Friday, September 23, 2016

Takayama

We got going early this morning to catch the train at 8.48am from Kanazawa through to Takayama (via a stop and change of train at Toyama). We pulled into Takayama at 11.30am, about 6 minutes late, which made all of us feel like we should be changing our watches because trains in Japan are usually NEVER late.

Takayama is a smallish city in the mountainous Hida region. It looks like it would be almost in the geographic centre of the island of Honshu - about 3 hours by fast train NW of Tokyo. On the way here, once we were past Toyama the countryside became a lot more interesting to our eyes, lots of mountains, carefully tended farmland and small picturesque villages - a lot of rice growing too.

We dropped off our bags at the Best Western near Takayama station and we set out to explore what looked like the smallest city we've visited in Japan so far. During feudal times (especially the Edo period) Takayama gained importance as a source of high quality timber and fine wood craftsmen. As a consequence the city enjoyed a good deal of prosperity in those times.  Those amazing wood working skills and fine eye for detail and aesthetics are still very evident in many of the older private houses, tea houses, merchant buildings and temples of Takayama to this day.



We found a wonderful French boulangerie not far up the main street - and remembered we hadn't had any lunch...
Rob caught me as I was eating a piece of his baguette (still warm from the oven). I also tried some of Maxie's almond croissant - which I think was the best I've ever eaten (and I do know my almond croissants!).

The plastic bag I am carrying contains a vintage kimono (yukata actually) that I bought for 100 Yen (that is about $1.20) today in Takayama. It has 2 tiny holes in it but I am overall thrilled with it. Maxie has also bought  2 yukatas from the same shop (she spent about $8).
After this we went our separate ways for the afternoon. Maxie and Rod wanted to explore the streets of the  extensive old town district and their distinctive heritage houses and Rob and I were hoping to find the Higashiyama walking course on the high ridge on the East of the city.


We soon found ourselves in the historic Higashiyama district where many temples were established during the Edo period, much as they were in Kyoto. It was very quiet and peaceful up here, in contrast to all the buzz in the old town below.

 There were large graveyards attached to many of the temples too.....





Eventually we made our way back down to the old town through some more contemporary suburban areas....
 ......back to the beautiful streets of the heritage area of Takayama.......

 ...where we stopped for tea at a teahouse that has been in operation since 1833.......

 A beautiful experience!
 The Hida region is famous for its beef, tempura, wild mountain vegetables and its soba noodles as well as its wood artistry. We had dinner at this fourth generation soba noodle restaurant tonight. 
Hand made soba noodles, lots of different mushroom varieties (many of which I've never tried before)...asparagus and snow pea and seaweed - all in a delicious broth - a most delicate and satisfying meal - full of amazing flavours and textures. 
We all love Takayama and want to spend longer here (maybe next time!)

No comments: