Japan, May 2014: Day Twelve

Today we have been mostly walking around the small town of Takayama. It’s been nice not to have to travel on a train (either Shinkansen or subway) to start the day and so we woke up late – which greatly annoyed our hosts. We had breakfast booked for 8am, but as we woke at 7:45 we decided to skip it and grab something later. Unfortunately our no-show in the dining room offended our hotel staff and we have been well and truly told off in the politest of manners. We’ve booked in again for the same time tomorrow… setting an alarm this time!

It was market day and that’s quite a big deal in these parts. Two streets were closed to traffic and lined with stalls. There was a surprising amount of souvenir crap being sold, guess it’s tourism time, but the majority of the stalls were local food and produce – all of which were offering samples of their wares.

The first road ran parallel to the river through the town centre. Unlike any rivers at home, this one is pure mountain spring water. It’s so clear you can see all the fish, even those resting on the bottom. We grabbed breakfast in the form of a meat bun. Emma has declared it the best she’s ever had and put it at the top of her all time savoury bun chart. High praise indeed; however, we didn’t bother trying to explain the accolade to the lady who made it.

At the end of the street was a sake shop. Not ones to drink, we only walked away with a couple of cans of the local brew. We’re yet to try it, but a full report will follow. After sampling another brand on one of the stalls, we’ve concluded that we’re probably going to like it. Once we’d walked around all the market we could find, we ventured out into the non-pedestrianised streets of the old town.

Whilst Emma jumped from one antiques shop to another, I randomly snapped cars and bikes who were out in force for a nice Sunday drive. It was the first time we’d really seen cars and bikes – in the city they are everywhere, but it’s too busy to notice them. Here, everyone is much more chilled out and much more enthusiastic about them.

As a Lamborghini Gallardo pulled into a really small car park, it was obvious to all why they prefer Kei Cars (small, sub-700cc engined runabouts) in Japan. We couldn’t bear to watch his 30-point turn with his girlfriend having to get out to direct him, so we moved on. Bikers had congregated in the square and cars generally pottered around the tiny back streets. More posts will follow on vehicles so I’ll move on.

Lunch was ramen in a local ramen shop. I think we were the only westerners to venture into the place, but the atmosphere was lively and the food delicious.

Continuing down the road we discovered the pagoda you may have seen in the photo from our hotel window. The structure stands within a complex of buildings and shrines that surround a 1200 year old tree. It’s very picturesque and serene, yet just yards away from the main road.

It was only when we returned to the hotel that we realised how sunburnt we were! It wasn’t a sunny day, but we’re at altitude and it was quite warm – no excuses. After another fantastic meal (I think the bill will be quite fantastic too) we headed out to all the combinis in the area in search of aftersun.

We’re now back, packing and cooling our red bits, looking forward to another train adventure tomorrow.