Skip to main content

Beefing it up in Takayama

First Matsuyama. Then Takamatsu. Now Takayama. Pine mountain. Tall pine. Tall mountain.

Not all beauty in Japan is on a miniature scale. The train ride between Nagoya and Takayama is incredibly scenic, running along deep river gorges of boulders and jagged rocks on the way up into the mountains. There was an English/Japanese brochure detailing the region’s many sights in the train's seat back pocket and the sights were also announced over the PA system.

Initially we followed the Kiso River, the same as we visited yesterday. The Kiso was joined by the Hida River and it was this that we followed into central Japan. At times the river rages through narrow gorges, but the Japanese have tamed most of their rivers to provide hydroelectric power, so other sections were placid blue-green lakes bound by dams. Great pipelines ran down sides of mountains, through the generator turbines and back into the river. Steel red and pale blue bridges criss-crossed the valleys to allow traffic and trains to pass between the towns that lined the riverbanks. Tiny tea and rice plantations clung to the edges besides the train tracks, while the number of sawmills hinted at the major industry of the area.

The previous time we visited Takayama was during its famous Spring festival, when giant wooden floats were paraded through the streets. Takayama was a lot quieter today, though there were still many tourists. We had fallen in love with the historic streets with their traditional wooden architecture and the many shops selling woodwork, furniture, pottery, rice crackers and other souvenirs. Most of all we loved the Hida beef, so tender and full of flavour.

After dropping our bags off at the hotel the first thing we did was go to a restaurant and order premium Hida beef shabu-shabu, thin slices of meat and vegetables you boil in broth yourself using a cooker at the centre of your table, then dipped into either a citrus or sesame sauce before eating. It’s an expensive dish, but it tastes divine.

We then spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around the historic areas of Takayama, stopping by shops to purchase fine crafts as souvenirs. The lacquer and wood work is amazing, but usually has prices to match. We did pick up some really cheap, but interesting, pottery, along with a few other odds and ends. One of these was a sarubobo, a faceless doll that is supposed to bring you luck. I’m after an orange sarubobo, which is supposed to bring luck in travel!

The amazing thing about both Tsumago and Takayama was that wherever you walked you could hear the sound of running water. The water flowed through the drain channels at the edge of the roads, presumably coming from the rivers that flow through Takayama. It's such a beautiful but strange sound for someone coming from a country seemingly in perpetual drought, where running water generally means that it's raining or that water is being wasted.

When the time came to replenish our energy we stopped by a small store to order takeaway skewers of Hida beef. Then dinner was a crumbed cutlet of Hida beef with salad for B, while I had hoba miso with thin strips of Hida beef. Hoba miso is a local miso with vegetables cooked in a magnolia leaf over a small charcoal burner at your table. We sat cross legged at the low tables on the tatami mat section of the restaurant, the Bandai.

Our room at the Hana hotel is also Japanese style, with a tatami mat floor and rolled out futons for beds. We had the choice of a Western style room, but it's more fun to sleep like this, with the scent of straw permeating the room. The staff are very friendly here and there is free internet (wired LAN) in the lobby.

There is so much to do in and around Takayama. And more Hida beef to be eaten!


Popular posts from this blog

A lazy day at the beach

It's 2am and somebody is still setting fireworks off on the beach in front of the hotel. I can't see the explosions as I have the window shuttered, but I can still hear them. I've wanted to have a lazy day and today was the closest I got. I woke up in the night from a very sad dream. Dreams follow crazy paths, but this one resolved itself as so. An entity had been causing disruption of computer systems around the world. It turned out that this entity had emerged from the computer networks and had been struggling to gain access to more computing power so that it could live. The entity had taken on the persona of a woman. The protagonist who had "defeated" the entity discovered that it was alive, spoke to it. Ultimately fell in love with her. But his prior actions would lead to its death. As a gift to her he downloaded his memories so that she could experience life even as she died. I know it sounds like a pulpy sf or technopunk plot, but dreams are about feeling

The sound of running water

We made it home from Osaka. There is a special feeling that comes when your arrive at your house after a holiday. It is utter relaxation. No longer do you need to worry about other language or customs. There is no need to look up directions, to plan out your day, to journey between sights. Then again, you now need to clean up your own mess, to make your own bed. Rather than eat out you need to cook your own dinner. The shower is weak and the toilet doesn't wash your bum. And you need to wake up early tomorrow morning in order to spend a day at work. You are back to your old routine. Looking back upon this holiday in Japan I've decided that the theme of running water has applied to each of the days. Sunday - Arrival in Osaka - washing ourselves Japanese style Monday - Matsuyama - water from the hot springs at Dogo Onsen Tuesday - Takamatsu - waterfall at Ritsuen-koen Wednesday - Tsumago - streams of water throughout the town Thursday - Takayama - the sounds of rushing water e

Insanity at 40,000 feet - Part 2

We could relax for a moment. The gate lounges at Kuala Lumpur's LCCT were crowded, but our gate was not yet open. Once it was we quickly made out way outside for the long walk to the aircraft. The terminal offered no air conditioned respite from the tropical weather outside and we were perspiring on both sides of the gate. It's a pity that taking photos on the tarmac is forbidden, because the tropical evening sun cast a beautiful orange-gold light. Our flight to Singapore was on an AirAsia A320, the workhorse of a low cost carrier. The legroom was shorter, but still adequate and the width felt greater than their longer cousin we had just flown. Alex sat at the window and was excited to see the world outside, chattering loudly. Captain Raj gave a detailed, but clear, explanation of the flight, listing runways and routes like an aircraft enthusiast. We launched into hazy grey skies that were soon dark for a very typical hour long flight to Singapore.