Day 1: Takayama is a beautiful town located in the heart of the Japanese Alps. The area is meager in terms of agricultural and rice areas, but the forests where the best carpenters and wood carvings were brought to live here. Since traditional taxation in Japan (1600-1868) was carried out with rice, residents were forced to send carpenters and craftsmen to the Shogun government as a substitute for rice, making the town a center of art in wood and commerce.
After settling in the hotel, preferably in the center of the old city, of Takayama and recovering from the long journey, we can use the rest of the day to wander through the alleys of the old city, whose houses are built of wood. Small wooden bridges pass over water channels that cross the center of the town and over the river that crosses the city from north to south. This area is dotted with many souvenir shops, saka shops and breweries, local food stands and quite a few excellent restaurants with the best of Japanese food. One of Takayama's unique and recommended delicacies is the quality local beef, called Hida. This delicacy is served with fresh vegetables for roasting in the center of the table or skewer skewers made of rice and soy. Dip the roasted meat and vegetables in sauces and eating with rice.
Day 2: The second day in Takayama begins with a visit to the two morning markets, open every day until noon along the river. In these markets you can find agricultural produce stalls, tea shops and tea serving tools, dried roots, rice cakes, typical masks for the region, pictures and wood products produced in the forest-surrounded town and considered the center of wood art.
A short walking distance from the morning market is the temple of Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine?. From this Shinto temple, the chariots of the gods come out to greet the residents of the town, in two impressive festivals in the fall and spring of 350 years. The Shinto religion is largely related to the forces of nature. The ancient Japanese watched the phenomena of nature and learned them. They followed the circle of the year and worshiped the changing beauty from season to season and experienced and feared the destructive power of Japanese nature. In both events there is a spectacular procession, in which a kind of beautifully decorated carriages are displayed, topped by magnificent dolls, carved sculptures and rich fabrics that make up these impressive carriages. Even if you do not visit the town during the festival you can watch the dolls and the procession cars in the museum located in the temple compound and the streets of the old city.
Next to the temple we stroll through the alleys and visit some of the wealthy merchants' houses from the 16th century, some of which serve as a museum that illustrates the life of the merchants in the town some four hundred years ago.
After lunch in one of the best restaurants in the center of the town, take a bus outside the town to visit the Hida Takayama Open Museum. This complex includes several dozen traditional Japanese houses in various styles built around an artificial lake with Japanese koi fish, a kind of carp fish with white, orange and black spots that are very common in the artificial lakes in the gardens of China, South Korea and Japan.
It is recommended that you go between the various types of houses scattered among the pine forest that covers most of the village area or next to rice fields. These houses have views of the traditional village life in Japan, and in some of them you can find various artists: carpenters, painters and calligraphers.
Day 3: On this day we will head for the village of Shirakawa Go, which is about two hours by bus from Takayama Central Station. The road to this area is an attraction, because instead of the mounts and twists that characterize mountainous areas, the road is a convenient and fast way from a planar rifle thanks to the many bridges and long tunnels that cross the mountains.
Shirkawa Go is an active rural area that includes several villages with unique style houses covered with thick straw roofs. These houses are named "Gashu Zukuri" after the tapered straw roofs that characterize them. The cold climate in this area requires the construction of exceptionally strong roofs and slope so that the snow will not pile up. The roof is replaced once every 30-50 years, usually funded by the state because of the preservation of the site, which was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
From the bus stop we will walk a few hundred meters and cross the bridge that hangs over the broad, turbulent meaguah river that borders the village to the west and from there we will start wandering among the houses of the village. Each of the houses is still used for residential purposes and many of its residents live in the village, some as farmers. One of the oldest houses in the village is now used by family members living on the lower floor as a tourist attraction filled with visitors. From the roof of the open house there is a magnificent view of the village houses with thick straw roofs wrapped in rice fields and pink cosmos flowers. The house itself has an interesting display of a silkworm plant and agricultural tools used by family members.
After lunch in one of the best restaurants scattered around the village, we can walk a few hundred meters to the observation hill, which offers a spectacular view of all the houses and surroundings of the village. After a few hours in the village we will return to Takiyama. It is highly recommended to purchase the ticket back to Takayama in advance.
Where to sleep in Takayama?
Utatei Takayama (9.8 by Booking.com) is a traditional 80-year-old wooden Japanese-style house situated in Takayama, 2.4 km from Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village. The cozy holiday home has been fully renovated in April 2017 and is equipped with air conditioning and free WiFi.
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By Maayan Hess Ashkenazi