ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Japanese Alps

DAY 7 (1/7): DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢), Japan, 2018.05.31

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to another misty and rainy morning in Ainokura.  It was time for us to move on.  In order to catch a direct bus to Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅), we had to catch the 7:45 bus from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  Before breakfast, we took a final stroll around the village.  Walking around the tranquil rice paddies and fields of drying reed, and breathing in the moist mountain air fixed with the fragrance of the woods and soil gave us a peaceful finale of our sojourn in the Japanese Alps.  The breakfast at the minshuku was once again a hearty feast of small dishes in the traditional dining hall.  After breakfast, the minshuku owner gave us a ride out to the Ainokuraguchi bus stop, sparing us for braving the elements with our backpacks.

The hour long bus journey north to Shin-Takaoka was as peaceful as our stay at Ainokura.  Only four passengers including us were on the bus.  The bus took us past the villages and towns in Toyama, including Johana Station (城端駅) where most buses throughout the day would end the journey for tourists to transfer for a local train.  Soon our bus went up the expressway over to the city of Takaoka.

From Shin-Takaoka, it was just a 15 minute train ride on the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) to Kanazawa (金沢), our final stop of this Japan trip before heading back to Tokyo. We felt a bit strange stepping out of the modern Kanazawa Train Station after staying several days in the mountains and countryside.  Designed by architect Ryuzo Shirae in 2005, the century old train station of Kanazawa received a modern makeover, including a wooden gate inspired by a traditional Japanese torii.  We took one of the many buses leaving the station for Omicho Market (近江町市場) at the city centre.  Our hotel was just a block away from the famous market.  With a small ground floor cafe, the sleek and modern Pacific Hotel was like a world away from the Gassho-style thatched roof minshuku of Ainokura.

DSC_8079We woke up to another wet day in the mountain village of Ainokura in Gokayama.

DSC_8104Before breakfast, we made a final stroll around the tranquil rice paddies of Ainokura.

Passing by the fields of drying reed reminded us the traditional way of living in Ainokura is still going strong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast at Gassho Minshuku Nakaya (合掌民宿なかや) was again a delightful feast for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was very kind for the owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya to drive us out to Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop in the rain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bus ride to Shin-Takaoka took a little over an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpened in 2015, the Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅) in Takaoka (高岡) is a modern  interchange station for the Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed railway.

DSC_8132There are Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed trains coming from Tokyo stopping at Shin-Takaoka on the way to Kanazawa.

DSC_8134In less than 15 minutes, we arrived at Kanazawa Station.

DSC_8138The wooden torii gate at Kanazawa welcome every visitors entering the city by train.

IMG_6753The modern and clean Pacific Hotel near Omicho Market offered us a comfortable resting place for our stay in Kanazawa.

IMG_6751A small reception counter of Pacific Hotel also doubles as a coffee bar.

 

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 6 (6/6): CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The stay in Ainokura proved to be more than worthwhile.  We got the chance to take refuge in a 350-year old gassho-zukuri house and dine right by a traditional Irori (囲炉裏) hearth in the atmospheric dining room.  The stay also allowed us to experience Ainokura in the evening, when most tourists were gone.  After dinner, it stopped raining.  We went out to take in the tranquil atmosphere under the silver moonlight and shimmering stars.  Wandering on the winding paths, we were totally surrounded by rice fields and the croaking sound of frogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya used the traditional Irori (囲炉裏) hearth in the dining room to prepare the smoked ayu fish for our dinner.

DSC_7999Seasoned with sea salt, the smoked ayu fish were the star delicacy of our dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPickle, deep fried, and soy sauce veggies, carp sashimi, local rice, and smoked ayu fish left us more than satisfactory after a long and wet day in the Japanese countryside.

DSC_8048Outside of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya, the village path was lit with dim street lamps.

DSC_8016The mirror-like rice fields reflected the beautiful gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_8020With clouds and moonlight, it wasn’t the best time for stargazing.

DSC_8021Loud croaking sound of frogs came from rice fields in all directions.

DSC_8024The village paths were pretty much deserted after dark, except a handful of tourists and local villagers.

DSC_8027The sky was getting darker as we wandered around the village.

DSC_8028We could see a bit more stars as the last twilight faded.

DSC_8031In the dark, we walked uphill a little bit to a lookout that we visited earlier in the day.  From there, we took a photo of the night sky over Ainokura just before the moon emerged behind the mountains.

DSC_8037Across the rice fields and river valley, the moon was about to emerge beyond the mountains.

DSC_8039The silhouette of mountains and silver moonlight depicted a lovely reflection in the rice fields.  We were grateful to enjoy a moment of absolute peace just before moonrise.

 
* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 6 (5/6): GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山), Nanto (南砺市), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The idea of staying a night in a traditional gassho-zukuri house prompted us to come all the way to Ainokura, the remotest of the three UNESCO World Heritage villages in the Japanese Alps.  A few centuries-old gassho-zukuri houses in Ainokura have been converted into minshuku (民宿) or Japanese style bed-and-breakfast.  A typical minshuku stay offers a Japanese tatami room, as well as dinner and breakfast served in a traditional dining room around an Irori (囲炉裏) hearth.  Based on online reviews and guidebook recommendations, we booked our stay at Gassho Minshuku Nakaya, a 350-year old gassho-zukuri located near the end of the village.  The interior of the house was as expected full of wooden panels, tatami flooring and timber lattices.  The bathroom and toilets were clean and modern, while the dining room and its Irori hearth provided a feature for all visitors.

Outside of the minshuku, gassho-zukuri houses scattered along the few winding paths and surrounded by patches of terracing flower beds and rice paddy fields.  Historically, Ainokura was self sustained not by farming, but by making traditional paper and raising silkworm.  Since the decline of silkworm raising in the 1950s, some fields of mulberry trees uphill from the village were converted into agricultural fields for vegetables and rice paddy.   Today, rice paddy fields dominate the scenery of Ainokura.  As the most important staple food in Asia, rice cultivation represents the lifeline for many nations, including Japan.  Apart from rice fields, small beds of colourful flowers can be found all over the village.  Flowers are planted adjacent to rice terraces, or along winding paths, or in front of village homes, leaving touches of lovely colours among the lush green palette, even in the greyest rainy day.

DSC_7981Gassho Minshuku Nakaya is a well-preserved 350-year-old gassho-zukuri house in the UNESCO World Heritage village.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe thatched roof and timber wall panels of the minshuku look just like other traditional farm houses in the village.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust like any typical Japanese house, there is a decent entrance vestibule at the Gassho Minshuku Nakaya.

DSC_7758The guest area is limited at the ground floor only, with traditional tatami bedrooms, dining room, and bathroom.

DSC_7757In the dining room above the Irori (囲炉裏) hearth, a jizaikagi (自在鉤) or free hook is attached to the beam structure of the house.

DSC_7756Our room was a Japanese style tatami room with traditional decorations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon arrival, we were given green tea and snacks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya, lovely flowers could be found in many fields and flower beds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the most impressive flower beds we saw was just opposite to the front door of our minshuku.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe small flowers in front of Minshuku Yomoshiro present a subtle beauty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColourful flowers along the village paths lighted up the scenery in a rainy day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found some of the most impressive flowers at the terracing flower beds in the midst of the lush green rice paddy fields.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd more flowers…

DSC_7898Late May.  Rice seedlings had just planted not long ago.  Rows of footprints were visible in the rice paddy fields.

DSC_7914It was a pleasure to get so close to the rice paddy.

DSC_7995At the end of Ainokura near Gassho Minshuku Nakaya, we found some larger rice fields with beautiful reflections of the surrounding mountains.

DSC_7984After spending time to photograph the rice fields, it was about time for dinner.

 


DAY 6 (4/6): RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山), Nanto (南砺市), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

45 minutes of bus ride took us deeper into the valley of Gokayama (五箇山) in Toyama Prefecture.  Our destination was Ainokura (相倉), one of the three villages with Gassho-zukuri houses inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Rain continued to pour down when we get off at Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  We had no choice but to brave the elements and walk uphill into the village from the country highway.  It took about 5 minutes to reach the village parking lot, and another 5 minutes to reach our guesthouse.  After checking in, we rested a bit until the rain subsided a little.

Sandwiched between dense forests on a hill and the Sho River (庄川) that runs in a deep valley, Ainokura is a situated on a narrow plain surrounded by forests and mountains.  With about about 30 preserved gassho-zukuri houses, the 450-year old village remains a quiet rural community with about 90 inhabitants as of 1994.  The region around Ainokura was nearly impenetrable until 1925, when a road was built through the surrounding forests.  Once a stronghold of silkworm production before the 1950s, the village has since become a self-sufficient rural community filled with rice paddies and flower fields.  Today, a few houses are open to visitors as museums or guesthouses, but most of the village remain private, unlike Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go where most houses have been converted into tourism-related uses.  The view of Ainokura from the adjacent hill may be less dramatic than the one from the Shiroyama Observatory Deck at Ogimachi, yet wandering in the remote village of Gokayama offers a much more tranquil and delightful experience as if going back in time.DSC_7861The rain was at times heavy as we entered Ainokura in mid afternoon.

DSC_7791Mist and clouds lingered around the surrounding mountains of Ainokura as we entered the village.

DSC_7923After a five minute walk from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop, we reached the main parking lot of the village and a small visitor centre.

DSC_7826Rice paddies of different sizes and shapes filled up all the spaces between village homes.

DSC_7932Most gassho-zukuri houses remain as private homes of villagers.

DSC_7777One of the gassho-zukuri houses at the village centre is turned into a souvenir shop.

DSC_7782On a high ground at the village centre stands the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine in the shade of tall trees.

DSC_7783Adjacent to the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a stepped path leads to a stone monument to commemorate the visit of a royal prince.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASonen-ji Temple (相念寺) is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple at the heart of Ainokura.

DSC_7953Jodo Shinshu Buddhism (浄土真宗) is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It is the most popular branch of Buddhism in Japan.

DSC_7960The Sonen-ji Temple (相念寺) building was completed in 1859.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Ainokura, there are several designated viewpoints, mostly on the slope or farming terraces right by the village.

DSC_7804We walked up to a few farming terraces to look for a desirable viewpoint for the village’s overview.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome viewpoints required us to walk further uphill into the dense forest adjacent to Ainokura.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed a series of signs to reach the highest viewpoint uphill.  The walk took about 15 minutes on a narrow paved road.

DSC_7867From the openings between trees, we could enjoy beautiful birdeye’s views of Ainokura.

DSC_7842From above, we could truly appreciated the thatched roofs of Ainokura, which are steeper than the ones in Shirakawa-go due to the heavier snowfall in Gokayama.

DSC_7857We truly sensed the remoteness of Ainokura with its surrounding mountains.

DSC_7769We wandered around Ainokura between periods of rain, but we didn’t entered any museums.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the village near our guesthouse, a downhill road led us to a large piece of mirror-like rice paddy.  Sunlight was fading, reminding us that dinner was about to start at our guesthouse.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 

 


DAY 6 (3/6): SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

After a leisure stroll in the picturesque Ogimachi (荻町), at around 11am we crossed the suspension Deai Bridge (であい橋)over to the main parking lot / Open-air Museum Gasshozukuri Minkaen (合掌造り民家園).  The rain was quite heavy and instead of visiting the open air museum, we opted for a lunch break at Soba Wakimoto (蕎麦脇本), a lovely soba restaurant housed in a traditional gassho-zukuri building.  The lunch was a delicious soba noodle soup and a mini bowl of Hida beef rice.  After lunch we crossed the bridge back to Ogimachi, and paid a visit to the Myozen-ji temple complex.  The visit included seeing two gassho-zukuri buildings, the Kuri (former residence of the monks) and the worship hall.  Before leaving Shirakawa-go, we headed up to Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台) for the spectacular birdeye’s view of the village and the surrounding mountains.  At around 1:40pm, we headed back to the bus station, picked up our backpacks, and boarded a “world heritage bus” heading to Ainokura (相倉) of Gokayama (五箇山), where we would stay the night in a 300-year-old gassho-zukuri house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the other side of Deai Bridge (であい橋), the tour bus parking lot and the Open-air Museum Shirakawa-go or Gasshozukuri Minkaen (合掌造り民家園) didn’t look busy at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor tourists who arrive by tour buses, Ponte Deai (であい橋) would be their point of arrival into Ogimachi.

DSC_7606Just a stone throw away from the tour bus parking lot, we arrived at Soba Wakimoto (蕎麦脇本).  We decided to go for a bowl of soba and a cup of hot tea.

DSC_7612Two “raccoons” welcomed us at the front lawn of the soba restaurant.

DSC_7609It was 11am, and we were the first to sit down in the dining hall of Soba Wakimoto.

DSC_7610We ordered two soba sets.  Both came with a seafood soba, and a bowl of Hida beef rice.  The meal was fantastic and gave us an opportunity to dry up our jackets.

DSC_7605After lunch, we headed back to Ogimachi.  Outside of a tourist restaurant, a sarubobo (さるぼぼ) doll offered visitors a photo opportunity with this amulet of Takayama.  The faceless doll was a traditional gift made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as lucky charm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack in Ogimachi, we passed by Myozen-ji Temple again and decided to paid a visit.  Built mainly in the early 1800s, Myozen-ji Temple presents a rare surviving example of gassho-zukuri temple architecture.

DSC_7570In the Myozen-ji Temple, we could visit the Bell or Shoro Gate, the Kuri, and the main worship hall.  All three structures were constructed with the unique thatched roof of the gassho-zukuri style.  These temple structures were built in the early 1800s.

DSC_7503The Kuri of Myozen-ji Temple is one of the largest building in the village.  Our tour of the temple complex began from here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe spacious attic of the Kuri building had been converted into a two storey museum.  Back in the old days, attics of many gassho-zukuri houses were used to make washi paper and raise silkworm.

DSC_7659Outside the Kuri, the gassho-zukuri houses and reflective rice paddies offered us a glimpse into the fading rural lifestyle of Japan.

DSC_7645The upper levels of the Kuri building allowed us a closer look at the straw eaves of the thatched roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Kuri, a zigzag corridor led us to the main worship hall of Myozen-ji Temple, where the interior was decorated with a series of paintings depicting the Mount Fuji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the ground level of the Kuri, we arrived at a beautiful fire hearth where visitors gathered around to smell the burning natural wood.

DSC_7700Before leaving Shirakawa-go, we walked up the hill near the bus station to Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台).

DSC_7704The Shiroyama Observatory Deck (城山天守閣展望台)  offers the iconic postcard view of Shirakawa-go’s Ogimachi.

DSC_7711Despite the rain, the village of gassho-zukuri houses looked spectacular with the lush green surroundings.

DSC_7743Although most tourists prefer to visit Shirakawa-go in the snowy winter when the gassho-zukuri houses were lit up by flood lights at specific weekends, we didn’t mind to visit in late spring to see the village with its reflective rice paddies and lush green surroundings.

DSC_7720It was touristy, yet the scenery of Shirakawa-go and its traditional gassho-zukuri houses made the visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site more than worthwhile for us.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 6 (2/6): OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The illuminated Gassho-zukuri village houses blanketed in thick layer of snow make a fairy tale like postcard scenery have attracted visitors from close and afar, making Shirakawa-go an extremely popular tourist attraction at specific winter weekends.  Situated in the remote snow county of the Japanese Alps, gassho rural regions such as Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) have been historically isolated from the outside world.  A unique rural lifestyle and special vernacular architecture have been developed in the past few centuries to tackle the snowy and wet climate of the mountains.  Gassho-zukuri (合掌造り集落), which literally means “hands in prayer”, refers to the exceptionally steep thatch roofs of the regional farmhouses due to the heavy snowfall of the area.  These steep roofs have become a unique symbol of the region.  In 1995, three of these remote Gassho-zukuri villages: Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go (荻町), Suganuma (菅沼) and Ainokura (相倉) in Gokayama were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Due to its proximity to Hida-Takayama, most visitors opt for a day trip (or half-day trip) to visit Shirakawa-go.  Few would venture farther into Gokayama and even less so would stay the night at one of the mountain villages.  In recent years, a number of the centuries old Gassho-zukuri farmhouses have been transformed into guesthouses, allowing visitors to experience the villages’ unique beauty and tranquility after the departure of the daytrippers.  Being the largest and most accessible Gassho-zukuri village, Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go is the most developed in terms of its tourist facilities.  A number of its old farmhouses have been converted into museums, restaurants and souvenir shops.  There is even an area called Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum, where historical farmhouses have been relocated and grouped into an open air museum.  Taking the 8:25am bus from Takayama, we arrived at Shirakawa-go bus station in about an hour.  When we arrived at one of Japan’s most picturesque farming village, steady rain kept on coming down with no end in sight.  We stored our backpacks in a locker at the bus station, picked up a village map and bought a transparent umbrella from the tourist office, and off we went to explore touristy yet charming Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go.

DSC_7465Just outside the bus station, we had our first peek of the rural charm of Shirakawa-go.  Rhythmical rain drops rippled across the flooded paddy field of lush green rice seedlings.

DSC_7471Despite the rain, we were delighted to enter the tranquil world of Ogimachi.

DSC_7477It was 9:20am.  Not too many tourists were around.  We stopped by the pond of waterlilies in front of Wada Residence, one of the largest gassho style house in the village.

DSC_7478Ogimachi has a extensive network of irrigation channels.  Visitors may occasionally find carps in the water.

DSC_7518A row of cute scarecrows offer an amusing background for photos, and a friendly reminder of Ogimachi’s rural past.

DSC_7493Straw from farm crops are harvested in the autumn, dried as a snow fence around the gassho style house, and used to repair the thatched roof in the spring or autumn.  Due to the need of a large labour force, neighbors in the village would come over to help on repairing the thatched roof.

DSC_7621Many gassho style houses, including the Yamaainoie Residence (山峡の家), have been converted into cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops or guesthouses.

DSC_7635The small gassho style house serves as a charming little cafe with splendid views of rice patties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of the cafe is decorated with plant pots, wood lattice and a “thinker” statue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1961, the construction of Miboro Dam at Sho River in Takayama was completed.  several villages and shrines were submerged, along with about half of the surviving Gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_7622Today, the biggest concentration of Gassho-zukuri houses are found in Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma.  Important structures, such as the Myozen-ji Temple in Ogimachi, have become rare survivors from the bygone period.

DSC_7628Thatched roof repair works can still be seen in Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go.

DSC_7627The steep angle of the thatched roof of the Gassho-zukuri houses help to prevent snow accumulation, though people, especially outside visitors, have to be cautious of the falling snow below the roof.

DSC_7624A number of Gassho-zukuri houses in Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go have been turned into guesthouses.

DSC_7755Fire hydrants are important in the farming village because of the combustibility of the Gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_7754Because of the rain, the mountains beyond Ogimachi were covered in beautiful mist while we were there.

DSC_7749Newer houses in a distinct architectural style can also be found in the village.

DSC_7631Due to the unique appearance of the Gassho-zukuri houses and it natural setting, Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go is often considered one of the most picturesque farming village in Japan.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 


DAY 6 (1/6): MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.30

Before leaving Takayama we made a brief visit to the Miyagawa Morning Market.  Everyday from 6:30am to noon, market stalls selling farm produces, local crafts, snacks, and souvenirs will be set up at the Jinya-mae Market in front of Takayama Jinya and Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River.  These two morning markets have become popular tourist attractions.  We arrived at Miyagawa River at around 6:15am, while a number of vendors were setting up their stalls.  We took our time strolling along the river, and were delighted to see a few rows of koinobori (鯉のぼり), the colourful carp windsocks, over the water to celebrate the Children’s Day (子供の日) on 5th of May.  They were meant to bring good health and bright future for children.  As more vendors got their stalls ready, we turned to the delicious snacks for breakfast.  Steady rain began soon after we had our first snacks.  We hastily finished them and got ourselves a few local products (miso, dried mushrooms, spices, etc).  After returning to our guesthouse to pick up our backpacks, we made it just in time to catch the 8:25am bus for Shirakawa-go, our destination of the day before moving on to stay the night at Ainokura of Gokayama.

DSC_7374.JPGThe sky was grey and Miyagawa River (宮川) was calm as always.  We thought the market stalls wouldn’t be up and running right at 6am so we took our time to stroll along the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was delightful to start the day with a close encounter with a wooden Daikokuten or the God of Luck near the Kaji Bashi Bridge.

DSC_7390Colourful koinobori (鯉のぼり) or carp windsocks were set up (probably for a few weeks around the Children’s Day on 5th of May) over the Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7396Originally the windsocks were used by samurai warriors during battles. In modern times, koinobori or the carp windsocks are meant to bring strength, good health and courage to children.

DSC_7433It was a pleasant scene to have a few rows of colourful koinobori over the calm water of Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7398Some signs said the market opened at 6am and some said 6:30am.  Even at 6:30am, not all stalls were set up and visitors were scarce.  The grey weather and rainy forecast just made things worse.

DSC_7389Time was still quite early and there weren’t that many visitors around.

DSC_7397We would have to imagine if it was a little later in the day and with finer weather, the market would be much busier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe would love to get some local produces but we just couldn’t bring them along with us for the rest of the trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn old man let us try the samples of the dried shiitake mushrooms.  The sample tasted gorgeous and led us to buy a bag of the dried shiitake mushrooms.  This bag of dried shiitake turned out to become the best dried shiitake we had ever had at home.

DSC_7435Seven-favored spices is a famous local product.  We got a mini bag of spices from the old lady.

DSC_7436After 7am, more stalls were opened as well as the souvenir shops along the opposite side of the pedestrian walkway.

DSC_7438A few stalls were selling beautiful flowers and plants.  We would soon found out that flowers were inseparable with village homes in the Japanese Alps area.

DSC_7440An old lady was selling all kinds of miso (味噌).  We picked up a pack of Hoba Miso, a regional sweet miso wrapped in a dried hoba leaf (magnolia).   Traditionally, the leaf was meant for wrapping the miso and cooking it over the fire.

DSC_7441Local honey vendor was about to open his stall.

DSC_7447Our first snack at the market was the takoyaki or octopus dumplings.

IMG_8461Watching how the takoyaki was made by the vendor was an interesting event in itself.

DSC_7454After takoyaki, we moved to the next stall for fish-shaped mini cakes with various sweet paste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe takoyaki vendor recommended us to try the award-winning custard pudding at NOIX de COCO (ノアドココ).  It was a fabulous suggestion.  The vendor was friendly, the pudding delicious, and we got a chance to take a photo of the cute pikachu wearing a pudding hat!

DSC_7464Steady light rain continued and more visitors arrived at the market, but it was time for us to take the bus and move on to our next destination: the traditional gassho-zukuri village ares of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山).

 


DAY 5 (5/5): HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

In Kyoto, Higashiyama (東山) is a famous historical district of temples, shrines, pagodas, and old streets. In Takayama, Higashiyama Walking Course  (東山遊歩道) that ventures into the quiet side of the city, the Teramachi Temple Area.  The 3.5km trail meander through a dozen or so temples and shrines in about 1.5 hour of walking, and does offer a Kyoto-like experience of temple hopping in the eastern side of the Takayama.  The Higashiyama Walking Course provides a great alternative from the crowded scenes of Sanmachi Suji District.

DSC_7218After touring the touristy Sanmachi Suji, we turned to the calmer side of Takayama.  Following Google Map, we found our way up to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), the lush green hill southeast of the historical district of Takayama.

DSC_7231Apart from lush green mature trees, the Shiroyama Park (城山公園) also contains the ruins of the former Takayama Castle (高山城).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the castle of the former governor of the Hida Province, Takayama castle was in use from 1588 to 1695.

DSC_7247_01On our way down to the Teramachi Temple Area, we passed by a stone stele depicting the Three wise monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

DSC_7249We passed by Dairyuji Temple (大隆寺) and its cemetery, continuing to walk downhill.

DSC_7256We left Shiroyama Park via Dairyuji Temple, crossed a canal and entered a quiet residential neighborhood dotted with temples and shrine.  The first temple we passed by was the torii gate and stair that led up to the Nishikiyama Shrine (錦山神社).

DSC_7272We continued the Higashiyama Walking Course and reached the next temple: Soyuji Temple (宗猷寺).  Located in the southernmost area of Teramachi Temple Area, the Buddhist temple of the Rinzai sect was built in 1632.

DSC_7275We walked over to Zennoji Temple (善応寺) a family temple of the lord of Matsukura castle.

DSC_7282We were then attracted by the flower blossoms, trees and shrubs around a dry garden of Hokkeji Temple (法華寺).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful wooden structures of Hokkeji Temple (法華寺) are the only Buddhist temple of the Nichiren sect in Hida.

DSC_7285It was already quite late when we arrived at Hokkeji Temple (法華寺).  We had both the temple and the popular stone bridge all by ourselves.  Although small in scale, the pond and stone bridge at the forecourt evoked a strong sense of nostalgic charm .

DSC_7297Sogenji Temple (素玄寺) is a Soto Zen sect stood next in line in our tour of the Higashiyama Walking Course.

DSC_7301The main hall of Sogenji was relocated here from the ruins of Takayama Castle.

DSC_7309Opposite to Sogenji stood Daiouji Temple (東林山大雄寺).  We were particularly drawn to a small shrine with stone statues and a vivid picture of Hell.

DSC_7310Towards the end of our tour of the Higashiyama Walking Course, we reached another tranquil temple complex, the Unryuji Temple (雲龍寺) (many visitors would consider this temple the beginning of the walk).

DSC_7317The gate tower of Unryuji was relocated from the Kouun Pavilion of Takayama Castle.  Through the gate, we could see a tranquil residence district down below.

DSC_7318After wandering around the Unryuji Temple, it was time for us to head back to the city centre for dinner.  We walked passed a small cemetery near Unryuji and turned left down to the Edogawa River.

DSC_7321We wandered in the small alleyways near Edogawa River, trying to zigzag ourselves back to the touristy city centre.

_5291145.JPGIt was lovely to walk along the river.  We followed the water for a while, slowly admiring the traditional houses under the late afternoon sunlight.  It did feel like walking in some old neighborhood of Kyoto.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 


DAY 5 (4/5): YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Other than the Hida beef and sake, the other two places we planned to visit in Takayama were the Miyagawa Morning Market (宮川朝市) and Yoshijima House (吉島家住宅).  According to guidebooks, for anyone who are interested in architecture and design, Yoshijima House is a must-go in Takayama.  The Yoshijima House has been published in various design magazines and is considered an excellent example of machiya or traditional townhouse architecture of the Hida region.  Built in 1907 by master carpenter Nishida Isaburo (西田伊三郎), the student of the fourth Mizuma Sagami (水間相模), the timber house of Yoshijima exemplifies the supreme craftsmanship of the traditional Hida carpentry.  Today, the house is designated as a national important cultural property and a popular tourist attraction.  From Sanmachi Suji (三町筋) or the old town, Yoshijima House is just a few blocks to the north beyond a water channel.

 

DSC_7098The sugitama (杉玉) outside of Yoshijima House reveals its original identity as a well known sake breweries in Takayama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom outside, a traditional outer wall conceals the inner garden of the Yoshijima House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the entrance vestibule, we entered into a large and airy hall.  The middle part of the hall with hard flooring indicated where the sake shop was once situated, whereas the raised tatami areas belonged to the living spaces of the Yoshijima family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were told by the museum staff to take the wooden stair and visit the upper level first.

DSC_7106On the upper level, we walked through a series of tatami spaces.  These spaces were used by the children of the family back in the old days.

DSC_7109The simplicity of design details and building materials express a sense of minimalism that is still dominating Japanese architectural design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOccasional design elaborations such as the painted cupboard panels provide a touch of artistic beauty and focus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Level difference is being used as a means to define two separated spaces.

DSC_7117The wood stairs are beautiful but a little steep.

DSC_7125Small architectural details throughout the building  highlight the level of family status and quality of the carpentry.

DSC_7122The ground floor of Yoshijima House reveals the flexibility of partitioning in a traditional Japanese house.  All rooms are interconnected with sliding doors, allowing utmost freedom for space planning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no specific function for each 6-tatami room.  When a table is set up in the tatami room then it will become a dining room.  And when bedding is arranged, the same room will be transformed into a bedroom.

DSC_7127When all sliding panels are removed, the ground floor will become one large space for special uses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many Japanese houses, a courtyard flanked with verandas provides pleasant semi-outdoor spaces for the house users.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring our visit, artworks and magazines about the Yoshijima House were on displayed at the former sake making and storage area, where beautiful jazz music was playing in the background.

DSC_7133The most famous feature of the Yoshijima House is the prominent posts and beams at the main hall.  The spaces with the charcoal brazier set were used as living and dining room for the family.

DSC_7150The high windows allow light to create a pleasant ambience at the main hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beauty of wood is essential to the interiors of the house.  The wood beams and posts are covered with thin layer of lacquer, and have been periodically polished with cloth by the family since completion.

DSC_7157The antique clock on the wall reminded us the Meiji Era at the turning of the 20th century when Japan opened its doors to welcome Western technologies and knowledge and went through a rapid process of modernization.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 5 (3/5): SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Sake (日本酒), or Japanese rice wine, is a light coloured, sweet taste alcohol made of multiple parallel fermentation of rice.  The earliest record of sake drinking in Japan dated back to the 3rd century.  Nowadays, it has become a popular alcoholic beverage around the world along with the growing popularity of sushi and ramen.  Outside of Japan, sake is just an option of alcoholic beverage.  However, within Japan, sake is a living tradition, a national heritage that connects to the local landscape and climate, and a representation of purity and simplicity in the Japanese culture.  In the old days, sake was drunk at Shinto festivals, ceremonies and offerings to the gods, and production was made mainly by temples and the imperial court.  Then in the 12th century, the general public began to make sake and led to the flourishing scene of sake makers in certain regions in Japan.  Not much has changed in the  making process since the 16th century.

With its cold climate, pristine water from the Japanese Alps and local rice “Hida-Homare”, Takayama is known as one of the best places for sake production in Japan.   In its heyday during the Edo Period, Takayama had 56 sake breweries.  Today, there are a handful of the traditional breweries (some say six) remain in the splendid old town of the city.  Most of them would offer sake tasting and even a facility visit.  Just look for the sugitama (杉玉) hanging outside of the liquor shop entrance.  If the sugitama is still green, that means the making of the new sake is underway.  If it is brown, then the new sake has reached maturity.  Visiting the traditional breweries and doing rounds of sake tasting is one of the most interesting ways to explore Takayama.

DSC_7063With its signature brand Sansha (山車) famed for its muscular umami (うま味) or savory taste, Harada Sake Brewery (原田酒造場) is a highly popular sake brewery in the old town.  The brown sugitama (杉玉) indicates that the new sake has reached maturity.

DSC_7062Apart from its shop, visitors may also find the aging tanks in Harada Sake Brewery.

DSC_7065Across the street from Harada stands another popular brewery, the Funasaka Sake Brewery (舩坂酒造店).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith over 300 years of history, Funasaka Sake Brewery has combined generations of experience, innovative technical developments and a new business model.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe complex of Funasaka Sake Brewery includes a shop, bar, restaurant, and a pleasant courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the courtyard, large sake barrels are on display at the Funasaka Sake Brewery.

DSC_7082Also with 300 years of history, the Oita Sake Brewery (老田酒造店) has transformed its original brewery at the busy tourist street Kami-Sannomachi (上三之町) into a large shop and bar, while the main brewery has moved outside of the city to Kiyomi, where new technologies and computers are introduced in the sake making.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOita Sake Brewery specializes in very dry sake and shochu (焼酎) or distilled liquor.   Dry sake was considered unfavorable as compared to sweet sake in the old days.  However, the trend has gradually changed and dry sake has become popular with soba and steak restaurants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust like most other breweries, the store of Oita Sake Brewery designated an area of the store for a causal bar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASake and shochu are used at the bar to make cocktails with fruity favours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShōki (鍾馗) or Zhong Kui in Chinese is known in Chinese mythology as the king of ghosts and evil beings. It is commonly seen as a guardian spirit to ward off demons.  The icon is also popular in traditional Japan.  Due to its unpopularity in the old days, dry sake was called “Oni Koroshi” or demon killer, meaning that even demons would die after drinking the dry sake.  Oita Sake Brewery (老田酒造店) considers itself the original brand of the “Oni Koroshi” dated over 300 years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEstablished since 1695, Niki Sake Brewery (二木酒造) is another old sake maker in Takayama that has been in business for 15 generations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANiki Sake Brewery is famous for its ginjo sake, a premium category of sake that uses rice grains polished to less than 60% of its original size, and fermented in lower temperature in longer period.  Ginjo sake is considered to be lighter in taste and more aromatic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKawashiri Sake Brewery (川尻酒造場) has been in the industry of sake brewery since 1839.  It specializes in jukusei koshu or “aging sake” that uses locally grown rice “hidahomare” and takes two to four years to age.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKawashiri Sake Brewery (川尻酒造場)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe traditional look of Kawashiri Sake Brewery gives visitors a glimpse of the old Takayama in the Edo Period.  Large timber post and beam construction is a Takayama tradition.

DSC_7206Being the smallest brewery in town, Kawashiri rejects new technologies and computers, and relies on the hands of its four brewery employees to produce high quality sake at an affordable price.

DSC_7202Each year, six of Takayama’s sake breweries will open their doors to offer brewery tours.  Kawashiri Sake Brewery is one of the participating sake makers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor 500 yen visitors can get a taste for three of Kawashiri’s sake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, we couldn’t resist to sit down for a sip of the sake in an interior full of heritage of the magnificent Takayama, the centuries old city in the Japanese Alps.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 5 (2/5): HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Unless you are a vegetarian, almost all visitors who come to Takayama would sample the Hida beef (飛騨牛), the renowned wagyu beef (和牛) famous for its fine marbling, soft texture, juicy quality and rich aroma.  Since winning the “Wagyu Olympics” in 2002, the reputation of Hida beef has risen on par with the legendary Kobe beef (神戸牛).  First introduced in the 2nd century AD from China, Japanese cattle were raised mainly as working animals until Meiji Restoration in 1868, when foreign cattle were imported into Japan and cross-bred with the local cattle to produce the four main breeds of wagyu: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn and Japanese Polled.  Out of the three strands of Japanese Black, the Tajima bloodline is probably the most well known.  Only pure Tajima bred, raised and slaughtered in Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県) will be certified as the famous Kobe beef.  In the 1980s and 1990s, Kobe beef was introduced to the world and made a huge impact for its exceptionally high quality.  Yasufuku, a bull from Hyogo Prefecture was considered to be genetically ideal for creating offspring with high quality meat.  It was introduced to the Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県) in the 1980s, and produced 39,000 offspring during its lifetime.  Yasufuku is also known as the father of Hida beef (飛騨牛).  Today, all cattle of the Hida beef are bred and raised in Gifu Prefecture.  In Takayama, there are multiple ways to appreciate the Hida beef, from high-end steakhouse to takeaway beef sashimi.

DSC_7046Opened in 2001, French Restaurant Le Midi is one of the most elegant restaurant in the city to sample Hida beef.

DSC_7048A side store of Le Midi offers takeaway snacks.

DSC_7051Custard pudding topped with local honey is one of the shop’s signature dish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther than pudding, Le Midi’s Hida beef burger is also highly popular among tourists.  The Hida beef hamburger and custard pudding were the first two snacks we tried in Takayama, and already we were quite impressed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcross the street from Midi, we also picked up a Hida beef skewer from Kyoushi (梗絲), one of the restaurants in Takayama specialized in Hida beef sushi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the imitation display of the Hida beef snacks looked mouth-watering.

DSC_7070In the historic Kamisannomachi Street, the Hida beef sushi from Hida Kotte ushi (飛驒牛壽司) is perhaps the most anticipated street snacks in Takayama.  Visitors can choose to enjoy the sushi at the seating area in the souvenir shop behind the sushi counter.

DSC_7075Hida beef sushi combo on rice crackers were truly amazing.  We finally got a taste of beef that would “melt” in the mouth.

DSC_7336Near the railway station, there are butcher shops such as Yamatake Shoten (山武商店) offering a comprehensive Hida beef experience from picking the meat to devouring the grilled meat all under one roof.

DSC_7359For dinner, we chose Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明) to have Hida beef yakiniku (焼肉).

DSC_7358At 7:15pm, we put down our names on the waiting list at Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).  In less than ten minutes a staff came out and removed the waiting list and put a sign at the front door to stop any newcomer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter an half-hour wait, a staff led us into the yakiniku dining hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered a highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) and a A5 Hida beef sirloin.  The yakiniku dinner was basically a DIY barbecue experience.

DSC_7355The highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) was full of marbling.

DSC_7354A5 Hida beef sirloin.

DSC_7357At the restaurant entrance, photos of Hida beef breeders were displayed on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABar codes of the Hida beef for the night were also on display.

DSC_7360Certifications and newspaper articles about Hida beef breeders were displayed at the shopfront of Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


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).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.

DSC_7044Our tatami room was simple and clean, with a window overlooking the city’s post office across the street.

DSC_7056Just 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the charming historic district, even the street gutter can provide a lovely picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne 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.

DSC_7058At 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).

DSC_7213At 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.

DSC_7068A 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring 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.

DSC_7080On Sannomachi Street, we walked by the beautiful gate of Fujii Folk Museum, a small museum with exhibits of artefacts and local art pieces.

DSC_7208Before heading up to the Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we stopped by a sweet bun shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sweet buns looked pretty and tasted delicious.

DSC_7085While 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.

DSC_7087What 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.

DSC_7221On our way to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we passed by another old miso shop (丸五味噌(醤油)屋).

DSC_7335After our walk up the Shiroyama Park and Higashiyama Walking Course (東山遊歩道), we finally reached the beautiful Miyagawa River (宮川).

DSC_7338The hotel staff at J-Hoppers recommended us to check out the 1200-year-old ginkgo tree (銀杏) at Kokubunji Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 37m tree is a designated natural treasure.

DSC_7349Hida 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATogether with the pagoda, the bell tower at Kokubunji Temple is also a fascinating old timber structure.

 

 

 


DAY 4 (3/3): MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28

At 2pm, we returned to Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館) to check in.  Although there were hiking trails venturing further out of Shirahone Onsen, we weren’t in a hurry to go out.  Instead, we opted for spending a relaxing time at the ryokan.  Since there weren’t any restaurants available, we made ourselves delicious local cup noodles bought at the souvenir shop on the main street.  Our room was spacious and decorated in traditional Japanese style.  The air was filled with fragrance of the tatami.  Yet the thing that delighted us the most was the large window looking out to the dense vegetation.  We ended up spending the entire afternoon reading novels, devouring local snacks and enjoying the ryokan’s hotspring bath from time to time.

IMG_6323Near the bus stop of Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉) , a sign board indicated the availability of onsen bath at each ryokan for outside users.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 2pm, we checked in at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館).  The ryokan is located adjacent to a lush green ravine.

DSC_7017Shirahone Onsen remained quiet during weekdays.   The lobby of Tsuruya Ryokan was airy but felt a little empty.

DSC_7002Our room was a comfortable Japanese style room came with traditional furnishings.

DSC_7005Through the large window, we could just stare at the lush greenery and circling insects all day long and wouldn’t get bored.

DSC_7016It was the perfect time to open a bottle of beer from the Japanese Alps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nissin cup noodles we bought from the souvenir shop came with flavor of local miso, and it was undoubtedly one of the best cup noodles we ever had.

IMG_8413Adjacent from the onsen bath, the drinking room offered two water sources: local spring and the famous milky hotspring of Shirahone Onsen.  The mineral rich onsen of Shirahone Onsen is drinkable and said to offer a number of health benefits.

IMG_8405The bath facility at Tsuruya Ryokan was neat and clean.  Outside of weekends, it is quite possible to enjoy the bath all by yourself.

IMG_8378Similar to many traditional ryokan, the indoor bath at Tsuruya Ryokan is a large wooden pool filled with the milky hotspring.

IMG_8398The outdoor pool was definitely my favorite.  It felt divine to breathe in the cool fresh air from the Mount Norikura (乗鞍岳) and enjoy the lush green scenery while submerging into the milky hotspring of Shirahone Onsen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many ryokan, dinner and breakfast were included in the booking.  For dinner, we had Hida beef sushi as one of the appetizers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYaki-zakana or grilled local fish was another tasty dish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASashimi of various types, including carp fish, was a delightful alternative to the grilled fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the next morning, we had some delicious steamed local vegetables and hotspring congee for breakfast.

IMG_8422Soap made with the milky hotspring water of Shirahone Onsen was a decent souvenir.

DSC_7038After a day of pure relaxation at Shirahone Onsen, it was time for us to get moving again.  There were only a few buses leaving the onsen village each day.  We took the 10:15am bus to leave Shirahone Onsen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe get off at Sawando Iwamidaira (さわんど岩見平) and crossed the road to wait for a bus heading to Takayama (高山), our next destination.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 4 (2/3): RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28

After two days of hiking in Kamikochi (上高地), it was time for us to take a dip into one of the famous onsens of the Japanese Alps.  Out of the many hotsprings in the region, we picked Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉) because of its unique milky water.  “Shirahone” literally means “white bone”, referring to the milky colour of the calcium carbonate rich hot spring water that resembles white bone soup.  Shirahone Onsen is located at the eastern side of Mount Norikura (乗鞍岳) in the Northern Japanese Alps, in a secluded resort village tucked away from the country road between Matsumoto and Takayama.  Public transportation to Shirahone Onsen remains scarce throughout the day, as most local visitors would go by their own cars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a 8:25am bus from Kamikochi to Sawando (沢渡) Bus Terminal and National Park Gate, where we switched bus for Shirahone Onsen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sawando (沢渡) Bus Terminal and National Park Gate serve as an access hub for Kamikochi visitors.  Due to the restrictions on private cars and tour buses, many would park their car in Sawando and hop on a shuttle bus for Kamikochi.

DSC_6989From Sawando (沢渡) Bus Terminal, our local bus drove along a river gorge and through a series of tunnels before reaching Shirahone Onsen. We get off at right at the village entrance.  Time was still too early to check in at our ryokan.  We dropped down our backpacks at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館) and ventured outside hoping to tour around the village and grab a bite.

DSC_6818Looking down to the gorge from the main village road, we were disappointed to discover the damaged public onsen bath.  Probably damaged by local flooding, it seemed the public bath would be out of service in the near future.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a Monday morning and Shirahone village was extremely quiet.  Other than a souvenir shop, almost everything was closed including the tourist office and the main restaurant.  We were fortunate to stumble upon Baikoan (煤香庵), a traditional restaurant/ hot spring facility owned by Yumoto Saito Ryokan (湯元齋藤旅館), the oldest ryokan in the village.

DSC_6820The restaurant at Baikoan was not open, though the staff kindly made us coffee and chatted with us for a bit.  He told us that outside of summer holidays, most restaurants would be closed on weekdays.  All shops and restaurants were having difficulties to find helpers.

DSC_6828The dining hall was filled with interesting objects from the area, including a small “bear”.

DSC_6831Fire pit and hanging iron pot are common household features in the Japanese Alps.

DSC_6824Suggested by the staff, we each rented a towel and tried out their outdoor onsen.

IMG_6325At Baikoan (煤香庵), we each had our first dip into the milky water of Shirahone Onsen, the famous hot spring water with minerals that were said to work wonderful things to the body.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the hot spring bath, we spent some time wandering in the village, checking out each of the buildings, small shrines, wild flowers, etc.

DSC_6844Near the village entrance, we found a long row of small stone kannons lined along a lush green wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 33 kannons were donated by visitors in the Edo Period who came to Shirahone Onsen for curing their illness.

DSC_6863Right by the main road Route 300, a series of small waterfalls known as Ryujin Falls (竜神の滝) was a little surprise.

DSC_6866Down from Route 300, we descended into a densely vegetated gorge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the bottom of the gorge, we walked onto a wooden bridge to photograph a water cascade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wooden bridge was quite wet and covered with green moss.

DSC_6931The water cascaded out from a cavern about two hundred meters from the bridge.

DSC_6994Back to the main road, we climbed up a small berm to check out a small Shinto shrine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore checking in at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), we stopped by the main village shop to get some snacks and drinks.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 


DAY 4 (1/3): TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28

Kamikochi Valley and Hida Mountains or Northern Japanese Alps are the results from a series of geological processes that began 2.6 million years ago, when the Azusa River carved out a deep valley while the adjacent mountains rose abruptly.  Further volcanic and sedimentary activities continued to transform the Kamikochi Valley until recently.  Nowhere can illustrate the dramatic transformations of Kamikochi more evidently than the Taishoike or Taisho Pond (大正池), when the eruption of Mount Yake (焼岳) in 1915 dammed the Azusa River to form the beautiful Taisho Pond.  Today, the tranquil turquoise pond right by the foot of Mount Yake has become the most popular destination in Kamikochi.

After two nights at Kamikochi, it was time for us to move on to Shirahone Onsen for a dip in its famous milky hotspring.  Before leaving Kamikochi by the 8:25am bus, we opted for our last hike to visit Taisho Pond before breakfast. We headed out at 5am.  The sky was grey compared to our previous two days.

DSC_6669Time was still early and the sun had yet risen beyond the mountains, though the air was fresh and filled with a sense of tranquility.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail to Taisho Pond soon led us into a forest.  Bear sighting was an unlikely possibility.  The last time someone saw a bear in the area was three weeks prior to our visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail led us passing through some wet and shaded forest area before reaching a wetland right by Azusa River.

DSC_6683It took us about 45 minutes to reach the Taisho Pond.  Mount Yake (焼岳), the volcano whose eruption in 1915 caused the formation of the famous pond, stood right behind the turquoise water.

DSC_6688Unfortunately, the sky was grey and the early sunlight was still weak.  The colour of Taisho Pond was not as vivid as we hoped.

DSC_6699Nonetheless, the peaceful scenery and the pleasant colour palette of Taisho Pond still looked magnificent.

DSC_6702The beautiful reflections on the mirror like water revealed how peaceful the Taisho Pond was.

DSC_6722Taisho Pond is the ideal place to admire the scenery of Mount Yake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaisho Pond seemed to provide a desirable habitat for wild ducks.

DSC_6738Fallen logs in the water dated back to the last eruption of Mount Yake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long boardwalk provides convenient access to the lookout of Taisho Pond.

DSC_6746On our return journey to Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we passed by a lush green wetland.

DSC_6747A small detour from the main path led us to the picturesque Tashiro Pond (田代池), a peaceful wetland with crystal clear water.

DSC_6762Along the way, we passed by a stubborn duck that refused to step aside from the middle of the main path.

DSC_6790Back to Nishi-itoya Mountains Lodge we had a close encounter with two Japanese macaque monkeys.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter two hours of hiking, we felt total satisfied for devouring the fantastic breakfast.

IMG_8232After two nights of delightful stay, it was time for us to check out of Nishi-itoya Mountain Lodge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it just in time to catch the 8:25am bus to Sawando (沢渡) where we would make a transfer for Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉).

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 3 (2/2): DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.27

After consulting a staff at the Visitor Centre, we decided to take the Dakesawa hike instead of climbing the Mount Yake (焼岳).  According to the national park staff, snow could be an issue even on the Dakesawa (岳沢) trail as we didn’t have snow crampons with us.  Anyhow the Dakesawa trail was still the better bet for us in comparison with Mount Yake.  We decided to go as far as the trail conditions allowed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Kappa Bridge, we walked northeast in the direction of Myojin Pond (明神池).  Soon we reached the picturesque Dakesawa Marsh (岳沢湿原), where a small path led us towards the trailhead of Dakesawa Trail.

DSC_6492At the trailhead, a sign post indicated that it would take us 2 hours to reach Dakesawa Hut.  Without snow crampons, Dakesawa Hut would probably be our destination of the hike.  From July and September, the Dakesawa Trail would be busy with hikers aiming for Mount Mae-Hodaka (前穂高岳) and Mount Oku-Hotaka (奥穂高岳).

DSC_6508The first hour of the hike was a steady uphill walk in the forest.  At midway, we reached a spot called “Wind Cavern (風穴)”, where chilly wind from uphill came down via a gully.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOut of the forest, we reached an open and rocky ravine flanked both sides by high peaks of Mount Hodaka.

DSC_6523We rested upon a pile of rocks.  The environment was perfect to devour a can of local tomato juice.

DSC_6543Down below, we could see the Kamikochi Valley, the turquoise Taisho Pond (大正池) and the Akandanayama (アカンダナ山).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the last half hour, snow began to appear on the trail.  The snow was slippery but we managed to climb up step by step.

DSC_6576We met several groups of hikers along the way, including a group of visually impaired hikers and their attentive guides.

DSC_6585Finally, after rough 670m of elevation gain, we arrived at Dakesawa Hut.  At 2,216m above sea level, the hut was the highest point for our hike.  Nested in the embrace of the Hodaka peaks, the hut enjoyed fine views of the surrounding mountains and Kamikochi Valley down below.  A few staff were making repairs here and there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe notice board at Dakesawa Hut provided information on trail conditions and other useful notes for hikers.  From Dakesawa Hut, it would be another 4 hours of steep hiking towards the junction of Mount Mae-Hodaka (前穂高岳) and Oku-Hotaka (奥穂高岳).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside the hut, there was a small eatery and souvenir shop.

DSC_6590We gratefully sat down and ordered curry for lunch.  The menu was simple and slightly pricey, due to the fact that all food up here were transported by helicopter from down below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the desk, chairs and benches offered hikers a lovely spot for rest.

DSC_6605The helipad nearby was essential as most provisions at the hut were transported by helicopter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABehind the hut, reaching the peaks of Mount Hotaka would take another 4 hours of hiking at least.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took the same route for the descend.

DSC_6639Too bad we didn’t encounter any wildlife during the hike.  With the lovely scenery and pleasant hiking experience, Dakesawa trail offered us a decent introduction to the magnificent alpine scenery at Kamikochi.

DSC_6652It took us less time returning to the trailhead at Dakesawa Marsh (岳沢湿原).

DSC_6659A zigzagging boardwalk took us to a small deck at Dakesawa Marsh (岳沢湿原).  We sat down at the edge of the deck to admire the alpine scenery.  A leisure stroll took us back to Nishi-ito-ya Mountain Lodge, where the refreshing hot bath awaited for our return.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 3 (1/2): MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.27

Dawn came before 5am.  Taking a walk in Kamikochi before most tourists came out was a charming experience.  Walking southwest along the serene Azusa River before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル), a small metal plaque at a small water pond reminded us the early mountaineering history in Kamikochi back in the late 19th century.  Known as the Weston Memorial, the bronze plaque was made in honour of Walter Weston, whom many referred to as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan.”

Before the late 19th century, the Japanese Alps was largely unknown to the Western world, and climbing mountains just for fun was a non-existence.  Employed by the Meiji government, English surveyor William Gowland became the first foreigner to summit Mount Yari (槍ヶ岳) of the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈) in 1878.  His adventure started a trend of mountaineering in Japan and was the first person to coin the term “Japanese Alps (日本アルプス)”.  In 1891, English missionary Walter Weston also climbed Mount Yari.  Sometimes referred as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan”, Walter Weston wrote about his experiences and published “Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japan Alps”, an important travel literature that promoted this part of Japan to the Western world.  He continued to adopt also Gowland’s term “Japanese Alps” in his publications, and established the first Japanese Alpine Club in 1905.  Each year, the Weston Memorial Festival takes place in Kamikochi to commemorate Walter Weston.

DSC_6392Walking at 5am along Azusa River was a lovely experience.  The charming scenery under the early morning sun gave us an uplifting spirit.

DSC_6394The turquoise water of Azusa River led us southwest towards the volcano Mount Yake.

DSC_6403It seemed that our fortune with perfect weather continued.

DSC_6407The rising sun was behind us as we moved along the river in a leisure pace.

DSC_6410The volcano Mount Yake in the distance was our intended hiking destination later in the day.

DSC_6424Before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel, we came across the bronze plaque of Walter Weston.  The memorial could be reached via stepping stones in the pond.

DSC_6435Soon we reached a path that led to the trailhead of Mount Yake (焼岳).  The trail up to Mount Yake (焼岳) can be done in a 6 hour hike (round trip).  It was our intended destination for later today.  But our hotel manager said the snow conditions on the trail was not too convincing, and recommended us to do the day hike of Dakesawa (岳沢) instead.

DSC_6437Continuing south we reached the Tashiro Bridge (田代橋), where we had a fine view of Azusa River, Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル) and the mountains beyond.  Crossing the bridge, we began to turn back towards Kappa Bridge.

DSC_6454Along the riverside, there were occasional park benches and tables where hikers were enjoying outdoor breakfast.

IMG_6100On our way back, the rising sunlight finally reached the summits of Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).

DSC_6469Before the arrival of tour groups, hikers can enjoy a moment of tranquility in the early morning.

DSC_6476Looking at Mount Yake (焼岳) from Kappa Bridge, we decided to drop by the Visitor Centre to ask for their advice on the trail conditions of Mount Yake.

DSC_6477If the hike up Mount Yake was not possible, we would turn to the Dakesawa (岳沢) trail going up the slope towards Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).

DSC_6486At the Visitor Centre, the staff confirmed that the trail up Mount Yake was still quite snowy at the upper section.  Unless we had snow crampons they advised us not to go for the volcano.  They said even the Dakesawa trail could be covered by snow at the upper sections, so we could go as far as we could accordingly to the trail conditions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack at Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we enjoyed our scheduled breakfast at 7am.  It was a tasty and filling meal before we embarked onto the hike up to Dakesawa Hut.


DAY 2 (5/5): ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.26

Sometimes referred to as Japan’s Yosemite, Kamikochi (上高地) in the Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園) is a picturesque valley in the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈) or Northern Japan Alps.  With an altitude of 1500m and a length of 18km, Kamikochi is bounded by Mount Hotaka (穂高岳, 3190m) to the north and volcano Mount Yake (焼岳, 2455m) to the south.  The turquoise water of Azusa River (梓川) flows through Kamikochi and passed under the famous Kappa Bridge (河童橋) where most tourists gather when they arrive.  Chubu Sangaku National Park was established in 1934 for natural conservation.  As the crown jewel of the national park, Kamikochi sits in the midst of alpine peaks, marshlands and hiking trails.

Most visitors come to Kamikochi from Matsumoto (松本) or Takayama (高山).  A traffic regulation was introduced in 1975 to prohibit tourists to enter Kamikochi in their own cars.  Most visitors arrive in Kamikochi by bus, either directly from a nearby town or from a bus stop next to one of the many parking lots along the main road.  A wide range of accommodation options are available in Kamikochi, from campsites to luxurious resort hotels.  We chose a mid-range mountain lodge called Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge (西糸屋山荘) near the Kappa Bridge.  At the heart of Kamikochi, Kappa Bridge (河童橋) is the most important landmark in the valley.  First built in 1891, today’s Kappa Bridge is the fifth iteration of the original.  There are eateries, souvenir shops and convenient stores at either side of the bridge for hikers to stock up supplies and fill up their tummies.

DSC_6277We were delighted to arrive in Kamikochi in perfect weather.  We immediately fell in love with the crystal clear water of Azusa River (梓川).

DSC_6257Just a few minutes walk from the bus station, we arrived at the famous Kappa Bridge (河童橋).  In Kamikochi, the bridge serves as the most important landmark.

DSC_6252Standing at the Kappa Bridge, the iconic view of Mount Hotaka (穂高岳) and Azusa River (梓川) was quite impressive.

DSC_6253Looking out Kappa Bridge to the opposite side from Mount Hotaka, we could see the mighty volcano Mount Yake (焼岳).

DSC_6283Shops right by the Kappa Bridge carry everything from snacks to souvenir.  We got ourselves local yogurt, juice and beer for the night.

DSC_6331A few minutes walk from Kappa Bridge, we arrived at Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge (西糸屋山荘) where we would stay for two nights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took off our shoes at the vestibule and left them in the shoe storage room.

DSC_6807The spacious lobby of Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge was mainly finished in wood.  A heater near the reception reminded us that it could get quite cool after sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext to the lobby there was a small cafe and souvenir shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the upper level, we had high anticipation for the common baths, where users could enjoy the hot mineral bath and magnificent views of the snow capped Hodaka Mountains at the same time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince 7am in the morning, we departed from Shinjuku Station of Tokyo, made a whirlwind tour of Matsumoto and hopped onto a train followed by a bus into the Hida Mountains, and at last arrived at our hotel room in Kamikochi in the late afternoon.

DSC_6243The private room in Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge (西糸屋山荘) was clean and spacious.  The setting was relaxing and the room was filled with fragrant of the tatami flooring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt about 18:30, we went downstairs to the dining hall for dinner.

DSC_6338Just like many hotels in Kamikochi, the food served by Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge mainly came from the surrounding area.

DSC_6382After dinner, it was time to shoot some night photos.  Unfortunately, the moon was already up and relatively bright.

DSC_6377Tourists still gathered at the Kappa Bridge despite the darkness.

DSC_6374Standing on the Kappa Bridge, the picturesque view of Kamikochi was enhanced by the lights from lodges along the river.

DSC_6358Despite the bright moon, we could still see some stars at the darker areas in the sky.

DSC_6363I set up the tripod facing Dakesawa (岳沢) and Mount Hotaka (穂高岳) to capture the starry night.

DSC_6347Dakesawa (岳沢), Mount Hotaka (穂高岳) and a bend of Azusa River (梓川) gave us the perfect image of Kamikochi.

 

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 2 (4/5): FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.26

With a population of less than 250,000, peaceful Matsumoto (松本市) is renowned for its beautiful mountain views, in particular the Hida Mountains to the west.  Coming from Tokyo, we could immediately sense the relaxing air of the mountain city as we stepped out the train station.  We spent 5 hours in Matsumoto, visiting the castle, art museum, and performing arts centre.  All three sites were within walking distance from the train station, and we were able to cover everything on foot.  Near the castle, we passed by small weekend markets where vendors were selling snacks, handicrafts, straw hats, accessories, local produces, artworks, etc.  Our brief stay in Matsumoto provided us a moment of transition between busy Tokyo and tranquil Kamikochi (上高地) in the Japanese Alps.

DSC_5957At 09:40 we arrived at Matsumoto Station (松本駅) by JR East’s Super Azusa.

DSC_5958It was Saturday morning.  Most shops near the station had yet open their doors except this sake store.  Sake, the popular Japanese rice wine, is in fact quite famous in Nagano Prefecture, where clean water, good sake rice and cool weather can be found.

DSC_6062With red polka dots all over, the Town Sneaker bus is undoubtedly designed by Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生), the world renowned artist from Matsumoto.  This inner city loop service is a convenient way for tourists to get around the city.

DSC_5962In front of the newly opened Shinmai Media Garden, a lively street market captured our attention.  Designed by Toyo Ito, Shinmai Media Garden is a shopping centre with an interesting trade mix, including a local beer restaurant, cultural workshops, rooftop cafe, restaurants, apple cider shop, lifestyle store, small exhibition spaces, etc.

DSC_6066At the street market, we could find different local products from handicrafts to snacks.

DSC_6064Even doughnuts were made with local ingredients.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStraw broom (houki) of Matsumoto (松本箒) is a famous traditional handicraft of the city since the late Edo Period 150 years ago.

DSC_5964This minimalist building right by the Metoba River is a small retail complex with a barber shop, restaurants, and fashion boutiques.

DSC_5966Behind the retail complex stands the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, which hosts a collection of timepieces donated by Chikazo Honda and other local citizens.

DSC_5967Nawate Dori, also called Kaeru Machi or “Frog Street”, is a small street near the castle famous for its traditional shops.  Frog sculptures can be found along Nawate Dori.  Made by students of Tokyo University for Arts, this sculpture of frog samurai is one the most impressive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome say the abundance of frog sculptures at Nawate Dori is a result from the typhoon incident in 1959, which flooded the area and forced the original Kajika frogs of the Metoba River leaving for higher ground and never returned.  The frog sculptures have since become replacements to retain the original spirit of the place.

DSC_6061The streets of Matsumoto were full of surprises.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe abundance of nice boutiques and delightful cafes at downtown Matsumoto reveals the youthful energy and desire for a cozy lifestyle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMatsumoto has a decent student population with its universities, junior colleges, secondary and elementary schools.

DSC_6214At 14:45, we hopped on the Alpico Kotsu’s Kamikochi Line at platform No. 7 at the station.  The 14.4km train ride took us as far as Shin Shimashima (新島々駅) in half an hour, from where we switched to the Kamikochi bound bus for the final leg of the journey.

IMG_6011At Matsumoto Station, we picked up two bento boxes from a convenient store.  They were tasty and decent looking, perfect for a relaxing train ride.

DSC_6227As soon as we stepped out of Shin Shimashima Station (新島々駅), we could see the bus parked outside.  It was a smooth transfer as we boarded the direct bus for Kamikochi.

DSC_6230On the way to Kamikochi, we often passed by picturesque rice paddies.

DSC_6233_01The bus ride took about 60 minutes through mountain valleys and small villages.  All we could hope for was pleasant weather in Kamikochi, where we would make day hikes to explore the mountains.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 


DAY 2 (3/5): MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本), Japan, 2018.05.26

Two years ago in April 2016, Pritzker Prize winner Toyo Ito (伊東豊雄) came to Hong Kong for a public lecture.  His recently completed Taichung Metropolitan Opera House was the main focus on that day, but Ito also introduced some of his earlier works, including the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre (まつもと市民芸術館).  With its spatial fluidity and random windows on the curving outer walls, the Matsumoto project has strongly imprinted onto our memory.  Completed in 2004, the Matsumoto Performing Arts Center is consisted of two performance halls: the great hall (1800 seats) and the smaller hall (240 seats), rehearsal studios, supporting facilities, a cafe, and a reception lobby, all connected by a ribbon-like foyer and a splendid staircase, allowing visitors to freely flow through different spaces.  The performing arts centre was famous not only for its aesthetics, but also its quality as a community theatre, providing a great place for both the audience and performers.  This, to a great extent, was the fruitful result from close collaborations during the design process between architect Toyo Ito and stage director-actor Kazuyoshi Kushida.

Despite our limited time in the city, we just couldn’t leave Matsumoto without checking out Ito’s building.  We were eager to have a firsthand experience of the fluid spatial experience, check out the delicate construction detailing, and admire the lovely finish materials.  The performance halls were closed for the public, but we could still freely wander in the common areas, from the grand entrance staircase to the lovely roof garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre is just a few minutes walk from Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom outside, the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre bends along a side street to the dark grey fly tower.

DSC_6131The expression of fluidity seems to be the coherent design language of the building.  Patterns of flowing water appears on some metal panels near the building entrance.

DSC_6133The magical experience of the architecture begins right from the dramatic entry into the entrance lobby and grand staircase.

DSC_6138A moving walkway along the beautiful outer wall of random openings, where diffused natural light is allowed to enter the interior.

DSC_6140In a magazine interview, Toyo Ito describes the curved facade with windows of sparkling pattern can give the impression of being random and natural rather than geometrically based.

DSC_6155From a distance, the facade of random windows appears like a translucent screen of sparkling gemstones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring daytime, the foyer serves as a indoor public space.  The public is free to enter and climb the stair to the upper foyer.

DSC_6143A screen of translucent glass serves as a balustrade for the upper foyer.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the upper foyer, there is a large glazed wall allowing visitors to take in the view of greenery outside.

DSC_6145The curvature of the outer walls extends all the way to the back foyer of the grand hall.  While the outer wall are defined by the random windows, the walls of the performance halls in the foyer are cladded by dark metal panels.

DSC_6149On the upper foyer, there are several two groups of organic shaped seating under spotlight.

DSC_6150Between the grand and smaller halls, the foyer offers a pleasant space for pre-function activities under the carefully designed ambient lighting.

DSC_6182There is a causal cafe at the end of the foyer next to the smaller hall.  The adjacent glass elevator provides a convenient way to access the above roof garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flat roof is covered entirely by vegetation.  Both the lawn and the continuous bench along the railing offer pleasant seating to the public.

DSC_6173The roof garden ends at a dance rehearsal studio and the fly tower of the grand hall.

DSC_6167From the roof garden, visitors can enjoy the skyline of Matsumoto and the scenery of Hida Mountains (Northern Japanese Alps) beyond.

DSC_6195After touring the roof garden and upper foyer, we descended back to the ground floor.

DSC_6203We were delighted to have make it to see Ito’s great piece of architecture.  From the performing arts centre, it was a 15-minute walk back to Matsumoto Station for us to embark into the countryside of the Northern Japanese Alps.

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)

 

 


DAY 2 (2/5): “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本), Japan, 2018.05.26

First appeared in 1966, the stainless steel balls floating in the natural flow of pond water of Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生)’s “Narcissus Garden” was a remarkable landscape art piece that we saw in 2013 at Inhotim, an outdoor art museum and botanical garden near Belo Horizonte of Brazil.  During the same trip, we went on to see her retrospective show “Obsesión infinita [Infinite Obsession]” at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro.  It was an mind-blowing experience to enter Yayoi Kusama’s world of polka dots for the first time.  Four and a half years has passed.  This time, we were fortunate to swing by Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama’s birthplace, on our way to the Japanese Alps and got a chance to see her latest show at the city’s art museum.  Since its grand opening in 2003, Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館) has held three Yayoi Kusama’s shows.  With 180 pieces in display, “All About My Love (私の愛のすべて) has become the fourth show for the famous daughter of Matsumoto.

Born in 1929 and raised in Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama is a prolific artist with a career spanning many decades.  Since the age of 10, Yayoi Kusama experienced hallucinations of light flashes, auras, or dense fields of dots.  These vivid imagery has since become a powerful source of inspirations for many of her works.  In her childhood, she was also inspired by the smooth and fluid forms of white river stones near her home, which has led to another major influence in her works.  Yayoi Kusama began exhibiting her works in Japan in 1950s.  In 1957 at the age of 27, she moved to the United States to pursue greater freedom and respect for an avant-garde woman artist.  She stayed in the US from 1957 to 1972, based mainly in New York City.  In New York, she soon became an active member in the circle of avant-garde artists, befriended many artists and activists of her era, produced paintings, art installations, performance art, photography, and films, involved in a number of social movements including anti-war protests and opened a naked painting studio and a gay social club.  She stood at the forefront of the avant-garde art scene and held exhibitions/ performances in established venues such as MoMA and the Venice Biennale.  In 1973, she fell ill and returned to Japan.  She checked into Tokyo’s Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill in 1977, and has stayed there since then.  After leaving New York, she was soon forgotten in the international art scene until the early 1990s, when retrospective shows and large outdoor installations revived international interest in her works.  Some notable pieces included the 1993 Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where she created a mirrored room filled with small pumpkin sculptures, and soon later, huge yellow pumpkin sculptures covered with black dots (representing a kind of her alter-ego) emerged around the world, and so as various reiterations of “Narcissus Garden” around the world.  In recent years, collaborations with commercial labels such as Louis Vuitton and Lancome have further brought the veteran avant-garde back in the limelight.

DSC_6129It was just a  20-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle to Matsumoto City Museum of Art.  The museum building was covered with the trademark of Yayoi Kusama, the Queen of Polka Dots.