DAY 5 (1/5): CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29
Surrounded by mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山) or simply Takayama (高山) is a delightful destination for all tourists who have make the effort coming to the central mountainous region of Honshu. Takayama serves well as the base for travelers to visit the surrounding attractions, from Kamikochi and the Japanese Alps to the east, to the gassho-zukuri villages of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) to the north. Takayama is best known for its morning market at Miyagawa River (宮川), high quality sake and world famous Hida beef, but the most remarkable thing for most visitors is how well the historic Sanmachi Suji District (三町筋) has been preserved. Wandering in the historic heart of Takayama makes us felt like going back in time to the Edo Period (1600-1868, 江戸時代), when the city was a wealthy and prosperous merchant city. On the other hand, a visit to the castle ruins at Shiroyama Park (城山公園) on the mountain next to the historical centre reminded us the city’s shogunate past in the Sengoku Period (1467-1568, 戦国時代).
We arrived at Takayama from Shirahone Onsen at around 12:30pm. Our hotel J-Hoppers Guesthouse was just a few minutes away from the railway station.
Our tatami room was simple and clean, with a window overlooking the city’s post office across the street.
Just a short walk from J-Hoppers brought us to Sanmachi Suji (三町筋), the historic district that most tourists linger when they come to Takayama. Most tourists wandered around Sannomachi Street, the atmospheric street flanked by old timber houses.
In the charming historic district, even the street gutter can provide a lovely picture.
One of the most enjoyable activities to wander around Sanmachi Suji District is to sample the diverse local snacks, from beef croquettes to mochi. The rice cracker of Senbeidou (手焼煎餅堂) on Sannomachi Street is also popular with tourists.
At Sanmachi Suji, one of the most popular shop we encountered was Ohnoya Paste Shop (大のや醸造). Ohnoya had been around in Takayama for the past 250 years selling soy sauce (醤油) and miso paste (味噌).
At Ohnoya, we bought a bag of aka miso (red miso 赤味噌), a bottle of yonen (4 years) shoyu, a soy sauce made from aka miso, and a bottle of kibiki shoyu, a special soy sauce made with a traditional recipe.
A poster on a shopfront reminded us the famous Takayama Matsuri or Takayama Festival. Held annually in spring and autumn, Takayama Festival (高山祭) is often considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals.
During the Takayama Festival, the city’s splendid festival floats (yatai) would be paraded throughout the historic streets. Throughout the year, the floats are stored in special storehouses scattered across the old town.
On Sannomachi Street, we walked by the beautiful gate of Fujii Folk Museum, a small museum with exhibits of artefacts and local art pieces.
Before heading up to the Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we stopped by a sweet bun shop.
The sweet buns looked pretty and tasted delicious.
While wandering the historic centre, we passed by the interesting Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館). Named as one of Takayama’s top attractions in Lonely Planet, the museum showcased objects dated back from the mid 1950’s to 1960’s Japan.
What looked like an antique shop across from Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館) was in fact a hairdresser (バーバー文助) decorated in a vintage look.
On our way to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we passed by another old miso shop (丸五味噌(醤油)屋).
After our walk up the Shiroyama Park and Higashiyama Walking Course (東山遊歩道), we finally reached the beautiful Miyagawa River (宮川).
The hotel staff at J-Hoppers recommended us to check out the 1200-year-old ginkgo tree (銀杏) at Kokubunji Temple.
The 37m tree is a designated natural treasure.
Hida Kokubunji Temple (飛騨国分寺) was originally built in 764 AD by Emperor Shoumu. Over the years, the structures had been reconstructed. The three-storey pagoda was rebuilt in 1821 to replace the earlier five-storey pagoda that was itself a replacement of the original seven-storey pagoda.
Together with the pagoda, the bell tower at Kokubunji Temple is also a fascinating old timber structure.