Kyoto to Takayama
Takayama is a feudal onsen (hot spring) town in central Honshu, west of the Japan Alps, about 260km northeast of Kyoto (3hr 24min, ¥9,180). We checked out of our hotel and caught a taxi to Kyoto Station with our luggage. Then we caught the JR Tokaido shinkansen (Hikari or Kodama; 35-45min, several trains per hour) to Nagoya, and transferred to the Hida Wide View Express to Takayama (JRPass), 140min, 1 train per hour during daylight hours.
When we arrived in Takayama, it was raining quite heavily. From the station, we walked 250m to our hotel, and left our luggage in the foyer because it was too early to check-in. We crossed the road to a small restaurant, Nanten, to eat lunch – the service was very friendly and the meal was pleasant, simple, and homely. We stayed at the Super Hotel Hida, a business hotel, that serves Japanese buffet breakfast in a communal area on the ground floor, on a first-come first-served basis. Check-in: 15:00-00:00; Check-out: 10:00. Facilities: Visa, luggage storage, coin laundry. Our room was small, but had an ensuite bathroom.
We had dinner at Suzuya, a popular restaurant in a traditional wooden building, a few blocks from our hotel. We enjoyed several local regional dishes. Hoba miso: miso paste with vegetables, local Hida beef and vegetable, grilled on a hoba (magnolia) leaf, and sansai miso nabe – local wild vegetables cooked in a miso flavoured broth.
The next day, following breakfast in the hotel, we took a 15 minute bus-ride from Takayama Station, to the Matsuri-no-Mori a modern festival museum built into the side of a hill, in a rural area. It is open from 9:00-17:00, entry fee ¥1,000. Sarubobo Bus provides hourly connections for ¥210 per ride or ¥620 for a day pass. It’s a wonderful museum. There’s a long corridor that houses huge drums and glass cabinets with puppets that have strings to the outside so people can pull them to move the puppets. At the end of the corridor is a cavernous dark room that houses the festival floats. In turn, they light up and their automata perform.
From the elevated location of the museum, we could look out over farms just below, and across villages to the mountains in the distance, while we waited for the bus. From the bus we could see the snow-capped mountains of the Japanese Alps.
Hida no Sato
From Takayama Bus Centre next to Takayama Station, it is a 10 minute bus ride to Hida no Sato, an outdoor museum with more than 30 buildings from the 1600-1800s, moved from different parts of the Hida region, to form a ‘folk village’ around a large pond with a swan, ducks, and koi. It is open from 8:30-17:00; ¥700. A Crafts Experience Centre, open from 10:00-16:00 holds demonstrations of traditional farm life and local crafts, such as quilting, wood carving, weaving, ceramics, and roof shingles.
From Hida no Sato, there is a panoramic view across Takayama to the peaks of the Japanese Alps.
We bought some really delicious locally dried fruit at the shop next to the bus stop before heading back to Takayama city centre.
The following day, we spent the morning in Takayama’s old town before catching the train to Kanazawa.
From Takayama Station, we walked one block north to Kokubunji-dori Street, and then walked east, across the Miyagawa River, for about 20 minutes to the Old Town of beautifully preserved traditional wooden houses built during the Edo Period (1600-1868).
On ekimae chuo dori, there is a confectionery shop and tea house, Fuijiyahanaikada (富士屋 花筏), in a traditional wooden building with a small garden. Inside, there is a traditional space for the tea ceremony, juxtaposed with modern Scandinavian-style furniture. It is a beautiful peaceful environment. We enjoyed it so much, we visited twice. Brad tried matcha and I had roasted green tea Hōjicha with traditional confectionery.
We visited a temple with a giant ginkgo tree and other temples before they opened. We walked through the morning markets by the river that sell fruit, vegetables, pickles, crafts, sweets, and souvenirs.
We stopped to admire the huge koi and ducks in the Miyazawa River
As we walked through the old town streets, we saw persimmons and other produce hanging to dry from the eaves of houses.
Takayama to Kanazawa
We collected our luggage from hotel reception, and went to the JR Takayama Station to catch the Wide View Hida Limited Express Train to JR Toyama Station (2 hours). All the reservable seats were taken so we had to wait for the train and hope there would be seats. Luckily, there were! The Wide View Hida Limited Express arrives in JR Toyama Station, at Track 2 (level 3), and we needed to transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen track to Kanazawa (89 minutes).