Takayama and the Bullet Train (April 12, 2023)

No regrets about the bath last night. Very swanky. And very public since I was with no less than nine or ten other bathers at all times. I ran into a son and his mom at the leave-your-slippers-here station. It was clear they were clueless and nervous, so I said “Follow me, let’s figure this out together.” I coached my bath buddy through exactly what I remembered doing 50 years ago and then we got in the soaking pools. Her son was on his own. There was a large soaking pool inside and five smaller ones outside.

My morning meal was a breakfast of champions! A little dish of sweet red beans, a tiny vial of custard, a small dish of fresh fruit, and two divine pastries. I’m learning to choose better as the days go by. I found my bathing buddy in the dining room, so we shared a few laughs (“Hi, this is what I look like with my clothes on.”) and I had a chance to say a proper hello to her son.

This morning offered us a chance to see more of Takayama. With its wealth of museums, galleries, and impressive temples, it is often called Little Kyoto. Our walking tour included the remarkably preserved Edo-period merchants’ shops and houses in the Sanno-machi Historic District. We popped in and out of the upscale stores that many of the old houses are used for today. We visited the morning market along the Miya River with farmers and craftsmen offering choices ranging from vegetables to clothing and hand carvings.

Besides being known for its meticulously preserved Old Town, Takayama is also well known for a festival held twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. The festivals date back to the latter half of the 16th century and have as their centerpiece intricately designed wooden floats (yatai). Intricate being the key concept. Takayama Yatai Kaikan Exhibition Hall displays four of eleven floats at a time. They are changed three times a year to show visitors like us the entire collection. Some of the floats date back to the seventeenth century and, as you can well image, require extra special care. A ginormous, gorgeous portable Shinto shrine is also on exhibit. It is used in the festivals too, and at 2.5 tons (!) is the largest one in Japan. Around 80 bearers are needed to carry it. We enjoyed our visit to this exhibition hall and were dazzled by how elaborate and well preserved the floats are.

A beautiful Shinto shrine as well as a hall exhibiting detailed miniatures of famous old buildings is in the same area as the floats and very much worth a visit.

After a quick lunch (tempura for me and a sandwich and fries for Dan) we drove to Nagoya and boarded the bullet train to Kyoto, founded in the 8th century. Once in Kyoto, Hiro offered us a quick tour of the train station which is like no other I’ve ever seen. It’s modern architecturally and houses a couple dozen small restaurants, a shopping mall, theatre, amphitheater, and it offers panoramic views of the city and Kyoto’s iconic tower which is right across the street. It is even a popular wedding venue.

No public bath in our center city hotel, so I had to settle for a plain ole fashioned shower tonight.

… Betcha Didn’t Know …

The Edo period:1603-1867

Tokugawa Shogunate: the military government of Japan during the Edo period.

Ittobori, traditional wood carvings, are a local craft.
The best ones are carved from yew and come with a certificate of authenticity.

Although not as well known as Wagyu or Kobe beef, the locals in Takayama swear by Hida beef.

Sarubobo means baby monkey, but around here it refers to a red doll without a face.
It’s a good luck charm, especially when a grandmother gives it to her grandchildren, that does not resemble a monkey. 
Watch out Jack, Bryce, and Evy!


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