My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vacation in Takayama.

   I became aware of Takayama via several of my "Facebook Friends" (four who live & work in Furukawa { just up the road from Takayama}and one that lives & works in Takayama) through their posts and photos. So, when my wife and family started talking about locations to go for a vacation, I didn't hesitate to put-up my hand and say; "Lets go to Takayama".
   (For once I got my way) So, once all the arrangements were made - dates, time-off work, accommodation e.t.c. - we (yours-truly + better-half, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and family dog) set off. As my sister-in-law is a good driver, I was happy to hand-over the reins to her allowing me to take in  the beautiful scenery during our 4-hour drive.  
Map Location
Like the Gujo Hachiman Castle  for example, that, although we were some kilometers from the complex, is  a very-imposing site. Also, as the Sakura were still in bloom in this area, we were reminded of one of the best times of year to be in Japan. 
Map Location.
   Our accommodation for our two-nights, was the "Takayama WanWan Paradise Hotel". The hotel caters for guests who like to go on vacation with their pet dog. Set in amongst the bush, in the mountain area bordering Gifu and Nagano Prefecutres, the grounds have several tracks & pen so as to exercise your dog. It also has one of the best Onsen I have ever experienced (let me tell you, there is nothing more relaxing, after a day on the road or visiting tourist sights, than to soak in an Onsen).
Chilling-Out In The Onsen.
   After checking in and checking-out the facilities, I decided to take a walk around the grounds with Camera in hand - Hotel & Entrance + Hotel Grounds + Onsen . After a Traditional Japanese Dinner, it was time to head back to our room for a well-deserved sleep. The following morning, after another session in the Onsen, it was back to the restaurant for Breakfast. Just the tonic for a day doing touristy things. When on vacation I prefer not to cram too much into my day. Two-to-Three venues are enough for me. That way I can stroll at a leisurely pace and appreciate the experience (it is also a good excuse to return). 
   First stop of the day was the Hida Great Limestone Cave. As you wound your way through the illuminated complex, you emerged at the top before descending and returning to a picturesque garden, and onto the souvenir shops for the traditional Omiyage.   Videos - Hida Great Limestone Cave - Gardens & Entrance.   
Map Location.
   From here we headed for downtown Takayama and, before we made any plans, we had a bite-to-eat. As you can see on the map and link, there is plenty to experience in Takayama. Our problem was; what.
Takayama Tourist Attractions.
    As we left the cafe, my attention was drawn to a Pagoda across the road. Being a fan of Temples I decided to check the complex out. Built in 746 by Emperor Shomu, Hida Kokubunji Temple is the oldest Temple in Takayama. But it was the 1,200-year old Ginkgo Bilboa Tree in the courtyard that fascinated me, and my family. 
Ginkgo Bilboa Tree,
Hida Kokubunji Temple.
This tree was 800-years old when my country, Aotearoa, was first inhabited.
Video - Hida Kokubunji Temple.
   Takayama Jinya was our next destination. We were very privileged when one of the staff gave us a personal tour of the building. If it wasn't for this kind person, we would have wandered-around not knowing much of what we were looking at. 
Entrance to Takayama Jinya.
The complex was made up of dozens of rooms, each serving it's own purpose. And, inside the courtyard, was a well maintained garden (unfortunately we weren't allowed to wander through the garden). Videos - Takayama Jinja + Takayama Jinya - Gardens. 
Next, and the highlight of the day, was a stroll down Sanmachi (Furui-Machi-nami), where the Edo Period houses have been faithfully restored and preserved for all to appreciate. It's like stepping back in time to an era where they didn't have the modern conveniences we have today. 

Sake Shop.
But, it was this building, with it's distinctive Sugidama (balls of Cedar Sprigs bound together to form a bushy globe) hanging above the entrance so as to announce to all and sundry that fresh Sake is available inside. That was my cue to taste the local fare. As a result of the 30-minutes we spent tasting some very-nice Sake, we decided to call-it-a-day and head back to our hotel, with purchases in hand (we did have plans of one more destination but, as it was a 40-minute drive away, we postponed until the following day). Video - Sanmachi and Sake Tasting.
   As the girls were keen to sit-and-relax in a cafe, I headed-off to meet my "Facebook Friend", Akila Tanaka. Akila-san is employed by the Takayama Municipal Office as their "Overseas Promotions Officer". I have shared many of Akila's posts - Visit Hida Takayama (Official), Japan.  
Map Location.
   This is Shirakawago (Village) (our plans were to visit here the previous day but........) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is no good time of year to visit this village. As I always say; "Anytime is a good time of year to visit Japan" and this is no exception.
In the image above, taken during rice-growing season (August - September), the town looks very picturesque. But, in Winter, Shirakawa looks just as inviting (albeit very cold). The best time of day to visit Shirakawa, I would suggest early morning. That way you will avoid the hoards of tourist buses. Don't be in a rush to experience this quaint delight. And, if possible, take the path up to the Shiroyama Viewpoint (where the images were taken) for an overall look of the area. If you are travelling here from Takayama, take Route-158 &156 (like we did) and you will be treated to some of that great Japanese scenery along the way. Video - Shirakawago + The Village from top floor of house + Rice Fields + Walking in the Rain
   Sadly it was time to hit-the-motorway and return home. I am so grateful to Akila, Hisa and friends for telling me about Hida-Takayama. It was an experience that will take some beating, which is why it has been placed on our "Must Return" list. For me, I am looking at returning with my mountain-bike so I can check-out other scenic spots in the area. Maybe spend a week here. I hope you can place Hida-Takayama on your list of places to visit when you come to Japan. You won't be disappointed.
   Takayama City Videos.

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