Normally Tony and I have a spreadsheet with every day of our holiday mapped out. This time we decided to be spontaneous and so we did not go to Okinawa the southern subtropical islands of Japan as originally planned due to bad weather. At the beginning of last week we changed our plans again and on the 13th of March we went to Takayama a very pretty old town in central Honshu surrounded by the Japanese Alps to follow the sun. Such changes of plan are made much easier by booking.com’s free cancellation policy and the fantastic rail pass. So we booked ourselves into the Takayama Ouan which describes itself as a ” modern style Japanese Hotel”. The entrance looks like a traditional Japanese inn but behind it is a high rise building.
On arrival at the hotel you take off your shoes, wear their house clothes and sleep on the floor and everything works with machine like precision. We must have been the oldest guests by far. An added bonus was very good food and the Onsen with a view over the town on the top floor of the building. On a first come basis one could also book a private onsen as a couple. Pictures below of the hotel entrance and high rise behind.
Tuesday the sun was shining, perfect for a stroll through the local food market with the most delicious apples, the old town with traditional houses including the Takayama Jinya which served as a branch office of the Edo government (1692-1868).
Takayama is a timber producing town and also has a famous spring festival in the middle of April when big floats are paraded through town. It began about 350 years ago and some of these floats are exhibited in a museum.
We visited the local Shinto shrine where Tony decided I-who don’t like foxes should be photographed between them.
Then we went to see Hida Folk Village (title picture) which preserves traditional vernacular houses and lifestyles. The houses were all moved from different areas of the region and give a good impression of the hardship of their former inhabitants’ lives.
Not surprisingly with the arrival of the washing mashing, refrigerator and television there was a huge shift of people from the countryside to the city. In addition, the American occupation of Japan after the 2nd world war resulted in the adoption of many features of American culture. This is beautifully illustrated in the Takayama Showa museum which travels back to 1955.
On Wednesday Tony went to Nagoya for the annual Honen matsuri spring festival, which celebrates human fecundity – or at least the male contribution to it.
He said it seemed quite serious with blessings from Shinto priests, although he left before the revellers had got into the free sake. Sake is considered a holy drink and is consumed at Shinto festivals.
For those obsessed by measurement, or woodwork: the phallus that is carried in procession weighs 280 kg (620 pounds) and is carved afresh each year in cypress. It measures 2.5 meters (96 inches) long.
I cannot top this.
Next blog about Matsumoto castle.xxF