Saturday, June 11, 2016

Takayama, Japan: Dreamy Old-School Mountain Town

After 6 days in Tokyo, my friends Kate and Mark were headed up to the small mountain town of Takayama - so I joined them. By "joined them," I mean that they rode the fancy bullet train, and I ghetto'ed it out by the bus, because it was cheaper. No complaints, because the views were so, so pretty. Sometimes you get lost in big-city Japan, and forget that the countryside is beyond gorgeous as well.

What It's All About:
Takayama means 'high mountain' in Japanese, and is a little city tucked up in the mountains to the north of Nagoya. It's known for having a really well-preserved and traditional old town, with picturesque wooden buildings and small pathways that give an impression of Old World Japan (aka it's cuuuute).  Takayama is also a good base city to access lots of other amazing, small mountain towns.


Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Bussing it to Takayama was super-peaceful - there were tons of seats, the scenery was pretty, and the bus stopped at a rest stop every hour or so. And let me tell you - Japanese rest stops are INSANE. They're typically housed in huge buildings with pristine restrooms, shopping, food courts, vending machines, and food stalls so you can purchase freshly cooked delights to go.  I started getting off at all the rest stops just so I could check them out and admire all the wondrous things in them, even if I didn't need anything.
Views of rice paddies and mountains the entire way

And beautiful green rivers/lakes!

  • Arriving in Takayama, I checked into my hostel and met up with Mark/Kate in the old town to wander around (they were staying in a fancy ryokan nearby).  Takayama is dreamy - all the wooden merchants' houses and such remain intact and the entire town seems so cozy and peaceful and quiet.  All the shops close at 5pm, so it's incredibly serene.

Little Takayama houses down by the river

And they have the fish kites flying over the river. Takayama is really well-known for some of its annual festivals.

Giant fish in the river. Plus not sure if you can see, but there's a stork standing on a rock too.

So peaceful

  • In the mornings, Takayama has two morning markets (from 6:30AM until noon).  The larger ones borders the small street next to the river, and you can find food stalls chock full of local goodies and snacks, as well as cute little souvenirs and trinkets.  All I can say is, JAPAN REALLY DOES LOVE A GOOD THEME.

Takayama's morning market

This is a Sarubobo, a local amulet/doll from the area that is believed to be good luck charm for many different aspects of your life. They are from the Takayama area, and EVERYthing is adorned in Sarubobo theme. You can buy them in tens of different colors (each color symbolizes luck for a different part of your life, i.e. black wards off evil spirits, blue is good luck in work, and pink is good luck in romance), they are printed on everything and available in hundreds of different forms, and they are basically everywhere.

I purchased the world's largest apple ever at the morning market, and it took me 3 separate sittings to finish the whole thing.

And then I purchased a pudding, and the man had pudding hats for us to wear #JAPAN

Takayama's riverside is so picturesque

An example of the old-school wooden houses

  • Even just wandering around Takayama's city streets is amazing - the whole town is like a really old dream (the best kind!).

More old-schoolness

Mark and this mascot are wearing the same color

These streets are crammed full of the cutest shops ever

The trio

  • After spending the morning walking town, we dedicated our afternoon to a hike that winds through the outskirts of town, called the Higashiyama Walking Course - it goes through the forest, passes by tons of temples and shrines and neighborhoods, and eventually winds back to the city itself. 

But first, lunch! This is a beef bowl with rice.

A very pretty temple to start our walk

Dreamy forest hike - the best part was that there was nobody else around the entire time. So we could wander to our heart's content.

Get ready for lots of temple pics

I like the leaf colors

This bridge is super, super old because they don't let you walk on it. So Kate and I took a photo holding it instead, obviously.

Here is a cemetery near the temples

Zen sand garden

Pretty blossoming flowers!

So, so many temples

Kate and a mini-car, called the Midget. I've now changed my dream car from a Smart car to this one, as this one looks even more fuel-efficient.
Rice paddy reflections

I love Japanese children. Though as Kate pointed out, using a super zoom to take a photo of random children doesn't sound that socially acceptable 

After a long day of walking, we headed to a small sake distillery and each did a tasting. Kate and Mark got to drink theirs out of fancy wooden boxes.

Whereas mine had gold flakes inside it. I was drinking gold, y'all.

This lady is walking the streets of Takayama in a yukata, and I like it.

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