Hida-Takayama, Gifu, Japan Alps

Trip Start Apr 01, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dec.20-22, 2008.

The train trip from Fujisawa to Takayama was great.  The view of Mt.Fuji from the Shinkansen just outside Odawara going towards Nagoya, was beautiful.  Sit on the right side of the train to get a good view.  
The scenery gets really nice once you get past Gifu city and head into the mountains.  The train runs along the river and it's really pretty. 
 First impressions on arrival in Takayama are not of an historic mountain town, you have to dig a bit to find it.  But within a 10 minute walk from the station you'll find the San-machi historic area.

My hotel was located directly across from the station, so very convenient.  But, upon check-in, the desk staff were grim and unsmiling and contined to be so every time I passed through the lobby.  Also, I scalded myself in the shower as the water temperature kept changing.  Also, the pillows and bed were very hard.  I wouldn't stay here again.  My first bad experience in a hotel in Japan.  Maybe that's not too bad after travelling around here for 6 years.

The next morning I got up early to wander around the big morning market which is held by the riverside every day.  Highly recommended!  It was great.  
Lots of local handmade food to try, a small outdoor espresso stand, local sake and beer sampling, handmade souveniers, a great atmosphere.  

This candymaker had three flavours available for tasting: macha, kinako, and black sugar.  All were really good.  He swung his blade like a gunslinger!  The kids loved him.

This HoneyEgg treat looks  like a cubed tamago-yaki but it's actually much sweeter.

I bought one of these naturally dried persimmon and it was so good, went back the next day for more.  The very friendly vendor lady gave me a discount.  They are unexpectedly sweet and soft inside.  Very yummy.

Finally was able to taste the much talked about Hida beef.  It's not all talk!  This beef is soooo tender and juicy.

I've bought little cubes of kanten jelly with black sugar syrup and kinako at my home market in Fujisawa many times but the jelly from this little shop was so soft.   My experience with the food here has been generally well above average.
Ended up going to the morning market again the following day.

For dinner that night I searched out Ebisu Soba Shop, which I'd read about. 

I had the Sansai Soba (mountain vegetable).Soooooo delicious! 

Went back the next day for lunch and had their specialty, Wild Duck Soba. Once again, really good. 

The staff and soba master were very friendly.  
Great atmosphere. 

The historic wooden buildings, which were the main purpose for my coming here, are beautiful. 
This neighbourhood is so well preserved by the government that it almost feels like you are in an open air museum.
There were so many miso makers and sake brewers.  Here is one miso shop.
The atmosphere kind of reminded me of Tsumago/Magome post towns in Nagano prefecture.  
They are also extremely well preserved but so touristed that it's hard to get past the crowds at times. 
But, even with all the people, these buildings are one of a kind and well worth the trip.

Really, the best thing to do is to wander a block or two off the main streets, that's all it takes,  and it's like another world!  Maybe not as perfectly kept, but I think this makes them even more charming.
Noone is around, and there are lots of building gems to find.
After dinner, dropped by this little French bakery for delicious pastry and espresso.
These are common townhouses off the main roads.  Many of them appear to be half renovated with the building itself still wood but the doors and window frames having been updated to metal.
Wandering along the river...

The Kusakabe House

one of the largest preserved houses, is open to the public.  
It's well worth your time to wander around inside and look closely at the woodwork and central courtyard garden.
The play of light and shadow on the interior wood and mud/straw/bamboo walls, is outstanding.

Takayama Jinja
was once used as a local government building from Edo era, and for the next 176 years. 
This aizome wallpaper wave-design was used only for the Tokugawa shogunate.

These bales of rice were paid to the shogunate as tax. The bales are made of rice straw.

This is the "interrogation" room. We can see in the pictures on the wall what types of interrogation were used...not pleasant.

There are trees throughout the area now bound with straw and/or wood to protect them from the heavy winter snow. The binding itself can be quite sculptural.

Just outside Takayama, about a 10 minute bus ride away, is Hida no Sato.  

Which is an open air park on a mountainside.  

There are almost 30 historic mountain life-style buildings, some from as early as the 1600s:  houses, stables, temples, farmhouses, storehouses, craftshops.  

They are all from the northern Japan Alps area and have been taken apart and reassembled here in the park in natural surroundings.  

This moss covered thatch roof just glowed in the sunshine.

In Tanizaki Junichiro's book, "In Praise of Shadows", he talks about the enlightenment and inpiration that can come to one sitting in a lavatory in peaceful, wooded surroundings.  But having taken a close look at this one on a cold winter day, it now sounds like just the idealistic imaginings of a mad old man!

You can wander as you like in and out of the buildings and around the lake.  There is a 30 minute hike through the trees up to some ruins. 

There are 5 or 6 gassho-zukuri (praying hands roof style), the massive thatched roof farmhouses that this area is famous for.  The roofs were built at such a steep angle so the heavy snowfall would easily slide off.

The Wakayama House:

The Nakayabu house:

The Stables:

This park was definitely a highlight of the trip.

I also took the train just 15 minutes further north of Takayama, to Hida Furukawa.

Highly recommended.

This is a really beautiful little town with lots of small canals running in amongst the buildings. You can see the stone steps near the houses, waterside, where people used to use the water from these canals daily.

Takayama is known for it's wooden buildings whereas Furukawa is known for it's Kura (clay) storehouses.  The danger of fire is very real with so many wooden buildings so kura were used for storage.

Along the riverside are lots of storehouses and shops.  The atmosphere here is more relaxed and quaint than Takayama because there are far less tourists.  I only saw about a dozen, other than me, wandering around the town.

Furukawa is also known for it's handmade candles.

Noren from Takayama and Furukawa:

Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Washington Hotel, Takayama
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