Tuesday saw us heading to Takayama by several trains but most importantly by Bullet train HIKARI #507. we travelled via Odewara and Nagoya and here we transferred to Express train Wide view Hida #9. For the uninitiated, Japanese trains are amazing, they run on time, a station person will make sure everyone stays away from the edge of the platform, they are clean with spotless toilets and separate ones for women and babies, a vending machine for drinks and snacks, recycling bins and on some trains mobile vendors. Many of the lines are privately run, but even so the standard is the same.
On arrival at Takayama, we piled into taxis for the short ride to the Green Hotel. One thing I have forgotten to mention the Japanese baggage service. When touring around with one nighters here and there, it is possible for a nominal sum to send the bulky suitcases on ahead and travel with a small one. And it works like clockwork!
The Green Hotel was a bit like an institution, in fact we believe it to have been a Sanatorium in a former life as everything was kitted out for invalids and the beds were very much former hospital beds, on wheels . We only ate breakfast here, and it was served in a cafeteria like dining room with plenty of options to suit all tastes, but overall it was not very clean. However it was close to town which suited us fine.
Takayama, often called Hida Takayama, to differentiate it from other towns of the same name. Takayama actually means tall mountain and is situated in the heart of the Japanese mountains. There is a dormant volcano nearby, as is the Hida Minzoku Mura Folk village.
It holds twice yearly Shinto Festivals ( one of the three largest in the country) and the floats used can be found in the Exhibition Hall. The old town has buildings ( the Sanmachi area) that are over a thousand years old some of which are restaurants, souvenir shops and establishments, making and selling Sake. Takayama is ideally placed to make some of the best Sake, it is in the mountains, therefore cold in winter and has mountain streams to grow the best rice. One of the best Sake breweries in town is the Harada Sake shop and restaurant. You can find it on Sanmachi Street and is easily recognisable by the large Cedar ball (sugidama) hanging outside the shop. The area is also noted for its World class Hida beef, carpentry, ( and fine examples of this can be found in the old Manor house, Takayama Jinya) local fish and vegetables and lacquerware.
The Manor house served as the local government offices from 1692 until 1969, it is now a Museum and has fine examples of the craftsmanship of the area.
There is a market along side the river, selling fresh produce and traditional street foods, one of which was Takoyaki, This is a batter cooked in a special pan and filled with minced octopus, onions and ginger and often served with a sauce and mayonnaise.
We ate dinner that night at the Harada Sake shop/restaurant had the choice of either Teppanyaki ( using a grill to cook our meat ) or Sukiyaki, which is along the lines of Shabu-Shabu, but with an added raw egg.
Hida Takayama is a must see destination in Japan and is part of the Golden Route, with Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa. ( where we go to next) If you want to see part of Old Traditional Japan, then this is the place.