Takayama – A Visit to Japan’s Alps

Hida Takayama, Japan is a mountain town in the Gifu Prefecture with a population of nearly 100,000. It is in the heart of the Japanese Alps and also exposed to the Sea of Japan.

The location causes a “lake effect snow”.  It is known that this area receives some of the highest, most consistent snowfall in the world! Even with the snow it is easily accessed by the JR Takayama station.

It is a beautiful train ride through the mountains. We pass through several villages and alongside many mountain streams.

The current mountain culture has been built upon since the 1600s. The Edo-period buildings remain to this day.  Takayama being somewhat isolated has developed more of a unique culture. The city is built around the beautifully preserved Old Town, the Sanmachi Suji district with incredible old homes, temples and shrines.

Maybe most importantly, especially in this cold weather, is the fact that the Takayama area is home to 12 sake breweries! It is spitting snow when we arrive, even though it is mostly sunny!

Our train arrives right on time of course at 14:10 pm.  We walk about five minutes to our hotel, check in and head out for some soba. Homemade Soba is all they serve at family owned Sumikyu. Neat place!  We enjoy the soba, I enjoy a boiled egg on top of mine.

We head back to the hotel to rest a bit before dinner.  Well at least a little siesta. We head out around 8 pm in the driving snow, ok, snow flurries anyway. It has been a long time since we have seen it snowing! There are a lot of remnants of snow here, as they get heavy snow in the winter.

We catch a late sushi dinner at Nob.  Outstanding! The area is known for its Hida Beef, so we try it here. We try both the Hida Beef sushi as well as the skewered beef. And, it’s still oyster season here, so we must sample the tempura oysters. Oishii! Fantastic restaurant. The owner, Ito, has actually driven Route 66 in the US and seems to have a fondness for Texas.

Saturday

We enjoy sleeping in on Saturday morning and then walk through the old village. We sample some of the food in the village, more Hida beef.  The Hida beef buns and beef skewers are delicious. There are many stores with more samples. I try the miso soup, pickled radishes and tekka maki.

Enough Hida beef samples! Hopefully the walk has burned more calories than we just ate! We head back to the hotel to enjoy the baths at the hotel onsen.

Yes, we are hungry again, lol. We brave the cold weather to find an excellent family owned restaurant, Hidatakayama Kyouya. The food is excellent and the local sake is perfect for a cold night. I like the fact that the owner is a Chicago Cubs fan!

Sunday

Today is an absolutely beautiful clear, cool, sunny day. We take a long walk to the Hida Folk Village and have beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

The Hida Folk Village is well done in illustrating life in Edo period, in the mountainous Hida region. The Village is an “open air museum” exhibiting over 30 traditional houses from the Hida region, the mountainous district of this Gifu Prefecture around Takayama. The houses were built during the Edo Period (1603 – 1867) and were relocated from their original locations to create the museum in 1971.

It is a cool sunny day, with much of the snow remaining. The whole setting is beautiful amongst the mountains. It reminds me a bit of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

As we walk back to the town center we pass by a park indicating that Takayama is actually a sister city to Denver.

We make one last stop on our way back to our lodging at the Government Building. Because of its valuable timber resources, the Hida Region around Takayama was seen as an important area because of the value of its timber. In 1692 it was put under the control of the Tokugawa Shogun. The Takayama Jinya, aka Government Building, served as the local government office until 1969. The main building was reconstructed in 1816, and still stands today.

The complex is now a museum. It includes  tatami mat rooms that once served as offices, conference rooms, guest rooms, residential space and interestingly an interrogation room. There are many other artifacts in the museum such as maps, town plans, and other documents of past feudal lords.

There is also a large storage room built in the 1600s that was used for rice. Rice was once used for tax payments.

For dinner…a break from Japanese as we eat at a small Indian restaurant, the Royal Nan House. Tracey went for her staple, Chicken Makhani and I enjoyed the Chana Masala.

Monday

It is a cool but beautiful, sunny Monday morning. This makes for a good time to visit the “Morning Market”. The Morning Market is alongside the Miyagawa River. There are many shops and stalls selling prepared food as well as vegetables, fruits, spices, sweets and of course many “pickled” items.  

I skip the souvenirs and go for the takoyaki, aka “octopus balls”. They are, of course, in the shape of a ball, grilled in seasoned batter with a small piece of octopus meat in the middle.

We stop for a coffee at a nice shop and then continue to walk the “Old Town”. We head to an area with a large shrine and museum.

The Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine dates from the time of the Emperor Nintoku (413 – 439). Apparently the shrine was constructed to help protect against the monster Ryoumen Sukuna, a beast with 2 heads, 4 arms and 4 legs!

Takayama is famous in Japan for the biannual Takayama Festival which dates back to the 1600s. The festival is one of the largest Shinto festivals in Japan. The festival is held twice per year, celebrating spring and fall.

One of the reasons the festival is so popular is that it includes a parade of ornate, multi story high Yatai (floats). The floats are wheeled and carried by many people and some include puppet shows.

We visit the museum where some of these are housed.  The floats, hundreds of years old are truly amazing in size and detail, apparently taking years to build. There are eleven enormous, elaborate floats, several hundred years old.  They have amazing, very detailed craftsmanship.  Four of them are displayed at the museum at any given time and rotated occasionally with the remaining floats.

For lunch we stop at a very cool place for burgers, the Center4 Hamburgers.  Fortunately, they are out of the Hida Beef burgers (they are expensive!), so we settle for the standard Japanese beef burgers…which are excellent!

The decor at the Center4 Hamburgers has many western style and US items.  They are playing Johnny Cash inside. We feel a bit like we are in a roadside restaurant in Wisconsin!

Tuesday

Takayama is a bit off the beaten path although becoming more popular. We enjoy our visit here as there is much to offer.  Maybe we will be back in the summer for some mountain hikes!  For now, off to Tokyo!!

And a few more pics…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  • Looks like you are still having a great time guys. We still think of you both. Love from all of us (the random people in Laos)

    • We think about you mates as well! Always thinking about trips to Mauritius and Australia! Hopefully soon! ❤️

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