Takayama, Friday 11-Nov

We had two major sights planned for the day. The museum was about a half hour walk to the west of the hostel, and the walking course was about 20 minutes to the east. So we knew we had quite a bit of walking ahead of us, but we were able to break it up into different segments.

The morning was a normal one for us. There weren't a whole lot of people in the dining area so we had no trouble finding a place to sit. It didn't take us long to eat, get ready, and head out for the day.

We left the hostel heading towards the museum. We passed a gelato shop, but it wasn't open yet. That, and it was before 10am (not that would really stop us). After passing the train and bus station, we also walked by a public foot bath, keeping that in mind for later.

Hida Takayama Museum of Art

The parking lot at the Hida Takayama Museum of Art was empty, so it was no surprise that the only person we saw on the inside was the woman from whom we got our tickets. We walked up the staircase to the exhibits and were face-to-face with a fountain by René Lalique which used to be in a shopping arcade on Champs-Élysées. It was under a ceiling lit with ever-changing color and was set in a small pool. A staff worker greeted us, then stepped away. Next thing we knew, the fountain turned on and we were able to see it in action. After we left, the woman turned the fountain off; she did turn it on again for another woman who came through.

We then entered a room filled with glass works including ones by Lalique, Emile Gallé, and even one by Dale Chihuly. A later room had more Gallé pieces, this time wood. Another room had dining sets by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a Scottish architect.

I also found the architecture of the museum very interesting. The reflecting pools were well-placed to give you nice reflections, and being on a mountain gives you great views.

Lunchtime

The Museum was to the west, but we wanted to spend the rest of the day to the east of the hostel. Walking back from the museum, we passed the City of Denver Park in honor of one of Takayama's sister cities. Further on, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the foot bath we saw on our way out. It's open to the public (a small covered space right off the street) and while no one was there, it did look like someone had been using it not too long before. Off with the shoes and socks, and in with the feet. It was quite warm, but it didn't feel as warm as the one we used at the Hakone Open-Air Museum; this was closer to onsen temperature.

What better way to follow up a foot bath than with gelato? Melody spotted the store also on our way out to the museum, and in we went for our pre-lunch dessert. The woman was finishing up one flavor, putting small bits of orange and kiwi on top. After receiving our gelato, it didn't take us long to finish them.

Off we went back to the central shopping district where we had dinner the night before. This time, though, we were looking for lunch. We settled on getting a couple beef buns. We had looked at hamburgers before but had decided to move on. The reason for wanting to try the beef is that Hida beef is supposed to be excellent, being from the same wagyu cattle as Kobe beef. The bun was quite good, with very tasty seasonings.

Walking tour

We looked at our map of the Kitayama Walking Course we were going to try and began the route. At least, we thought we did, but things just didn't look right. We realized we were a few streets over; very strange, since normally we're pretty good with getting to locations. A contributing cause could have been that the grid is pretty regular, so it looked like we were at the right bridge when we weren't.

That figured out, we set out to the true beginning of the route. On the way, we saw koi swimming in the Miyagawa River below us. There were several ducks in the river too, peacefully co-existing with the fish. We walked through where the morning market normally is, but it being the afternoon, most of them has cleared out, and the few last vendors were putting things away.

We started walking through Takayama's Old Town which includes a few streets where the buildings retain the appearance they had during the Edo and Meiji periods. Some of them were quite large, easily wider than three or four normal houses.

The next stop was the Float Exhibition Hall.

Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall

Although for many people the first image when hearing about floats would be the Rose Parade, those in the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall are Japanese floats which are used during the Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn.

Five floats were on display, four of them with wheels. The last float, Mikoshi, was meant to be carried by hand, but it's not currently used because the festival isn't able to find enough men who are the same height (there are long arms projecting forward and back from the float which).

The other floats are all relatively tall, with wheels at the base, a room-like box above that, then an open section with a fancy roof. Some of the floats also had marionette puppets decorated in silk and brocade. The puppets are very lifelike and can require several puppet masters to perform the complex gestures.

Floats are normally stored in “Yatai-gura”, special thick-walled storehouses, and we walked past one of those. The Exhibition Hall has special permission to display four of the floats, and they are rotated in and out a few times a year.

Our tickets would have allowed us to see a 1:10 scale replica of the Toshogu shrine in Nikko (the one for the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu). It would have been interesting to see it, especially since the large gate was under covers for renovation, but we decided to continue on.

Finishing the walking tour

The walking tour then took us up a hill through Kitayama Park, then down the hill. There was supposed to be a senbei store nearby, but we weren't able to find it. Instead, we went by the convenience store to get a few more breakfast items. We spent enough money to draw a price card from a box, but alas, we didn't win anything.

Rest of the day

As we get later in the trip, we've more consistent in taking a rest in the late afternoon, and today was no different. It's a good time to catch up on planning and writing, not to mention keep tabs on what's going on at home. While we do try to keep up with our various news and social feeds, we do end up doing a lot of skimming or saving things for later.

Dinnertime rolled around, and we had seen a soba restaurant a bit by the bakery that we went to the previous day. We walked up to it, but it was closed; it could have been that it was going to open later in the evening, but we did actually have a backup plan. So we walked the rest of the way around the block to end up next door to the hostel. I ordered yakisoba while Melody ordered an omelet over rice. Both were huge servings, but we did manage to finish all the food. The yakisoba with squid and veggies was particularly good.

It was a quick trip back to the hostel next door, where we had a little dessert, then went upstairs to spend the rest of a quiet evening.