So today (tomorrow, for many of you readers) is 海の日 (umi no hi), a national holiday which just means, basically beach day. As far as I can understand from speaking with my students, it was a holiday made up because there weren’t any holidays in July. Since I work Monday through Friday (which is very unusual for us English teachers, most of whom work Tuesday through Saturday), I get a three-day weekend! (Don’t worry, those folks get this day back in December). So I decided to take one of these days, Sunday, and go to Takayama, a small city in Gifu prefecture situated up in the mountains. Because I had decided to head up there so late, I wasn’t able to get a hotel or ryokan room, which saved me a little money anyway. So I took the train up and spent about six and a half hours there. Then I can stay up until three am editing the pictures without having to worry about going to work :D.
It was definitely a nice break. Although it rained for a couple of hours at first, for the most part the weather was comfortably cool - about 10C (almost 20F) cooler than a few days ago in Nagoya. It means I could actually spend time outside during the day without it feeling like a sauna. Takayama is a really cool little city. It’s one of the few places in Japan that they are trying to keep as it was in the old days. People can’t paint their houses any old color - it has to be the natural wood color, as you can see. There is also a small part of town that is literally unchanged since, I don’t know, a century ago - maybe more? So I visited the Yatai kaikan, where they display four of the floats that they bring out twice a year during the big festivals here. Also, I got to visit many shrines and temples. People say it’s like old Kyoto, and I imagine so. (Although I’ve been to Kyoto before, my only experience was during a typhoon, so I didn’t really see much of it at that time.) What was most striking for me was how incredibly peaceful it was. Even though it’s a holiday weekend, there was practically no one else walking around the shrines and temples, most likely because of the rain. I came upon this awesome cemetery in the middle of a bunch of really tall cedars. By the way, it’s also one of the best-smelling places I’ve visited, thanks to the aforementioned cedar. There was one shrine where there was a nice loud chorus of cicadas, and I had a really fantastic peaceful moment drinking it all in. Here is close to where that was.
Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to go to the old village, but I will probably go do that next time. I did sample Hida ramen (not especially great - a lot less filling than some of my favorite Nagoya ramen shops, but still interesting) and some of the famous Hida beef in the form of gyuudon. One strange thing I noticed is that neither of the restaurants I went to supplied oshibori - the washcloth to wipe your hands that you always get at every restaurant in Japan. Neither had napkins either (you won’t necessarily find those either, but I’ve never seen a lack of both). So anyway, despite this faux pas, the verdict is I’ll definitely be coming back here again. Next time, hopefully with someone else.