After leaving Ainokura, we went to another village with gassho-zukuri houses. And then it was on to Takayama.
Even though it got very cold outside, and even in the house it was chilly, our futons, along with the bed warmers, kept us from feeling the chill. Even after all that time, those warmers will still quite toasty to the touch. We don't even want to know how they do that.
The baby next door fussed a little bit but didn't stay awake that long. The couple decided to try to keep the heater running through the night, and after three hours it gives a chime; probably to make sure it isn't left unattended. Even with all that, we slept well; being able to sleep through quite a bit and fall asleep quickly helps.
Breakfast, leaving Ainokura
Breakfast was ready, and even though the other couple was planning on taking a bus an hour after we were, they ate at the same time as we did. We are served eggs, vegetables, miso, rice, yogurt, and a bit of fruit. It was certainly enough to keep us going.
We chatted more with the other couple, Melody explaining that she was in Berlin for a while. They also talked about the differences in different regions of Germany and the kids that Melody was the au pair for.
While we were eating, the hostess put away the futons. We had already packed, so it wasn't long before we were ready to head out. The other family decided to take the same bus as we were (even though they were heading north, they went south to catch an express bus north).
Goodbyes exchanged, we walked down to the bus stop and waited for our transport. It wasn't very long before we saw it driving around the corner. There were several people getting off (again, some confusion about fares) then we loaded everything onto the quite empty bus for the hour-long ride to Ogimachi.
Upon arrival, the first thing we did was try to store our luggage, since we were going to have a few hours before our next bus. We checked the lockers, but they were full. Fortunately, the office will store your luggage for you if there's no locker space (you pay what you would have for the locker). We then decided to purchase reserved seats for the bus to Takayama, since it was only 20 minutes after the bus which didn't need reservations, and knowing we were guaranteed a seat for the same price was comforting.
Our first destination was the Ogimachi Joseki Observatory, a viewpoint of the whole village. It was quite a steep set of stairs and paths (we seemed to find every long series of stairs possible on this trip) but the view was quite commanding. You could see all of the village west of the Shokawa River.
Having gone up the steep route, we took the gentle slope of the road going down on the other side of the viewpoint; there were a lot more people walking on that path, for sure.
When we first took a look at the map of the village, we saw that there was a Wada house. This of significance since one of my dad's sisters married a Wada. It was very large, but since we wanted to see what else was in the village, we walked around it but didn't go in.
Going through the rest of the village, we were looking for the Deai-bashi suspension bridge over the Shokawa River. As we got closer, it was obvious what way we should go, since there were lots of other tourists wandering to and from the bridge. It's a strange-looking bridge since, from the side, it looks as if it's a concrete bridge that sags down rather than arching up. When you walk across it, though it definitely bounces up and down. Looking more closely it seems that there are short concrete sections that are string together. There were plenty of people on the bridge, and it had no trouble with that load.
On the other side of the river, we walked up to the Gassho Zukuri Outdoor Heritage Museum, but again, decided to not go inside. Instead, we started to look for lunch. After wandering around, we picked up some meatball sticks and potato pancakes and ate them on a nearby bench.
We ended up with quite a bit of extra time, so after finding other village roads to walk on (going past a shrine gate with a thatched roof and some harvest scarecrows and scarehorses) we went back by the Wada house and went inside.
As large as the Wada house looked outside, it felt larger on the inside. The second floor was set up so it was easy for you to see the whole area in one glance, as well as get a good look at the underside of the roof. It looked like it's been pretty well maintained. Back on the main floor, there were several artifacts out, including a large collection of lacquerware.
In the Edo period, the head of the Wada family became the village headman, and the family prospered in the potassium nitrate business. When Shirakawa Village was created in the late 19th century, Yaemon Wada (the name Yaemon had been passed down since the 16th century) became the mayor. The house reflects the position the Wada family had in the village.
Getting to Takayama
It was finally time to go back to the bus station. We got our bags, then took a seat to wait.
When I say bus station, we're talking about a building that's large enough for three bays, three windows at the counter, and restrooms. Not very large. Yet, they still had a bus station map with a red dot indicating where you were standing.
There were quite a few people in the station, but more people lining up outside to try to get onto the bus to Takayama, the one where reservations were not necessary. There was quite a wait, but after people filed into the bus, there seemed to still be some room. So making the reservations wasn't really necessary, but seemed like a good hedge.
Not long after that bus left, our bus arrived. We went to our assigned seats, and the bus ended up being about half full. And we were off.
As we started off, we began to notice that there were dams here and there, so presumably hydropower is used in the mountains. Before too long, though, we went into a tunnel and stayed in it for a very long time. We finally hit daylight, but within a few seconds, we were in another tunnel. This happened several times (you could see the road was essentially going through a series of mountains. Since the tunnels were pretty far from the top of the mountains, we spent quite a bit of time without seeing anything but road and tunnel.
We arrived at Takayama, oriented ourselves, and started out for the hostel. We arrived about 20 minutes before they were going to let people check in, so we decided to just wait in the common area. There was another couple wanting to check in, but they opted to drop off their bags and return later.
When we did check in, we got the quick tour of the first floor (common area and kitchen), then went off to our room. We were on the fifth in Hiroshima, but here we got a room on the sixth floor. Lots of stairs again.
The first order of business was doing laundry for the last time on our trip. Before we left Seattle, I had researched which places had laundry facilities, and place on our itinerary what days would be best to do the wash. It was nice to know ahead of time since in the past we would be counting our clean clothes every few days to make sure we'd be able to last until a place that had a washing machine, otherwise we'd need to hand wash.
We were told that the dryer would take up to three hours, which is far longer than anywhere else (an hour at most). We checked how dry things were after an hour, and indeed, the clothes were still drying with no indication how much longer it would be. We decided we had time to go shopping for breakfast and get dinner.
First stop was at a bakery to pick up bread for the morning and dessert. We then went to a ramen shop and had Takayama ramen, which includes a darker broth. We've gotten to a point where it's a pretty quick process: go in, order, get served in a few minutes, slurp the noodles, pay, and we're done.
One more stop to pick up other things for breakfast, then we went back to the hostel. Checking the clothes, they were still damp, so we went up to the sixth floor to hang out a bit. Checking the clothes one more time, they seemed mostly dry, so we called them good, took them upstairs, and then put them away.
Having done quite a bit during the day, we fell asleep pretty early.