Takayama, Saturday 12-Nov

We're heading into the last stretch of our trip, with this day being the last without travel (we travel to Tokyo the next day, then fly home the day after that). We spent it visiting the old Takayama government building followed by another walking course which went by several temples and shrines. It then went uphill to a park with the ruins of Takayama Castle.

It was busy in the kitchen for breakfast, but we still didn't have trouble finding a place to sit down and eat. Since we have breakfast down to a routine, it wasn't long before we were headed out of the hostel.

Takayama Jinya

Our first destination was Takayama Jinya, the  former branch office of the Edo government for almost two centuries until 1868. But first, we wandered through the Jinya mae Morning Market which sets up right in front. This had more of a farmers market feel, since unlike the shopping streets and arcades in other cities, the vendors are set up in tents. I saw one vendor selling yokan so decided to get some.

Takayama Jinya is impressively-sized, with one room that's 49 tatami mats in size. A symbol you see repeated throughout the property is the wave; it was in the dry garden in front of the entrance, on the wallpaper in the entryway, and had prominent placement in the short movie.

We walked through several kinds of rooms, such as offices, tea rooms, and guest rooms. We also went through the rice storehouse, where taxes (in the form of rice) were collected. The storehouse also had several old maps and other documents.

With such an important building, you would expect there to be an elaborate garden, and indeed there was. It's the right time of year for fall color, and the Japanese maples were especially bright.

Higashiyama Walking Course

It once again took us a little while to find the beginning, but it took less time than the previous day for us to begin the Higashiyama Walking Course. This one was longer than the Kitayama Walking Course, but much better known and documented. There were several signs which indicated where you should go with arrows which gave directions for both clockwise and counterclockwise walkers. It also tried to help by showing lines for paths you shouldn't take, showing where you should zig over then go straight, or even where you should go down the street to use a crosswalk then come back.

We also had a detailed map of the walking course, which helped when the signs were ambiguous. This happened when there were alternate routes you could take.

There were several temples and shrines along the walking course, especially at the beginning where there were almost a dozen of them all in a line.

We decided to take one of the longer alternate routes which took us past many homes built into a hill, several with steep, overgrown staircases up to them (presumably there are other ways to go up which are used more often).

It was time for lunch, so when we saw a convenience store, we went right on in. Having picked our meal, the cashier warmed it up for us. While we were waiting for that, we chatted for a bit. The most common first question we get is, “Where are you from?” This encounter was no different. She tried speaking Japanese to me a few time, but when I explained that I was yonsei, she understood that it was a long time since my ancestors left Japan.

Fed, we proceeded on the walking course. As we were walking towards Shiroyama Park, we passed Daiyuji Temple and decided to take advantage of the new-looking restroom. It was very nice and I'm sure a welcome addition for many people who walk the course.

We were climbing up, knowing that we had reached the park. Several people were strolling in the park, and one person went by with a small radio playing a folk song (but not the one we hear in Ainokura). The course goes along the outer edge of Shiroyama Park but doesn't go up to the castle ruins. We picked a spot where we would go up and then back down the same way, so we would be sure to not backtrack too far (the wifi hot spot wasn't getting a signal, and I hadn't preloaded the map for that section).

Since we've done a lot of walking up long sections of stairs, our running joke for the trip is if we see a long set of stairs, that's probably the way we should go. Thet was true again on the path to the Takayama Castle ruins. We started seeing stone walls in the hill, so we knew we were close, and before we knew it, we entered a clearing where the castle sat and went up a few more stairs to the top of the hill.

There were trees all around, so you had to go towards the edge to see beyond the trees. We got some good looks, but before we started heading down, we saw a few benches with people on them. Since they were calmly sitting there looking out, we figured there must be a nice view, so we went to take a look. As we got closer, we started to hear the folk music again; the man we saw earlier was one of the people sitting on a bench. He turned to us and asked us where we were from, explaining he was local. We chatted for quite a while over the current weather, the climate in Takayama compared with Seattle and skiing. His English was impressively solid, and he only seemed to be working hard to bring up words from a seldom-used vocabulary.

The man brought up the topic of cranes, and we explained that I had folded a thousand cranes, plus one, for Kellen's wedding. He offered us a small package of origami paper, a touching gesture. I hope he felt as enriched by our encounter as we did.

Ending the day

Since we were close to the same convenience store we had been the past couple days, we went again. This time we bought enough to merit four chances to win a prize. I reached into the box, picked four cards, and we won two items, a package of crackers and a package of instant ramen. Winner, winner, ramen dinner.

We were done pretty early, and when we got to our room at the hostel, they hadn't gotten to replacing the towels yet. We swapped things around a bit then headed downstairs to do things in the common room. We saw several people come in to drop off their bags (check-in starts after cleaning is done) and then go out. It wasn't long before we went back up and things were ready for us, so we were able to relax for a bit.

Come 5pm, as had happened the last two evenings, we began to hear very loud music (so loud we couldn't hear each other talk, nor listen to things with headphones). This is the 5pm Chime. The speakers are part of a nationwide system to warn people of emergencies (tsunamis, etc.) and the music is the way to test the system.

It wasn't too long after the 5pm Chime finished that we went down for dinner. This time, the kitchen was very busy (needed to wait a few minutes for the microwave, which hadn't happened before on this trip) and all the tables were taken, so back out to the common room we went to eat.

No surprise, the rest of the evening was planning, writing, and sleeping.