It was past midday when we arrived at Takayama. Along the train journey, we passed mainly rural villages and wheat farms. We criss-crossed several slow flowing rivers. Takayama is located in the mountainous Hida Region in Gifu Prefecture. Here, we stayed at a traditional Japanese guesthouse, “Minshuku” where “tatami” mat floors, sliding doors and creaky wooden houses are the norm. It was a very hot day. The town looked quiet and the atmosphere relaxed. For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant where the local speciality is Hida beef. Marbled slices of beef grilled with some teriyaki sauce. Apparently, these animals are fed apples and beer? To get vegetarian meals was tricky. Hot pot, “nabemono” and grilled dishes are popular. I felt like we were in a sauna inside these restaurants. Takayama is known for its preserved old town, sake breweries, festival and its proximity to the Japan Alps.
The Miyagawa River intersects the town and the old town lies on the east. Several bridges connect the banks of the river. The most popular is the red Nakabashi Bridge. It is a compact town and walking is the best way to enjoy this slow pace town. This includes the temples, shrines, museums, restaurants, the old neighbourhoods and the preserved old town. However, the weather was hot and humid which made walking demanding. Kids played in the shallow river. Cherry trees lined the banks of the river.
The Hida-Kokubunji Temple, the oldest temple in Takayama, was initially built around 760AD. It started with seven tier wooden pagoda but reconstructed during the Edo Period to the current three storeys. The pagoda is visible from our “Minshuku”. Just past the steps at the main hall is gong struck with a long cloth adorned with totems. The interior is intricately carved. However, there were no English explanations. At the open courtyard, a handsome and lush lime green Gingko tree, over 30m tall and estimated to be over 1000 years old, provided shade in this hot day. Buttress roots swirled around its base in a protected area.
Today, the Takayama Jinya is a museum. During the Edo Period, it was the administrative centre for the Hida Region under the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is a large wooden complex with wide “tatami” floor halls, sliding doors and residential places. The inner courtyard has lovely manicured garden and stone walkways. I envied these designs – with pleasing views from inside the hallways. A large annex building acted as a rice storehouse. All made from the priced wood this region was once famous for. Delicately pruned pine trees add an old world appeal.
This complex is located at the edge of the old town, “sanmachi”. Two lovely women dressed in bright traditional kimono added colour to the brown and white exterior.