Monday 7 April 2014

A weekend in the mountains - Takayama and Shirakawa-go (part 3)

This is part 3 of a blog series about Hida Takayama and Shirakawago.  You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.  Sorry this next part has taken a while to appear, but work has been pretty busy recently.  Here it is.

So I woke up the next morning to beautiful skies and crisp, clear winter air.  The snow had stopped but it was still piled high everywhere.  After having a bite to eat for breakfast I stepped outside ready to have a better look around Takayama.  Just around the corner from the hotel was a nice Temple.

The place looked absolutely magical covered in snow.

As with a lot of Temples in Japan, this one had a nice pagoda.

Just after taking this photo a huge heap of snow slipped off of the top of the pagoda and came thundering to the ground.  The two ladies in the picture moved so fast that I think Usain Bolt's claim to being the fastest human on earth might have come under threat!!

I didn't stay at the Temple too long as I had a lot to explore.  Continuing on down the street I saw this sign.

I thought that if the owners took the time to tell me how good their coffee is, I was going to find out so I went inside and the lovely owner not only made me coffee but also gave me a couple of tips for places to look at.  She said that just down the road by the river there was a morning market happening so I thanked her and wandered off in the direction of the river enjoying the very good, no, excellent coffee she had made me.  

As I said in part 1 of this trip, Hida beef is very famous and soooo delicious.  I found a butcher's shop that I really wanted to go into but didn't.  I can tell, however, that the owner must really love his job!!

I eventually arrived at the river

and then also found the market.

The market was still going strong and the street was lined on one side with stalls

and normal shops on the other.

There were so many stalls selling a variety of things from crafts

to Japanese pickles,

and mushrooms.

I saw this little place that was selling Hida beef on a stick and local beer so I decided that it was probably 5pm somewhere in the world so it was okay for me to have a beer......

If beef could ever be described as decadent, then it is this beef!!  Awesome!!

Reaching the end of the market I continued on as I had spied a shrine gate nearby.  Reaching it, it stood proudly straddling the road.

I walked under the gate and in the direction of the shrine, entering an old part of town.  Hida Takayama has preserved sections of the city in the approximately 200 year old Edo period, and this was the reason I had wanted to visit Takayama!

Simply stunning!  I love this style of architecture, and thankfully places like Takayama and Shibamata have preserved areas such as these so that we can still enjoy them in the 21st century.

I even found a ramen shop amongst the old buildings.  It was, unfortunately, not yet open.....

I reached the shrine and the staff had been out early to clear away the snow.

The usual lion-like creature standing guard at the entrance to the shrine was being forced to withstand the elements too......

Just like the cat on the street last night, he was doing his best not to let the conditions get to him.

Inside, the shrine looked glorious covered in snow.  Again, as a guy who comes from a place where it gets as high as 47 degrees celcius in summer and averages 15 degrees celcius in winter, sights like these are really special and unlike anything I have seen in Australia.

Although I can't help but feel that the lion we saw earlier might have been looking in envy at this horse......

I decided to leave the shrine and head back out to the streets and continued wandering through more of the preserved areas.

Takayama also is well known for sake brewing and I the breweries are recognisable by the big balls sitting above the doors to the buildings.  You can actually go on tours through some of them and then do tasting at the end.  I am pretty sure the tours are only in Japanese, but there is tasting!!  I didn't go on a tour as I wanted to spend my time walking around the streets.

Next, I just happened to stumble upon another street stall selling more heaven on a stick..........Hida beef!!  I had to have some......

Now I was getting into some of the really nice old streets, and I wasn't the only one exploring!

I'll let the pictures tell the story.....

The previous night, as I wrote about in the last post, I had been to a little bar that I had read about online, but I had to follow my phone GPS to find the place.  So I was walking around the streets of Takayama at 9pm head down following my GPS when I suddenly stopped and looked around and found myself, all alone, no-one else around, on a street that looked like this one.....

The street was dusted with snow and I just looked around in pure wonderment.  The thought that ran through my head was "Where am I..........?".  The street lights were very dim and I felt like I had stepped into a time warp and had slipped back in time 200 years!  I almost expected a samurai to jump out of the shadows.  It was a very surreal but incredibly enjoyable moment!

Another thing that Takayama is known for is Takayama ramen which has a soup base made of soy sauce and fishy bonito.  It is not my favourite kind of ramen, but it is nice to have occasionally as it is a lighter taste than my usual tonkotsu (pork) and miso ramen.  So, of course, I found a ramen shop and went inside to try some!

It was indeed good, but it was getting late and I had to make my way back to the hotel to get ready to catch the bus back to Tokyo.  On the way back I crossed back over the bridge crossing the river and saw this guy........

I don't know either!!

There was one more thing I wanted to check out before leaving.  At a couple of places in Takayama there are little foot hot springs along the street.  I had to check them out, so I went off and found one of them.

Very nice, and very relaxing!

Getting to the bus station I discovered that when it snows, it is not all fun and games.  Looking at the monitor showing the bus departure times, I found out that my bus back to Tokyo had been cancelled!!  I went to the counter to check with the staff and they confirmed that it had been cancelled!  I had to work in Tokyo the next day!!  

Thinking quickly, I decided that I could catch a bus to Nagoya and then switch to the train and get to Tokyo.  I asked the staff and they looked at me very apologetically and told me that the tickets for that bus were sold out.......  Okay, I then decided I could catch the bus to Kyoto or Osaka and then switch to the train.  As I asked the staff, they shook their heads and said "sold out".

I ran to the train station and asked the ticket counter staff if they had any tickets for Tokyo.  He checked his computer................and yes, they did have a few left, so I bought a ticket and, luckily, was able to make it back to Tokyo.  I did think, however, that if you had to be stuck somewhere for a night, Takayama wasn't a bad place to be stuck!!

So that's it for Hida Takayama and Shirakawa-go.  Sorry it took so long to get these posted.  I do have another couple of short ones ready to write.  Feel free to follow the blog.  All you need to do is put your email into the "Follow by Email" section down the right side of the page.  You will be notified automatically when I put up a new post.

Thanks for reading, and see you again soon.

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