Sunday, 4 December 2016

Immerse yourself in old town charm - Gujo Hachiman: a true traditional Japanese town (part 5)

This is part 5 in a series of posts about a recent trip to Gujo Hachiman in Gifu.  I recommend reading part 1, 2, 3 and 4 first.

We rose early the next morning at 8:30 (well, it is early for me....) and wolfed down a breakfast of champions.

We had rice and pickles,

sweet potato and potato salad,

fruit and fish,

and potato gems (or tater tots to my friends from the USA), egg and pasta.  Yes, that's right, pasta for breakfast!

We were going to need those carbs as today we were going to do a bit of walking.  Finishing up breakfast we headed outside (into the rain) to find a taxi.  

Our plan was to head to Otaki cave for a bit of cave walking.  Otaki cave is a Limestone cave that stretches for about 2km, of which 800m is open to the public.  The taxi ride took about 20 minutes (and about 3,000 yen.  Unfortunately there is no bus so the only options are taxi or rental car) and upon arriving made our way to the ticket window.

Unsurprisingly, considering the weather and the fact that it was a week day, the only people in sight were 2 staff.  We grabbed our tickets (1,000 yen) and made our way to the cable car which took us up to the cave entrance.

Now, this is definitely not an experience to be had if you suffer from claustrophobia.  In fact I spent the first five minutes praying that an earthquake would not strike before I settled and really started enjoying it.  There are signs all around, in Japanese, although some are easy enough to understand!

Working your way around the cave involves some bending over at the waist to clear low points and there is also a little climbing to be done, although they have made that as easy to do as they could.

Unfortunately some overzealous visitors, who have insisted on touching instead of just looking, have broken some of the stalactites and stalagmites which has forced the local authorities into protective measures.

Unfortunately this kind of spoils part of the experience, but you cannot blame them for doing it.  Unfortunately (again), some people are just stupid.

Now I am not a cave guy, in fact this was my first cave, but I couldn't help but be impressed by what I was surrounded by.  As I was walking along, I wondered how many millions of years it took for some of these natural masterpieces to take shape, and what the cave would look like if I was able to come back in another one million years.

Looking at them I realised that they were probably some of the oldest things I have laid eyes on.  Amazing.

About halfway through the cave opened out and we entered a room and inside the room a couple of statues had been carved into the wall

and dropping down from a height of thirty metres was the main feature of the room, a waterfall.

The unbroken sound of the waterfall was in stark contrast to the ghostly silence that we had walked through to get here.  I could imagine that this was a spot where quite a number of Buddhist monks had come to do their water training!

It was time to make our way back outside all too soon so we continued following the maze of trails and staircases around working our way back to the surface.

On the way out, Tetsuya pointed out something very interesting.  Inside the darkness of the cave, with no sunlight, there were tiny plants growing!

Now that was really interesting.  It challenged everything my biology teacher had told me.  No wonder I never liked biology!

Finally we re-surfaced

and realised that where we had exited was only about 40 metres away from where we had entered despite all of the walking, crouching and climbing that we had done!.

We walked back down to where the cafeteria was and got ourselves a well-earned snack

and a frosty beverage to wash down that hard earned thirst.

And we were not the only ones thirsty.

We made our way back to the ryokan and later that night, as I had promised the night before, I made my way back up the spooky dark hill that was shrouded by low lying clouds to look at the lit up castle.  Making my way up the hill I found that the hilltop where the castle was was in clear skies, giving me a spectacular look at the castle.

Amazing.  I went back down the hill a content man.  This was the icing on the cake as far as this trip was concerned!

I will finish this one here for now and start working on what will be the final post in the series in the next couple of days.  Thanks again for having a read, I appreciate your support.  As always, please leave a comment below and share if you know someone who would be interested.

Until next time, bye.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Immerse yourself in old town charm - Gujo Hachiman: a true traditional Japanese town (part 4)

This is part 4 in a series of blog posts about a recent trip to Gujo Hachiman.  You can find part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

It was getting close to dinner time, so we ventured back out to the street in search of something to eat.  I had done a little research and had a place in mind, however, they happened to be closed (I hadn't researched enough.....).  Oh well, what's a couple of intrepid travellers to do in this situation?  Walk into a random restaurant and hope for the best, of course.  So that's what we did.

The name of the place?  Amanoya.  Nice little place, kind of an izakaya.  One of the staff spoke excellent English, she had spent 2 years living in Australia (some of you may say that that discounts her from being able to speak English!).

Looks good right?  I won't spend too much time on the restaurant here (stay tuned for an announcement in the next few weeks....), just to say that the staff were very friendly, the food good and definitely worth a visit for a meal when you come to Gujo Hachiman .

After dinner I went back to the ryokan to grab my other camera to take some night time pictures of the town.  At night is when a little old quiet town like Gujo Hachiman reveals its magical side, one that is quite otherworldly!

I will stop the talking here and just let the photos do their thing.

Simply breathtaking, and these photos don't begin to do it justice.  Just an incredibly beautiful place to be and an amazingly peaceful place to walk around at night.

As I was wandering back to the hotel, I happened to look up into the sky and saw this......

the castle, illuminated!  Right then and there I decided that the next night I would be taking a walk back up the hill to get a close-up look at this vision.  What a way to end the night!

I'm going to end this post on that note.  I hope you enjoyed the night tour of Gujo Hachiman.  Please leave a comment below, tell me what you think and feel free to share with someone who would like to have a read.  Also, to save time, why not sign up on the right column to get email updates whenever I upload another post.

Thanks again, and see you soon for the next installment.