Japan: Exploring the Alps … 高山

After a couple days in the bustle of the Kanto region Emily and I headed to the hills (and mountains) of the interior of Japan.  To get there we took the bullet train, an airplane like ride along the ground without turbulence, from Yokohama to Nagoya.  In Nagoya, we switched to a local train that wound its way through mountain valleys along a snow fed river that was glacial blue in locations.  It is one of the most spectacular train rides Emily and I have ever taken.

The beauty of the area was the primary attraction of Takayama, but it was also the opportunity experience traditional Japan.  One area of Takayama where this is present is the in the old market area called Sanmachi-suji.  The buildings were constructed in Edo period and are now full of stores that sell local crafts because the area is known for its timber.

The other main industry in Takayama is centered on the production of sake; a traditional Japanese rice-wine.  Many shops sold sake in ornate clay bottles decorated with scripted Japanese and Chinese characters.  They are very beautiful and we ended up buying a bottle for the artwork.

At one end of the town was the Sakurayama Hachimingu that provided the history of the festivals that occur each spring and fall.  It also housed a couple examples of the 3 story floats that are used during the festivals.  We look forward to visiting again during one of these celebrations.  At this point our travels had worn us so we headed back to ryokan to enjoy Japanese service and hospitality.

The ryokan included both dinner and breakfast with the cost of the room. We got back and then about a half hour later our dinner experience started. The waitress brought in warm towels for us to clean our hands and tea to refresh us. The parade of food began after that! We started with an aperitif in a tiny porcelain cup. The cups were white and when you looked in from above, the wine formed a heart shape. Emily was delighted.

We were given salad, sushi, and rice. The waitress brought in a few pieces of Kobe beef and small fire and cast iron pot for us to cook it to our own liking. She also brought in miso on a leaf, and chicken. There were other foods she brought in that we weren’t even sure what they were, but we enjoyed them nonetheless. After eating for about two hours straight, we set up our room for sleeping, enjoyed the onsen, and slept peacefully until the morning.

In the morning we worked off the delicious meal with a walk through the morning market.  The only thing we ended up buying was a bottle of sake which we opened when we closed on our house a couple months later.  We kept walking and made our way to Hida-No-Sato, a living museum of Japanese architectural styles from the region.  Due to the heavy winter snows they’ve created buildings, called gassho-zukuri, with steep roofs.  In the upper reaches of the houses families would sometimes farm silkworms for silk.  It was fascinating to explore these older style buildings and see how life was lived years ago.

The next place we headed, Kyoto, definitely blends the old and the new, but more about that later.  For now please enjoy these photos.

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~ by Rob Page III on January 19, 2011.

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