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April 3rd 2017
Published: April 3rd 2017
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Spring is just starting to make itself felt on the west coast. We missed the cherry blossoms by a few days in Tokyo, and it's been getting colder ever since.
We left Tokyo on the Shinkanzen (high-speed train), heading to the west coast over the mountains that extend the length of Honshu, the main island. Within 60 minutes of Tokyo, we were in the “Alps” and passing ski resorts, still in business. The west coast of Japan gets “lake effect” snow from the Sea of Japan and cold winds that blow from Korea.

Before we started our trip, we’d sent a package of cool-weather clothes to our Tokyo hotel via DHL. (Another long story …) Kanazawa was our first western city, and it quickly became clear that cool-weather clothes were not going to do it. I bought a Chinese jacket with a bright plush lining, and Tom, after buying a vest in Tokyo, gave up and bought a Mont-Bell 800 pound fill jacket (with hood!) at a factory outlet store in Kanazawa. Freezin’ a*s cold, as we say in Tennessee.

We were hoping to follow the cherry blossoms, and managed to catch a few brave blossoms in Kanazawa, before we headed to Shirakawa-go, a well-preserved and snow covered village of “praying hands” houses, which I’d call A-frames. They are built of wood, tied together with rope, and covered with
Bedroom at our RyokanBedroom at our RyokanBedroom at our Ryokan

In Kanagawa, we experienced our first ryokan this trip. Those featherbeds are wonderful in the cold nights!
thatch roofs that are about two feet thick. We were told that the thatch roofs last 20-30 years, but that they cost up to $200,000 to replace. The snow on the ground was thawing, but was at least three feet high, and that’s NOT drifts or plowed piles.

Our “ryokan” (a Japanese inn/B&B) was one of the thatch roof houses, divided into separate tatami-floored rooms by sliding paper doors. It’s not a place where you want to enjoy your honeymoon! The room had a great space heater, thank goodness, and an electric warming mat under the quilt at the low table. I spent the evening lying on the floor. In the photo, you can see I'm wearing the yakuta and jacket provided by the inn.

Most ryokans provide both dinner and breakfast, and they are spectacular – though you’d better like fish and shellfish. Meals are often served on the low table in your room, and are a collection of tiny bowls, each with some small offering: fish, green vegetable, an egg, some pickles, a tempura shrimp – and always rice and green tea. Same menu, different food, for breakfast.

We followed the snow from
Where the bed goesWhere the bed goesWhere the bed goes

During the day, a low table sits in the middle of your room, while the beds are taken apart and stored in a cupboard.
Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go to Takayama, and then headed to Kyoto, where it was (gasp!) warm!

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


Ryokan BreakfastRyokan Breakfast
Ryokan Breakfast

This was only the start; the server brought two or three more courses of food. Breakfast always includes fish, pickles, vegetables, sometimes tempura or an egg, and -- of course -- rice. Tea is always provided, but we sometimes went out in search of coffee.

I enjoyed the care and politeness of the bus drivers and train engineers, who always wore white gloves and bowed to the passengers when they (the drivers) entered the vehicle.

An amazing town in the Alps. Many houses have steep. thick A-frame roofs made of straw thatch.
Thatched roof house in Shirakawa-goThatched roof house in Shirakawa-go
Thatched roof house in Shirakawa-go

Closer view of a house -- the roofs last 20-30 years.

Also in the Alps, Takayama is a larger city that also had thatched roof homes.

Many (not all) times, people are cremated and their bones and ashes are interred in a cemetery.
Takayama Takayama

The city was originally built with wood houses, so this old fireproof house, provided safety for the family living next door.

3rd April 2017

Love the photos from this part of Japan. Knew nothing about it....except what I read in history and political science classes....
Really enjoyed these photos a lot. Thanks so much... look forward to seeing you guys when you return.
3rd April 2017

Loved the bed!
Did you sleep well? I am also loving your blogs and all the neat and interesting cultural information and photos you share. We miss you guys!
18th April 2017

So glad you're enjoying reading these posts.
You sleep very well, as long as you like firm beds. We'll be home soon!

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