I found it guarded by statues of the two zuishin
(attendant kami). Originally the two zuishin
was a single kami
(deity) named Toyo-kushi but at some point both the kami and his name were split in two. Now the one who sits to the left is called Toyo and the one of sits on the right is called Kushi. I also found the ceiling filled with gorgeous paintings. Outside I found several stones piled upon each other, these are miniature stupas and are built to gain good karma.
While I was walking back down from the Takumi Shrine I met a nice guy from Bahrain, I had planned
Enjoying the View
Takumi Shrine, Hida Folk Village
on going there on this trip but had to skip it due to the tension between Bahrain and Qatar and he and his friend had to similarly change their travel plans from going to Japan via Qatar.
We took a few photos of each other and then we parted ways to meet up our respective friends again. My path took me past the former house of the Yoshizane family (kyû Yoshizane-ke
), the former house of the Michigami family (kyû Michigami-ke
) and the former house of the Tomita family (kyû Tomita-ke
) which was the only one I went into of the three.
After I came out of the house I continued through the village down to the Goami Pond, but rather than walking around it I followed the trail going alongside the pond, passing a mill for making warabiko
(bracken starch) to get to the former house of the Nishioka family (kyû Nishioka-ke
) where there were an interesting exhibition about silk manufacturing. Next to it was a storage for hasa
(racks for drying rice) which I also took a quick peek at.
From there I made my over to the small stream that flows through the village where
I took a look at a small watermill.as well as the former house of the Tanaka family (kyû Tanaka-ke
). The last house that I visited was the former house of the Maeda family (kyû Maeda-ke
), after that I went to find Bárbara again.
On my way back I met the guy from Bahrain again together with his friend and while we were talking Bárbara found us and the four of us decided to go back down to the station together.
As we were walking down we could see a golden roof protruding in the distant. It turned out to be the roof of the Suza
(World Shrine) which belongs to a spiritual organisation called Sukyo Mahikari (lit. "Universal Principle of True Light"). It was founded by Okada Keishu in 1978 as an offspring of the religion Mahikari (lit."True Light") founded by her father Okada Yoshikazu (1901–1974) in 1959.
Once we reached the station we still had about an hour and 15 minutes or so until the train would leave so I wanted to go to the festival area but Barbara was worried about not making it back in time for the train. However, because it was only
about a fifteen minute walk to the festival area and I told her that we'd make it there and back again with good margin and that it would be boring to just wait by the station for so long so she gave in and all four of us went to the festival area.
Since we didn't have so much time there we just walked around the food stalls where I grabbed some kushiyaki
(skewered grilled meat) and we passed under the huge Ôtorii
(Great Shrine Gate) which belongs to the famous Sakurayama Hachimangû Shrine (Sakurayama Hachiman-gû
) located further down the street. It stands in front of the Miyamae Bridge (Miyamae Bashi
) which we crossed to get back to the station.
I wish that we'd had more time to explore Takayama itself and especially that shrine since it's dates all the way back to the 4th century and enshrines Emperor Ôjin (200–310), the fifteenth emperor of Japan, but unfortunately it will have to wait for another time.
As the station came back into view we took some group photos together and exchanged some contact information before we said our goodbyes. The guys from Bahrain went back to the
festival area while Bárbara and me went into a convenience store on the opposite side of the station to get some food for the train ride. Bárbara joked about my love for onigiri
(rice balls) as I eat a lot of them on the trains and I think I probably ate around eight or so today which she found really funny.
She's pretty cool and by now she could laugh about my dumbfounded facial expression when I didn't understand what she was trying to say. Because her accent is pretty hard to follow when she tries to repeat something she's heard in Japanese. I usually stand there with a befuddled expression trying to understand her and that expression has been driving her mad but now we've started to joke about it instead.
I think she's also started to feel a little bit more relaxed and confident about travelling after today, she seemed a little bit less panicky and I've told her she can always contact me if she's freaking out and I've also been teaching her how to use google maps to find her way.
The train ride back home went well but we both sort of
drifted away into sleep until we switched trains again in Nagoya. We met up with Junko in the usual spot and tired, but happy, we went to her home where I took a bath while Bárbara went to bed.
Junko and me stayed up for quite a while afterwards to talk for a bit since we haven't really had the opportunity to do so with everything going on all the time. Junko asked me about what we should plan for the next day since this additional day kind of came about quite suddenly.
I suggested that we'd go to the same second hand shop and tea house that Junko and me went to last year since Bárbara hasn't been to either of them yet. Junko thought it was a lovely idea and also suggested that we'd go to the same restaurant we ate at last year which sounded great because they had really amazing food.
So tomorrow will pretty much be a recreation of a day from my trip here last year, but this time we will be joined by Bárbara. Yasuyo will also join us for the first part because Junko had originally made plans to
spend today with Yasuyo. I think it will be a lovely day and I look forward to it a lot, perhaps we can find some good kimonos and then wear them to the tea house, that would be an amazing experience.
Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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