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Published: March 27th 2017
Kyoto TowerWednesday 22nd March
Sitting on top of a building, this is the tallest structure in Kyoto.
We had some time to kill before checking out of our little home so we visited Kyoto Towers, just around the corner. This is Kyoto's tallest structure, standing 131 metres tall with an observation deck at 100 metres. It was built in 1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, on top of another building and from here were views all over Kyoto. It was quite clear when we were up there but still the cloud and smog did affect the distance one could see. From the viewing area the size of the train terminal could really be appreciated. After being up there for about 15 minutes Rags could feel movement in the building, probably due to wind. Even though he knew this, he couldn't get the thought of an earthquake out of his mind and soon after shared his qualms with Judy. She just laughed but didn't argue too much about us returning to ground level.
After retrieving our luggage from the unit we made our way to the the train station and were soon on our way. After 30 minutes or so we changed trains at Nagoya and were taken up into the mountains, somewhat
Most of Japan's apples are produced in this area.
slower than in the Shinkansen. We had no trouble finding the Super Hotel Hida Takayama but as it was only 1430 hrs the receptionist told us we couldn't check in until 1500 hrs. A little peeved, we made ourselves comfortable in the breakfast room, only to have the manager come out to welcome us and to check us in soon after. The room was small, as we are getting used to in Japan, but very clean and modern, and it had everything we needed.
Judy had noticed a shopping centre named Valor as we came in on the train, and as we needed a few essentials such as nibbles and drinks, we walked through the small township to that part of town. Judy just managed to keep Rags under control in the shop, the range of food and drinks there was enormous, with prices the cheapest we have seen so far. Probably because we were now out of big cities and paying local prices. Even so, Suntory whisky in 4 litre plastic bottles, at less than A$40, was a bargain very hard to resist but we did! We left with a few cans of dark beer and mixed drink
Temple next to markets
together with a variety of nibbles.
A small sampling of these was had before a short rest, then out again to find a restaurant for dinner. This was harder than we thought it would be, most places were closed and those open only sold meals with a high meat content with prices to match. It was cold here, much colder than anything we have experienced in Japan so far, and we had our hearts set on a warm, filling noodle dish. These we did find eventually, at the Tenaga Ashinaga cafe, where we had a delicious, warming bowl of ramen noodles with vegetables and pork. Going back to our hotel was a little daunting, we weren't sure, only having an idea where it was. On seeing a group of Australians we had seen at the cafe, we tagged along with them, they also not sure where they were going, and a few blocks later we saw our hotel and were able to steer them in the right direction too!
The room was very warm when we entered, the 24 degrees we had set the air-conditioner to, being about 10x warmer than what we had just come out of.
Takayama Thursday 23rd March
At the entrance to the old town. Lovely place to just stroll through.
Not too bad a sleep was had but both of us were a little restless, Judy because of the hard bed, Rags because the room was stuffy. Breakfast was provided here from 0645 - 0845 hrs, and as we had read feedback that it was all eaten if you were late, we got to the dining room a bit after 0700hrs. Lots of people there, all male who looked like businessmen, but there was plenty of food and the dishes were kept topped up. Having salad, cold pickled vegetables and rice with condiments was daunting at first, but after having some we both enjoyed it. There was also a bowl of eggs on the table, but on checking them they appeared uncooked. This was confirmed when we watched a local crack one into a bowl, add soya sauce, then proceed to eat it with his rice. We passed on that! We did see cereal, milk and pastries on another table and tomorrow may try to scramble eggs, in the microwave provided, with croissants. Their coffee machine did produce an excellent coffee. All in all, we are very happy with everything provided at this
Taken from the hill overlooking the city.
The nearby morning markets were the first sight we headed for this morning, the cold air hitting us as we walked out of the hotel. The temperature was about 2 degrees C, much lower than anything we had experienced for some time. Still, with our layers of clothing, gloves, scarves and head coverings, we felt comfortable. Luckily there was little wind. The first market was mainly vegetables and fruit aimed at local people, with only a few little trinkets aimed at tourists. Even so, the traders were happy to have us sample their apples, pickles and biscuits and were very amenable to having their photos taken. This continued at the next market just a short distance away, these stalls however, were more aimed at the tourist. Even so, they had lots of free samples of all types of preserved fruits and pickles, biscuits and so on which we could sample. Boxes of biscuits made in that area were predominant, we would have bought some but carrying them for another 10 days or so without damage was a problem.
From here we walked through a restored 'Old Town" area, continuing up into the hills which surround the town.
Coffee at similar prices to home. (but no-where near as good!)
Lovely to be walking in secluded streets without hundreds of people jostling you or having cars all around you. We enjoyed this walk, even though it was a somewhat strenuous at times, ending up at the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall. This building houses four of the floats used during the Takayama Matsuri(Festival) held twice a year. This festival began about 350 years ago as a competition between districts in the town and 12 floats compete. The floats we saw date back to the 17th century, and are decorated with complicated gilded carvings. The floats on display are changed three times a year.
The temple next door was our next visit and from here we walked up the mountain behind it through a dense forest of trees and then down again to the streets below. By now it was lunchtime but neither of us was very hungry due to the food we had sampled but we did stop at a stall by the footpath to have a delicious beef steamed bun. These are a specialty of the area and contained their Hida beef. On our return to the hotel we were both glad to put up our feet for
One of the floats inside the museum.
A visit to the nearby railway station in the late afternoon had us booking our seats for a 9-10 hour journey to Aomori, we choosing to make this long day journey and having 5 nights in one spot rather than breaking the journey in two and wasting time. We'll see if we made the right decision. For afternoon tea we did the unforgivable; we went to the only McDonalds in Takayama and had a hamburger and a coffee. Nice for a change. We found another local supermarket nearby and replenished the fridge and bought just a few snacks to have in our room for dinner.
Back at the hotel Judy had a a long soak in the tiny bath there with some of the bathsalts she was given in Tokyo, Rags followed her with a shower. Then we both donned yukatas, cotton kimono-like garments, supplied by the hotel as pyjamas or comfortable wear. Drinks and a few nibbles whilst we were both on the computers followed, and then Judy had to ready herself for an online meeting for work. Friday 24th March
It was lightly snowing when we went down to breakfast
Much of the snow outside the temple had melted but this showed how deep it must have been.
this morning so the decision was made to not travel too far from town, rather to go somewhere and if the weather turned for the worse we could return quickly. Furukawa had been recommended earlier so that became our goal for the day. The town is very compact, the tourist section only stretches for about 500 metres from the station. It only took us about 20 minutes on a local train to get to the town.
The serenity of the town struck us as we walked down the main road from the station, with the restored traditional townhouses on either side of the road surrounded on three sides by partially snow-covered mountains. The lack of people, cars and noise made a contrast to the cities we have been to in the past. It was still a little before 1000hrs so no shops were open and the tourist buses had not yet arrived.
Following an area map we came to the main temple in the town only to find it closed. A walk along the streets confirmed that most places had not opened although Judy did find one and purchased a warm jacket from the sale price section. We
Not much space for trees and gardens but they do it beautifully.
couldn't even find anywhere to have a coffee and with the weather now closing in on us and snow beginning to fall, we agreed that it was pointless staying. Unfortunately there wasn't another train for an hour so some time was killed going to their cultural centre near the station, nothing happening there but it was somewhere we could sit and get ourselves together in the warmth. On our return to the station we found we had to stay in the waiting room until just before the train arrived, but this was ok as it too, was heated.
Just around the corner from our hotel we came across a tiny little kitchen where a lady served plates of hot noodles. This was just what we needed and using sign language and pictures we soon had two big bowls of steaming curry pork udon noodles and a flask of hot sake in front of us. After she and Judy 'conversed' and she discovered we came from Australia she came out with a dish of pickled daikon for us to have with the meal. We are very motivated to try our hand at Japanese cooking on our return home.
Virtually nothing open in town but Judy managed to find a bargain in the jacket she bought here.
spent the next few hours in the warmth of our room doing our work and relaxing. Saturday 25th March
A beautiful blue sky greeted us this morning and even though the temperature was -4 degrees C, because there was no wind, we felt comfortable in our cold-weather gear. Yesterday we had paid for a trip to the Shinhotaka Ropeway in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, about 90 minutes away by bus. Unfortunately Rags didn't read the paperwork we were given, it stated somewhere that we had to exchange those papers for coupons at the bus station. That would have been a simple thing to do as we caught the bus at the terminal. However, in Japan one pays or shows passes at they exit the bus at their destination! The bus made its way through suburban streets, wound its way up mountains and through little towns with us observing the trip from the comfort of our seats. You could see that the areas were getting colder as we climbed, the plants and grasses still brown from the winter cold, the snow still sitting on roofs and fields. On our arrival at the foot of the Ropeway
At the base of the Ropeway. This area was certainly a highlight for us.
we had to "deboard", as the signs said, and then we found out about our lack of coupons. The driver read the forms we had, shrugged his shoulders and told us to see the bus terminal when we returned. No hassle. Similarly the Ropeway ticket counter just stamped our form after a bit of deliberation and gave us the tickets. You can be lucky.
The first gondola took us on a short trip from 1 117 m above sea level to 1 305m. then we continued on a double-decker gondola, the only in Japan, to 2 156m. We found the view from the observation deck here was stunning, so much so that we were the only ones there after all of the group we came with had left. From here we went outside of the station and walked along passageways cut through the snow which towered above us on many occasions. Several men, dressed in cold weather gear and boots with spikes, passed us and warned us not to go outside the area we were in as we weren't properly prepared. Little chance of that.
Back at the second station we took the opportunity to soak our cold
On the second stage of our ascent, now in the double-decker gondola.
feet in the footbaths there, these are made from stone and have volcanic thermal water running through them. It took a little time to acclimatise to the water, as it was over 40 degrees C, but when we did it was most soothing. The bus trip home was uneventful, the driver not looking at our tickets (or lack of) when we arrived back at the station. We handed in our forms at a the terminus giving us free bus travel and another visit to the Ropeway if we wanted. We'll try to give them to someone who can use them.
We walked the kilometre or so to the Valor store where we bought some food for the long train trip tomorrow to Aomori, before having an early dinner of Udon noodles at a shop there. Just being that distance away from the tourist area made for much more interesting food and goods at a fraction of the price. Judy had an onsen (ie bath) on our return to the hotel, where the women bathe together in a very hot pool. She found it a most interesting experience. She said she had to watch the other women surreptitiously to ensure
Passing gondola like ours.
she followed the local customs.
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