A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

Takayama II

snow -3 °C

I have so many photos from Takayama that I thought it best to split the post in two. Although Takayama has several museums and art galleries, there was one museum in particular which appealed - the Showa Kan. The basic idea here was to show how the Japanese lived during the reign of Emperor Hirohita, which ran from 1926 to 1989. As a result, it is effectively an account of the development of consumer goods in the 20th century in Japan. Its all crammed into a fairly large building, divided into various rooms by theme - so there's a barber's shop, for example, or a school room, a bike repair place, an appliance shop and so on. Some websites say spend 20 minutes here but I managed to occupy myself for the best part of half a day and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. People around the net say its their favourite museum in Japan, and I can see why - its a very personal collection and we're allowed to get right in amongst the displays, so its quite the reverse of the antiseptic experiences you often get in museums.

My photos didn't come out all that well (I was experimenting with taking photos in the near dark and screwed them up, so several are looking a bit surreal) so I borrowed one from another visitor to the museum (but the rest are mine):

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Some old skool appliances

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Visiting the doctor

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More or less random pictures as I cruised around

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Later on in the day, when the snow had stopped falling, I went for a walk for part of the Higashiyama walking course, which takes in Takayama's temple town and meanders through an outer suburb - I managed to get pretty thoroughly lost as the signs for the walk either contradicted themselves or simply stopped occuring, leaving me to wander off in various directions until I decided the path just didn't go that far. I've had a bit of critical feedback about the number of temples in a previous post and am not a great fan myself, so will just post a (large) handful of the photos I took as I wandered about in the snow:

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This was my furthest point, in a sense, as it was all backtracking after Takayama to Tokyo. I could have gone back in a train and retraced my steps completely, but it would have taken a looong time and I'd not seen much I wanted to see again. Although the plan was to do all my travelling by train, I found that if I took a bus, instead of going back down the mountain, I could go straight over the top (or, rather, through various tunnels) to a place called Matsumoto, which is west of Tokyo. Because of the tunnels, I didn't actually see much of note from the bus:

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There was time for a quick walk around the town immediately outside the railway station (it looked like a place worth exploring), then it was on to the train (with bags of delicious bakery goods) and off to Yokohama.

Posted by NZBarry 03:42 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Takayama

Into the snow

snow -2 °C

Time to get back on the train, and head back towards Tokyo, but not back the way I came

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Finally I get to see some actual countryside

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All of my stops so far have been large cities with very modern buildings - I wanted something a bit smaller, a bit more traditional and with some snow - it is the middle of winter after all. Takayama proved to be the perfect spot - it is up in the mountains (Japanese Alps), has fewer than 100,000 residents and is roughly half way back to Tokyo from Osaka - with the short days, it basically soaked up an entire day getting there. I would have thought it was a bit of a ski resort but there were very few people to be seen, even with all the snow:

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I had decided it was time to try another variety of traditional Japanese accommodation. It would have been nice to be in a Ryokan, but they're kind of pricey. I did the next best thing and found a minshuku, which is the budget version - futons on the floor, tatami mats, a small onsen in the basement, flash TV with just Japanese programmes, a very quiet place to stay. I don't think the people who run it spoke a single word of English between them. Its a little unbecoming to mention it, but the toilets here were outstanding - heated, variable water pressure, choice of music.

My first evening, my only goal was to find something to eat. I was quite surprised at the two streets I ventured down, they looked old-fashioned in a very western way, drooping verandahs, timber framed buildings (although a lot still sold stuff I can't identify). The coffee shop I went into for cake could have been in any Eastern European city. Dinner turned out to be Hide beef (like Kobe beef but from the area around Takayama), charcoal grilled in small strips - delicious. As I was eating, the chef came out to talk to me (I was the only customer, so he wasn't rushed off his feet) - he seemed genuinely excited to find that I was from New Zealand, as he spent a couple of years cooking in a restaurant in Auckland.

One of the things Takayama is famous for is its old town which dates back to the Edo period of 1600-1686

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It has lots of sake stores, where they actually make the stuff

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I went into several shops selling ceramics, wooden bowls, chopsticks and the like but was dissuaded by the thought of carrying stuff from actually buying anything

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I am not sure what the inspiration was for these

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In the old town, you can have men pull you around - not really my thing

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Twice a year there are festivals, where the famous floats of Takayama are brought out, some even have wee puppet shows happening on them as they parade. Would have loved to see them but all I got to see was a lousy shed where they're kept

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I really liked just wandering around Takayama: it might be small but it has really good coffee shops all over the place, and because they're proud of their beef, people have little charcoal grills cooking it in shop windows and on the streets - very fancy street food. Another thing that comes from here is a particular form of miso ramen - I had some, and it was delicious, particularly the tender and quite fatty pork slices that just make ramen so special. I may need to come back (although Korea is beckoning quite urgently).

Posted by NZBarry 04:32 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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