The old Japan. The other side of Japan. Sake and soba.
08.04.2013 11 °C
Sleeping in a futon was like being the filling in a soft white bread sandwich. Wrapped up and cosy. Futons (and sandwiches) don't squeak or move or bounce.
OMG breakfast. We sat in the same dining room, on the floor and faced the biggest breakfast ever... Traditional Japanese plus a mini croissant. So that meant a smoked fish fillet, rice, miso paste and some radish?flakes cooked over a mini burner, pickles, poached egg in a ramekin, yakult (!), green tea, red beans, and various mysterious but delicious things. Possible one item was bamboo shoots. We didn't need lunch today.
After ruggung up against the cold, we set off to explore Takayama. It is really nice here, I like it heaps. There are lots of small shops and cafes and residential buildings that are traditional and old and quaint. Most people put beautiful perfect pot plants outside their steps. Bikes and belongings can be left out too. I tried to buy some shoes today, but the store was shut. The display was left outside unattended for the next day?!
We explore the walking tour which took us around so many wonderful shrines and temples, gates and statues that it was ridiculous. Per square meter this was the most densely and quintessentially Japanese place I've seen so far. Everywhere you look was a photo opportunity. There is a backdrop of a snow capped mountain range, cedar trees, cherry blossom and the view is from a height so you also get the vista of the town itself.
There are 2 morning markets here and we found one. It is situated along the river and the stalls sell handicrafts, fresh produce and knickknacks. There is a plethora of vacuum bagged mystery foods, some in liquid, others not. Freshly cooked rice crackers and other savoury snacks are made and sold, as well as some sweet oddities like a cube of egg omelette outer with a marshmallow interior. Not nice.
I found a shop selling handmade traditional pants, nice threads, materials and buttons. I bought some buttons, it was a humorous experience in the communications department but I really enjoy interacting with local people and usually try whenever the chance arises.
The fact that I only have a daypack on this cation of the trip was a bit annoying, I don't have the space to buy much so I stick to buttons and small flat things or edibles etc. Am hoping that in Kyoto I can shop with less constraints. Not that I like shopping, I like looking at new/different things and feeling inspired.
It was opportune to get the train tickets reserved for tomorrow's journey while at the JR station. We caught the bus to Hida Folk Village which is up a bit of a hill. This village is we're they have preserved traditional buildings from the region. Most of them a original and restored but are very old 1700-1800's so that is just amazing in itself. These buildings are very big wooden monstrosities with thickly thatched roofs, paper windows, beams that are merely slashed together with a type of straw rope and earthen floors. The layout inside didn't vary much over the years. A stable/animal barn featured at the front of all of them, plus a prayer room, central living area and bedrooms. It was so cold inside them today, I can barely imagine being in one with 2m snow on the roof..... Shoes had to be removed for walking on wooden floors and pretty soon my feet were ice blocks. Each house showcased a traditional craft e.g. Paper making, straw weaving, rice preparations, carpentry, sledges, etc. the tools of the trade are displayed inside.
After Hida Folk Village, the local bus took us back to the station and the search for a place to eat dinner began. Surprisingly, the place was quite deserted and looking rather like a steamed bun might be all we would have, but then like a beacon there was a nice big warm sake brewery serving fresh hot soba, tempura, Hida beef stew, and sake! Nom nom.
It was getting colder and darker by now so time to find our ryokan. This place is very homely and friendly. So much nicer than an impersonal chain hotel. You get to talk to the kitchen staff, the lady at reception, the people in the baths.... They make up your futon and leave you fresh green tea and tasty treat when you come back after a long day. LIKE!
And now we are sitting in the cosy cove, wearing our traditional gowns, heater on, watching people walk by, surrounded by cabinets of lovely antiques. This ryokan won a trip advisor award for last year, it is very easy to see why. It is called Yamakyu and is on Facebook. We had our photo taken and might be on there..... I am going to check that out right now.