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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Tokyo to Takayama (Hida prov)

JAPAN | Thursday, 26 June 2008 | Views [5955] | Comments [1]

Wed 25th Jun - Got a better night's sleep and woke up early, a long time before my alarm went off, so up and on with the day. An exciting day as going on the Shinkansen (aka the Bullet) train as part of the route to Takayama. The train leaves from Tokyo central station. There are many ways of getting there, I decided on a route which involved a couple of hops on first the Ginza line from Asakusa to Takaracho, and then a short walk to the Japanese Rail station at Hatchobori for one stop to Tokyo Central. T.C. Is massive but well organised, and there are signs to follow for the Shinkansen train terminal. As the trains run very regularly (every 10 to 20 minutes, there is really no need to book in advance. Ticket machines are available like any other station for 'non-reserved' seats, which use separate carriages to those for 'reserved' seats.  I wanted to pay by credit card and also book my ticket through to Takayama, so went to a ticket counter. English speaking no problem and extremely pleasant staff. Paid 3,980 Yen for the super-express Nozomi Shinkansen to Nagoya. A combined cost of 8,510 Yen thru to Takayama. Once you have your ticket, it is valid for 2 days and there are many trains, so no rush. Plenty of food shops on hand. An easy enough electronic display board tells which trains are leaving and the platform number. I was in time for the 10:20 train with time to spare....time for those touristy photo shots of the front of the train plus one that was approaching the station. They really are a manificent sleak looking train. Two different shaped designs, one more squarish at the front than the one I was getting on, which has the famous long sleak nose, and a captain's cockpit like on an airplane. Non-reserved carriages are at the front, so boarded and plenty of space. 3 seats on one side, two on the other, with loads of leg room. A smart ticket collector dressed in beige suit and cap with white gloves appeared and announced something in Japanese, fortunately, there are electronic signs above the doors to tell you all you need to know. Ticket stamped and settle in for the journey, which  takes around 100 minutes to Nagoya. Soon after leaving the Tokyo city confines (short stop at Shinagawa station for those linking with Haneda airport), then on with the journey and start to pick up speed. This train does upto 300 km/hr (with a 100% safety record in over 30yrs of operation). They have experimented with upto 500km/hr with total safety. A lady appeared with a drinks and food trolley in air-hostess fashion. On the nothern side of the train was the symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji. Today as apparently normal, the snow-capped top was veiled in a mushy cloud, so nothing to look at. Some large areas of rice paddies soon appeared, a welcome break from the enclosed spaces of the city. As you can imagine, the ride is extremely smooth with not much of the rocking you get on a normal train. This is fantastic....a dream journey come true....yippeee! Or Yatta! ...as they say in Japan.

Arrival at Nagoya seemed to come too soon. It is a bullet train after all! Next task to find my iner-connecting train to Takayama. Not too difficult once I found out that I was looking for the Toyama train, the station at the end of the line. 10:48 due to leave so a bit of time to kill. Bought one of those beauifully presented wooden boxed meals to take on the train. Spot on time the train pulled in, and spot on position, the door opened right in front of the marker on the floor. Everything done to japanese precision. Same sort of legroom as I had on the Shinkansen with large panorama view windows. The weather is a beauty today, with glorious sunshine. Soon we were off and before long, into lush greenery of the rural part of japan. Going northwards the scenery is a beauty as it is very mountainous. At this time of year, no snow, but with a dense covering of green forests, making this a pleasant journey and in parts looking like a typical alpine ski resort. Time to think about recent events...
Japanese loos on board....which don't smell! Thought I would mention that....why, I don't know?
Some nice touches along the way, Gero station for example had a dragon suspended from the roof along the length of the platform.
Arrived as planned at 15:15 and easy 10 minute walk to where I am staying, at the Zenko-Ji Temple Inn. Thought this sounded cool, and it sure is. I booked a dorm room but got one all to myself. Futon mattress on traditional matted flooring in a japanese style setting with sliding doors.
The man in charge 'Tommy', is dual passport Japanese/US, so speaks perfect english. Used to be high up in the Hilton group in the US before retiring. Very hospitable and all the facilities you could need for 2,500 Yen a night. All wooden building as befitting a temple and an interesting place to stay for a couple of nights. The room wasn't ready until after 4pm, so off to kill some time and visit Takayama-Jinya, a shogun government building from 1816, that was still in use until 1969. Built from aromatic cedar, it is a sprawling building with Tatami matting and simple decor. Piles of new aromatic cedarwood are being stored around the site. As it was late in the day, it was empty and I almost had the place to myself.
Back to check in to my room, and after being showered and sorted, off to find somewhere to eat. This place is very quiet indeed. Many restaurants were closing at 8pm'ish. Still plenty open though and found a nice one down a side alley. Ordered randomly off the menu and still have no idea what it was that turned up on my plate? Was definitely some part of an animal, but no idea which animal or which part....very very chewy though. Before the meal arrives they deliver Otoshi, a small dish which in my case contained soft green mixed with peanut paste. Yummee. Had a walk around the almost empty streets afterwards and will look forward to better exploration in the light tomorrow.

A bit about Takayama....located in Hida province north west of Tokyo in central Honshu (known as Japan's central heartland), and in the shadows of the Japan Alps National Park. Renowned for its Sake  breweries....by the way, I ran out of milk this morning so had to put Sake on my cereals.... yummmee....got the day off to a flying start!

Thu 26th Jun - Up nice and early after a good night's sleep. First stop the bus station to check out the timetable for getting to Kanazawa tomorrow plus get some cash at the post office ATM (the other street ATMs don't take foreign cards such as visa/mastercard). Then off to the Naka-bashi bridge that crosses the Miya-Gawa river, a dazzling vermillion colour in today's brilliant sunshine. Posts finished off with black finials or Giboshi (onion bulb). Over the bridge and this is where Takayama's main attractions hit you in the face. The old part of the town Sanmachi-Suji is a beautiful place, characterised by three main streets full of traditional civilian houses, restaurants, museums and merchant houses. A stunning place. On the streets you can catch a traditional beautifully ornate human-rickshaw, pulled along by their traditionally dressed hosts, who wear the most unusual footwear...like boxing shoes but with the big toe separated from the rest. Depending on how long you want to ride for, either 3000 or 5000 yen average.
I wandered around here for ages...popped into another one of Takayama's claims to fame...Sake breweries, where free samples are available from a menu of many brews. You can spot them from a fair way as hanging outside they have Sugidama or large globes made from japanese cedar needles. The atmosphere inside is wonderful. The athmoshere outside even better after a few glasses of Hida Sake!
Another treat is one of the many shops making and selling japanese rice crackers. Bought a bag of mixed flavours. Needed more Sake afterwards!
Headed towards the Kaji-Bashi bridge, famed for its Te-naga Ashi-naga  or 'long-arm long-feet' bronze sculptures adorning the bridge. Modelled from work by the sculptutor Yoruko Taniguchi from the late Edo period. Further on along the river and past the morning market. The river is amazing. Not only is it almost crystal clear, but it was teaming with large colourful fish...bright orange, yellow, silver. Japan seems to be one dazzling image after another!
Next stop was Yatai Kaikan float museum. In April and October, Takayama comes alive with a float festival befitting of such a historic and beautiful place. Upto a dozen ornately designed floats or Yatai  are paraded around the streets. In between festivals most are stored in 3-storey high Yatai Gura, which are spread around the town. They are brought out in rotation and put on display in the museum for the public to see. As part of the entrance ticket you can have an english speaking guide and a video presentation of the ceremony.
Adjacent to the museum is a magnificent shrine worth a visit, accessed through a Torii gate. Next up was the Kusakabe Mingei-kan, a traditional heritage house, full of preserved furnishings. Free tea and rice cracker provided.
The sun is extreme now, so headed for the hills of Shiroyama-koen park, location of the original Takayama castle that was burnt down a long time ago. The Shoren-Ji temple is worth a visit. Nice to get into the forest and contemplate for a while....
Tired after such a packed morning, headed back to the inn for a break.




I'm doing the same trip next week so really enjoyed your account! 😃

  Denise Apr 13, 2015 8:16 PM

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