Japan, part two.
If you haven’t already, here’s part one. When I last left off, we still early on in the trip, having spent a night in Tokyo and two in Kanazawa. At this point, I was having a great time and seeing cool stuff but didn’t feel super connected to Japan. Or maybe it was just jet lag. All that changed though, when we got to Takayama or “tall mountain.”
Located in the Japanese Alps (who knew?!), Takayama is a charming town with a long history. After taking the train to a bus, because of some washed out tracks, we arrived at a small station, dropped our bags with the innkeeper and set off for a walk across town. Along the way we wound our way, stopping in sake breweries and shops packed with trinkets before ending up at shrine overlooking the streets. Back at our traditional inn, we traded our shoes for house slippers and got a tour of the onsen and instructions for setting up our futons. That first night we dined on Hida beef, a regional delicacy and found what would best be described as an alley, packed with bars, food stalls and games, sort of like a trip to the boardwalk.
After donning my yukata and testing out the spa, we woke up early the next day for a tour of the local market and what quickly turned into an all-day food fest. There was espresso art inside of sugar cookie cups, chestnut-shaped ice cream treats, dango, hot dogs, goheimochi and more. Jesse sampled everything we saw, meaning I got a bite of mostly everything. In the midst of all the eating, we also took a trip up to the Hida Folk Village for some cultural enrichment. We explored buildings from the 1600s, fed some very large carp, entered another shrine and played with traditional toys.
Coming off the mountain, we took some free time to do more adventuring and walked around for hours on end. Despite all the eating, we decided to check out some of our guide’s suggested spots, only to get turned away at the first option. Booked all night. Slightly annoyed, we hoofed it to another even smaller restaurant that graciously accepted us without a reservation. This turned out to be a total blessing, with the server and chef doting on every course and providing us with some of the best vegetarian food I’ve tried. If you’re ever in Takayama, check out Heianraku. Another night on the futon and time to pack up once more.
Next up: Hiroshima.
Images above: near the station, in town, sake tasting, shopping district, shrine, morning market, folk village, Takayama streets.