We conclude our visit to Takayama with a walk up to one of the surrounding hilltops, Shiroyama. We are a bit above the town there, and had a good view.
Overlooking the town is a rather big bell, attached to a nearby temple.
The hilltop was forested, with many wandering paths.
It’s forested enough to attract all sorts of wildlife, although we didn’t see any!
And we of course got a final glimpse of the wonderful autumn leaves. It’s a sight to remember this mountain town by.
We made a visit to Takayama Jinya – the old administrative ‘office’ of the region during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Inside, it’s a little like Nijo castle in Kyoto – a series of interconnecting rooms and buildings, surrounded by gardens – except a little less grand.
The weather can be extremely wild up in the mountains, so even the roof tiles were weighed down.
The museum gave us a glimpse into life at the time for those at the top and the bottom of the heap. Very important people were carried in these sedan boxes.
Criminals were carried and kept in these more humble (and uncomfortable) cages, and were subjected to all sorts of painful punishments. I wouldn’t want a run-in with the law in those days.
Some everyday scenes from around Takayama.
Bicycles were again the prime way to get around the old town, given the narrowness of the streets.
Shrines were in abundance, and beside each one, a water spout for ritual cleansing.
Stalls selling grilled rice dumplings on sticks (mitarashi dango) which seem to have been there since time immemorial.
Japan’s love of dogs knows no bounds.
You can always count to find a ‘pub’ wherever you are.
This chrysanthemum is a little ray of sunshine on a gloomy day.
Takayama is a town of two halves. From above, it looks in every way a modern town.
But in its heart is a very old town.
The town was founded in the 17th Century, and being surrounded by 3,000 metre high mountains, was virtually cut-off from the outside world during the long winter months. The buildings in the old town are low to the ground, and the weathered wood gives the town a very earthy, cosy feel. Very different from imperial Kyoto, or even Kawaguchiko where you can see the sacred Mount Fuji from every street.
Let’s continue our walk around Takayama. There’s plenty of interesting things to see, and it’s all about the rivers.
It’s a town of many bridges, and from the sandbagging action by the river side, a few floods as well.
It was really a friendly town and a change after the busyness of Kyoto and Kawaguchiko. Even the statues were smiling.
We were approached by these primary school children, who, in English, asked us a few questions for their class assignment.
The Miyagawa markets are open every day. It’s mainly a produce market, but the permanent shops alongside it cater to tourists. It was rather quiet when we first arrived, probably because it was a little cold.
The stall holders were well-prepared though. This lady selling assorted pickles was all kitted out with crocheted blankets, and I’m even guessing a mini heater too.
There was plenty of autumnal fresh produce around – this stall sold different types of radish and other root vegetables.
Being late autumn, we saw plenty of late harvest apples for sale. This variety is called Hida, after the region that Takayama is in. They are much larger than the apples seen in Australia – some were the size of a lawn bowls ball, and so were priced accordingly.
The Tomato Lady even wore her special hat. Given how cold it was, I’m guessing that these were grown in poly tunnels or green houses.
The next morning Obaasan greeted us with a hearty (but not excessive) breakfast in our room – after the bedding was put away, of course.
Then it was off to explore Takayama proper. First up was a visit to the Miyagawa morning markets across the river.
The river was running fast, and the ‘koi’ (or Japanese carp) were feasting on whatever morsels they could find.
The temperature was around freezing that morning – so different from the last time I visited nine years before when the weather was much milder.
We arrived at Takayama at the end of a long day, hungry and a bit cold – the temperature was near freezing up in the mountains. So we were glad to stay at Sumiyoshi, an ‘Antique Inn’.
It’s a ryokan set up in an old house, run by one family (grandparents, parents, children) with quaint rooms, plenty of antiques, and most importantly, good old hospitality.
Our main host was the grandmother (or obaasan, as the Japanese call their grannies), and she was a hoot. Outgoing, very friendly and jokey, she was bounding up steep stairs with our dinner, which was very homely and welcome after all the more high-end eating we’d done.
A few little appetisers – some sashimi, tofu prepared in various ways, and assorted pickles.
Fish and scallop cooked in butter.
Tempura vegetables with a wedge of ponzu.
And last but not least shabu-shabu hotpot featuring local beef.
A perfect meal to end a winter’s day.
Our next destination was a town deep into the Japan Alps. It was another 5-train journey, and on the way, we saw the other side of Fujisan.
From sea-level, the mountain looms large, and gave us a more realistic idea of just how high 3,776 metres was.
We passed through the cities of Yokohama and Nagoya, and on to our final train. Soon the suburbs thinned out, and the scenes became more rural.
And then civilisation disappeared almost altogether.
Eventually we passed by some small, mountain settlements, and saw some of its people in action.
Evacuation drills are taken very seriously in an area that is very prone to earthquakes.
It was a lovely, slow journey through the valleys and gorges. Goes to show that Japan isn’t all about being in the fast lane.
Kawaguchiko is a tourist town through and through. There were plenty of large hotels by the lake trying to cash in on Fujisan.
The town had a few quirky sights, like this sculpture.
We found that the Japanese really appreciated geology. Unlike in Sydney where you’re lucky to find a mineral shop or museum in the entire city, there were little shops and museums everywhere. This museum had an extensive and impressive collection.
And what is a town without a big event – like a marathon right in front of our hotel.
But I think the meals, and its setting was a bit of a tourist attraction in itself. This was our dining room at the hotel.
In between, we just had enough room for a simple bowl of ramen.
The marathon began on the morning of our departure, and we struggled against the tide of thousands of eager runners to reach the train station. No rest for us though, we had another train to catch.