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.
The 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.
It was delightful to start the day with a close encounter with a wooden Daikokuten or the God of Luck near the Kaji Bashi Bridge.
Colourful 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).
Originally 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.
It was a pleasant scene to have a few rows of colourful koinobori over the calm water of Miyagawa River (宮川).
Some 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.
Time was still quite early and there weren’t that many visitors around.
We would have to imagine if it was a little later in the day and with finer weather, the market would be much busier.
We would love to get some local produces but we just couldn’t bring them along with us for the rest of the trip.
An 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.
Seven-favored spices is a famous local product. We got a mini bag of spices from the old lady.
After 7am, more stalls were opened as well as the souvenir shops along the opposite side of the pedestrian walkway.
A 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.
An 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.
Local honey vendor was about to open his stall.
Our first snack at the market was the takoyaki or octopus dumplings.
Watching how the takoyaki was made by the vendor was an interesting event in itself.
After takoyaki, we moved to the next stall for fish-shaped mini cakes with various sweet paste.
The 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!
Steady 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).
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.
Opened in 2001, French Restaurant Le Midi is one of the most elegant restaurant in the city to sample Hida beef.
A side store of Le Midi offers takeaway snacks.
Custard pudding topped with local honey is one of the shop’s signature dish.
Other 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.
Across 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.
Even the imitation display of the Hida beef snacks looked mouth-watering.
In 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.
Hida beef sushi combo on rice crackers were truly amazing. We finally got a taste of beef that would “melt” in the mouth.
Near 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.
For dinner, we chose Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明) to have Hida beef yakiniku (焼肉).
At 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.
After an half-hour wait, a staff led us into the yakiniku dining hall.
We 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.
The highest grade Hida beef (最とび飛騨牛) was full of marbling.
A5 Hida beef sirloin.
At the restaurant entrance, photos of Hida beef breeders were displayed on the wall.
Bar codes of the Hida beef for the night were also on display.
Certifications and newspaper articles about Hida beef breeders were displayed at the shopfront of Hidagyu Maruaki (丸明).
Surrounded by mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山) or simply Takayama (高山) is a delightful destination for all tourists who have make the effort coming to the central mountainous region of Honshu. Takayama serves well as the base for travelers to visit the surrounding attractions, from Kamikochi and the Japanese Alps to the east, to the gassho-zukuri villages of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) to the north. Takayama is best known for its morning market at Miyagawa River (宮川), high quality sake and world famous Hida beef, but the most remarkable thing for most visitors is how well the historic Sanmachi Suji District (三町筋) has been preserved. Wandering in the historic heart of Takayama makes us felt like going back in time to the Edo Period (1600-1868, 江戸時代), when the city was a wealthy and prosperous merchant city. On the other hand, a visit to the castle ruins at Shiroyama Park (城山公園) on the mountain next to the historical centre reminded us the city’s shogunate past in the Sengoku Period (1467-1568, 戦国時代).
We arrived at Takayama from Shirahone Onsen at around 12:30pm. Our hotel J-Hoppers Guesthouse was just a few minutes away from the railway station.
Our tatami room was simple and clean, with a window overlooking the city’s post office across the street.
Just a short walk from J-Hoppers brought us to Sanmachi Suji (三町筋), the historic district that most tourists linger when they come to Takayama. Most tourists wandered around Sannomachi Street, the atmospheric street flanked by old timber houses.
In the charming historic district, even the street gutter can provide a lovely picture.
One of the most enjoyable activities to wander around Sanmachi Suji District is to sample the diverse local snacks, from beef croquettes to mochi. The rice cracker of Senbeidou (手焼煎餅堂) on Sannomachi Street is also popular with tourists.
At Sanmachi Suji, one of the most popular shop we encountered was Ohnoya Paste Shop (大のや醸造). Ohnoya had been around in Takayama for the past 250 years selling soy sauce (醤油) and miso paste (味噌).
At Ohnoya, we bought a bag of aka miso (red miso 赤味噌), a bottle of yonen (4 years) shoyu, a soy sauce made from aka miso, and a bottle of kibiki shoyu, a special soy sauce made with a traditional recipe.
A poster on a shopfront reminded us the famous Takayama Matsuri or Takayama Festival. Held annually in spring and autumn, Takayama Festival (高山祭) is often considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals.
During the Takayama Festival, the city’s splendid festival floats (yatai) would be paraded throughout the historic streets. Throughout the year, the floats are stored in special storehouses scattered across the old town.
On Sannomachi Street, we walked by the beautiful gate of Fujii Folk Museum, a small museum with exhibits of artefacts and local art pieces.
Before heading up to the Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we stopped by a sweet bun shop.
The sweet buns looked pretty and tasted delicious.
While wandering the historic centre, we passed by the interesting Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館). Named as one of Takayama’s top attractions in Lonely Planet, the museum showcased objects dated back from the mid 1950’s to 1960’s Japan.
What looked like an antique shop across from Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館) was in fact a hairdresser (バーバー文助) decorated in a vintage look.
On our way to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we passed by another old miso shop (丸五味噌(醤油)屋).
After our walk up the Shiroyama Park and Higashiyama Walking Course (東山遊歩道), we finally reached the beautiful Miyagawa River (宮川).
The hotel staff at J-Hoppers recommended us to check out the 1200-year-old ginkgo tree (銀杏) at Kokubunji Temple.
The 37m tree is a designated natural treasure.
Hida Kokubunji Temple (飛騨国分寺) was originally built in 764 AD by Emperor Shoumu. Over the years, the structures had been reconstructed. The three-storey pagoda was rebuilt in 1821 to replace the earlier five-storey pagoda that was itself a replacement of the original seven-storey pagoda.
Together with the pagoda, the bell tower at Kokubunji Temple is also a fascinating old timber structure.
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.
At 09:40 we arrived at Matsumoto Station (松本駅) by JR East’s Super Azusa.
It 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.
With 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.
In 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.
At the street market, we could find different local products from handicrafts to snacks.
Even doughnuts were made with local ingredients.
Straw broom (houki) of Matsumoto (松本箒) is a famous traditional handicraft of the city since the late Edo Period 150 years ago.
This minimalist building right by the Metoba River is a small retail complex with a barber shop, restaurants, and fashion boutiques.
Behind the retail complex stands the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, which hosts a collection of timepieces donated by Chikazo Honda and other local citizens.
Nawate 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.
Some 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.
The streets of Matsumoto were full of surprises.
The abundance of nice boutiques and delightful cafes at downtown Matsumoto reveals the youthful energy and desire for a cozy lifestyle.
Matsumoto has a decent student population with its universities, junior colleges, secondary and elementary schools.
At 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.
At Matsumoto Station, we picked up two bento boxes from a convenient store. They were tasty and decent looking, perfect for a relaxing train ride.
As 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.
On the way to Kamikochi, we often passed by picturesque rice paddies.
The 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.
Due to the fact that this world-largest fish market is running out of space for future development, and that the site of the existing Inner Wholesale Market is sitting on prime real estate land, the Tsukiji Inner Market or Jonai Shijo (築地中央卸売市場) is scheduled to be relocated to Toyosu (豊洲) in this October. Handling over 2000 tons of seafood per day and employed over 60,000 staff, relocating the Tsukiji Inner Market is no small feat. Not catered for public visitors and tourists, the wholesale area is not an ideal place to wander around. No tourists are allowed before 11am according to the rules, and there is a limited number of quota for watching the famous tuna auction before dawn. Outside of the wholesale area, a few small lanes of restaurants are extremely popular with tourists. There are about two dozens of small sushi restaurants serving fresh fish just a stone throw away from the wholesale area. No wonder the most popular restaurants such as Sushi Dai (寿司大) and Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司) are infamously known for the long queues, with some bloggers mentioning in the range of one to three hours of wait.
This time, we didn’t enter the wholesale area of the Inner Market. We didn’t want to stand in the way of the busy staff.
We walked to the lanes of eateries and sushi bars to hunt for a place for breakfast.
Japanese grilled omelette or tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) could also be found in the Inner Market area.
In 2014, we came to the Inner Market in early morning and had a bowl of chirashi for breakfast.
Other than chirashi and sushi, there were also other options such as curry and tempura.
The line for Sushi Dai went all the way to the other side of the building out onto the adjacent lane. It seemed like a two hour wait at least.
This time, we picked Daiwa Sushi (大和寿司). Daiwa Sushi occupies two stores so we thought the queue wouldn’t be too long. We wouldn’t mind queuing for a while to have a chance to taste the fresh nigirizushi or hand pressed sushi (握り寿司) from Tsukiji Market.
At the door of Daiwa Sushi, a staff was responsible to monitor the queue and direct the entering customers when seats became available in the restaurant.
Through the window, we could see a senior itamae (chef) and his apprentices busy preparing nigirizushi for customers.
We ended up queuing for a little over an hour before finding ourselves sitting at the bar seats of Daiwa Sushi.
The interior was down to earth. We sat by the corner right by a photo depicting the catch of a huge tuna.
There was only one nigirizushi (握り寿司) set option to order. Nothing fancy about the sushi, but the freshness of the fish and the vibrant market atmosphere made all the wait worthwhile.
After the sushi breakfast, we hopped to Aiyo Cafe next door for a cup of coffee.
The interior of Aiyo revealed a strong vintage atmosphere.
The entire shop seemed frozen in time since mid 20th century.
The staff were very friendly and spoke some English.
We had a good time exchange a few words with them while taking a short coffee break. After all, we were a little sleepy after the red-eye flight.
At another lane there were restaurants that offered Western cuisine. We thought of trying but were too full after the sushi breakfast.
We walked by an interesting sliding door panel leaning against a low wall outside the row of restaurants that offered Western food. Was the move to Toyosu already underway for some restaurant owners we did not know.
Judging from the mini figure that actually moved continuously as if devouring a bowl of delicious noodles, the door might belong to a ramen restaurant. After the sushi and coffee, we decided to move on to Roppongi for a dose of design culture.
Walking out of Tsukiji Metro Station, our attention immediately fell to the monumental Tsukiji Honganji Temple (築地本願寺) across the street. Design in mixed styles including Indian Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu, as well as Western Neoclassical influences, architect and Tokyo University professor Chuta Ito intended to steer away from the traditional East Asian timber architectural traditions. Instead, he traveled to India numerous times to visit temples, and brought home design touches from the birthplace of Buddhism. The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed the temple’s predecessor. The current Honganji Temple was built in the 1930s, and soon became a prominent Jodo Shinshu (浄土真宗) temple in Tokyo. We climbed the main stair and entered the main hall through an elegant doorway with beautiful stain-glass transom windows overhead. We were surprised to see a full house of audience in the cathedral-like main hall (even with an organ). Apparently there was a concert going on. A female vocalist was performing some kind of Western opera inside the temple.
The unique facade of Tsukiji Honganji Temple hardly revealed its true identity of to us.
The elegant stain glass transom over the doorway depict the Buddhist icon of lotus flowers.
There was a concert inside the main hall of Tsukiji Honganji Temple.
The architecture of Tsukiji Honganji Temple presents the trend of cultural fusion back in early 20th century.
Across the street adjacent to the Tsukiji Honganji Temple, we picked a small lane leading into Tsukiji Jogai Shijo (築地場外市場) or the Outer Market. Encompassing a few blocks adjacent to the Tsukiji Jonai Shijo or the Inner Market, the Outer Market is a popular tourism attraction. Catered for the public, small shops selling all kinds of culinary-related goods from dried seafood to kitchen knives and food stalls offering a wide range of snacks such as sushi and grilled egg, the pedestrianized lanes of the Outer Market is truly a foodie’s paradise. On this piece of reclaimed land (Tsukiji literally means reclaimed land), the eateries and shops of the Outer Market had long been providing a diverse range of food to the people of Tokyo since the Showa Era (1926-1989). The entire Tsukiji Market was in fact a consequence of the Great Kanto Earthquake, which devastated Central Tokyo in 1923 including the Nihonbashi Fish Market. The fish market was relocated to Tsukiji and began to operate in 1935 as one of the three major markets in the city. Already the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, the Tsukiji Market is running out of space for further development. Work of relocating the market has been undergoing for sometime. After several delays, it seems that the market is really moving to its new home in Toyosu (豊洲) this October. But that didn’t affect the bustling Outer Market as these few blocks of shops and eateries (and the loads of tourists) would likely to stay even after the move.
Street vendors appeared blocks away from the Tsukiji Market just outside the Metro Station.
A large fish painted on the building facade probably reminds tourists the direction of the market.
A relatively new market called “Tsuki Waza” will remain at Tsukiji even after the relocation of Tsukiji Inner Market.
The Tsukiji Outer Market is consisted of a few pedestrianized streets of shops and restaurants.
Katsuobushi (鰹節) is the dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna or bonito flakes commonly seen in Japanese cuisine.
Akiyama Shouten (秋山商店) specializes in katsuobushi. We couldn’t resist but got ourselves 500g of the flakes.
There are many small shops with all kinds of dried seafood and seaweed.
While it only occupies a few blocks, one can easily get disoriented in Tsukiji Outer Market.
Apart from the small shops, there are also indoor shopping arcades of food stalls.
We ended up get our first snacks from a street BBQ vendor.
Apart from seafood, spices can also be found in the Outer Market.
Tamagoyaki (玉子焼き) or grilled omelette is another popular snacks available at Tsukiji.
We saw about four to five stalls specialized in tamagoyaki. We tried two of them and they both tasted good.
After free tasting of black beans from Kyoto region we ended up get a pack home.
After all, tuna is still the king in Tsukiji. Quite a long queue of people were waiting for fresh tuna sashimi in front of this shop.
New indoor shopping arcades have been established in recent years at the Outer Market, perhaps as a gesture of confidence for the future of Tsukiji after the relocation of the wholesale Inner Market later this year.
After watching the sunrise over Old Bagan, we returned to Oasis Hotel for breakfast. Soon, our guide Win Thu came to join us and we headed off once again to explore the Bagan area. Before another series of pagoda hopping, our day’s first destination was the local market of Nyaung-U. As the main transportation and commercial hub of Bagan, the market of the river town Nyaung-U is a gathering point for the locals. Many locals from the surrounding villages would come for grocery and daily needs. Nyaung-U market offers travelers a great spot to learn about the daily lives of the locals.
We started our market stroll at the open wet market section.
It was great to see all the fresh produces from the area, as well as the smiles and laughter of the vendors.
Apart from produces, colourful flowers were also available.
Our eyes were overwhelmed by all shades of green.
Several kids were enjoying themselves behind the vendor stalls.
There were several vendors selling thanaka powder, a yellowish-white paste made from ground tree bark of thanaka trees. Thanaka powder is a very popular cosmetic paste which the local Burmese women put on their faces.
Moving away from the open area, we walked into the covered aisles.
The aisles were narrow and busy.
Also for sale included betel leaves, which the locals used to make paan shots with Areca nut and/or tobacco.
Bamboo shoots is a common ingredients for local cuisine.
A quiet corner of the covered market.
Some vendors had to attend to their stall and baby at the same time.
Many vendors were also having their meals at the stalls.
This shop had all kinds of dried fish.
In the dry goods area, merchandise such as clothing and slippers were sold along with spices.
In the covered area, there was also a small eatery.
Heading out to the open area where we arrived, we passed by more stalls selling local produces and spices.
Apart from temple and pagoda hopping, the Nyaung-U market certainly added an unique experience to our visit of Bagan.
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Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:
Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT
Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U
Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR