Photo dump!

Last lot of Takayama photos now folks before we head onward to Hiroshima. Random snaps galore!

The man poses in front of yet another gorgeous little wooden homestead. If only we could dismantle one and rebuild it in our back garden!

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Here’s a few colourful snaps of posters, banners and stuff to buy. There’s lots of traditional images including Koi Carp and green tea caddies masquerading as little geisha.

Traditional sugary treats and conical hats are temptingly arrayed for the souvenir hunting tourists.

Then it’s back in the Hida bullet train and rumbling onwards to our next destination.

As the train heads onwards I get to gaze out on the beautiful scenery once again.

From tumbling river cascades to endless rice fields, its a peaceful scene of rural Japan.

 

 

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Sake warehouses and canals

Hot on the heels of the Hida folk museum we hop on a train to the quiet little town of Hida Furukawa.

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The historic, canal-lined streets, temples and museums of Hida-Furukawa are less crowded than Takayama and the town has a wonderful calming feel, due to small canals full of carp that flow through the streets.

The Seto River and the townscape of white-walled warehouses makes Hida Furukawa a pretty sightseeing spot.

Delicate bamboo water features add a gentle watery calm and a constant ‘boc boc’.

The old streets remain intact, quaint and quiet. Allowing for a peaceful stroll to soak up the atmosphere.

In the old town white walled warehouses sit alongside adorable tiny little canals.

Furukawa, like nearby Takayama, became prosperous in the Edo Period due to the rich timber resources of the surrounding mountains which include cedar, cypress bamboo and pine.

With good water, good rice, and good food, Hida is deeply rooted to sake production in terms of culture, history, industry, and festivals.

This is evidenced by a plethora of Sake breweries and associated paraphernalia.

My favourite cheeky deity, tanuki – the raccoon dog, pops up yet again with his jaunty hat and angled, expressive little face.

Below colourful adverts for Sake and a brewery displays its Sugidama, a distinctive cedar ball.

Sake makers would hang up a fresh green sugidama in November or December, right after they pressed sake made from the new rice harvest.

Customers knew that a few months later, when the sugidama turned completely brown, the sake was ready to drink. It would appear that this brewery’s booze is ready to drink!

Hida folk village

Our final outing from Takayama is to the Hida folk village, a pretty, open air museum showcasing the architecture and lifestyles of the area.

It’s also an excuse (as if we need any) to dress up in some traditional costumes . .  don’t we look cute

Covering approximately 99,000 square meter site of sloped- and thatched-roof houses, this model of a folk village has over 30 buildings, recreating Hida’s historical look.

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You can try your hand at some traditional crafts as well as having a go with some toys!

The man gets to grips with stilts, amusing as his tiny legs are almost the same width . . .

In each building, everyday articles that recall the life and culture of mountain farming villages are displayed.

Many of the buildings were brought from their original sites to preserve them and the structures range from 100 to 500 years in age.

Some of the homes are used to host different activities or experiences, such as crafts or seasonal events.

Rather belated I spot the (still cute) warning signs about snakes . .  after traipsing through all the long grass!!

The folk museum is worth a visit to see the variety of architectural styles of the region.

Tiny Takayama treats

I can’t seem to drag myself away from reminiscing about Takayama. This tiny town really captured our hearts!

So this post is just a random collection of things that caught my eye around the town.

From cutesy posters to tiny food stalls, everything is just so novel to us Westerners!

I love the overly designed packaging on everything. The garish colours and relentless cuteness of every product just melts my heart!

Below are some adorable little chocolate balls packaged as Geishas and kitties.

Takayama has some nice morning markets. One is held in front of the Takayama Jinya, and the other at the Miyagawa River side.

At the Miyagawa market, sixty shops and stalls are open in approximately 350 meters from Kaji bashi Bridge to Yayoi bashi Bridge along the Miyagawa River in the center of the town.

The stalls on river side sell vegetables, fruits, pickles and spices while shops on the other side sell Japanese sweets and crafts.

Some shops sell Japanese souvenirs such as chopsticks and small items in addition to Takayama local souvenirs including sarubobo dolls and Ichii Itto-bori wooden carvings.

Neil cosies up to another Sarubobo and I snap some zany advertisements.

There appears to be a cardbaord cutout that I have not forced him to stick his head through – quickly rectified!

And here are a few quirky crafts to enjoy before we head onto the Hida folk museum for dressing up shenanigans . . .

Tiny and traditional

A last look at the wonderful village of Ogimachi now. Just a glut of photos of all the quirky little sights.

Below are several statues of Studio Ghibli, famous anime creations.

To the left is No Face from Spirited Away, the large cuddly looking one is BIG Totoro and the little witch is Yubaba.

The rows of houses look straight out of a fairy tale. You almost expect a wicked witch to beckon you in.

Water lilies fill a picturesque pond while a pretty field of pink Cosmos forms a carpet of blooms.

Just drink in the views of these adorable abodes.

A whole host of magically scrotumed raccoon dogs are discovered around a corner!

Just outside of the main village you can find a more peaceful, verdant scene as lush rice fields stretch into the distance.

Heading back for a final wander through the village we find more tiny details.

A traditional Japanese garden fills us with some zen peacefulness as the bamboo water feature gently and hypnotically ‘boc bocs’.

Water is everywhere around this tranquil spot, from rivers to streams, ponds to water features.

I can’t get enough of these beautiful, huge houses. They are so different to anything we’ve seen before.

Many of the houses are now open as museums so we head inside one of them to get some views out.

Up in the eaves you get another perspective on this bustling little village. Briefly getting some respite from the crowds of tourists that throng Ogimachi.

Just as we prepare to leave, the rain starts, which is a good excuse to get out the very girly umbrella.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Ogimachi life as much as we loved visiting.

Step back in time

More snappy snaps from the wonderful little town of Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go.

We’re aptly reminded that wild beasties roam the area with some cute little bear warning signs – they haunt apparently!

Then we take a sedate turn around the village and it’s like stepping back in time.

The village is fairly compact and the majority of houses are clustered close together, many of them are now shops or museums.

You can also stay over night in several of the houses, but book well in advance, they fill up quick and we didn’t manage to snag one.

From the farmers tending their verdant rice fields, to the gorgeous houses, it really does feel like you’ve slipped back by a few centuries.

There are 59 houses clustered together in Ogimachi. Each of them are unique with little details that mark them out from their neighbours.

Families kept silkworms in the eaves of the houses. So the houses would have been chock full of life on every floor!

For such a small place it is jammed packed full of fascinating details, meaning you can spend hours just whiling away the time enjoying a plethora of tiny treats.

You can find a walking map of the village here.

Stunning Shirakawa-go

Early in the morning we head out of Takayama by bus for a day trip to the stunning Shirakawa-go area. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I saw photos on the interweb!!

Shirakawa-gō is an area that encompasses several small, traditional villages showcasing a traditional building style known as gasshō-zukuri which means ‘praying hands’ to reflect the shape of the buildings.

We’ve headed to Ogimachi, one of the largest villages and a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its traditional architecture.

We head straight for the highest vantage point over the village to get some pictures of it spread out below us like a little toy town.

The Gasshō-style house is characterised by a steeply slanting thatched roof, resembling two hands joined in prayer.

The design is exceptionally strong and, in combination with the unique properties of the thatching, allows the houses to withstand and shed the weight of the region’s heavy snowfalls in winter.

We also spot some farmers harvesting their rice crop so naturally take a few snaps.

The village houses are large, with three to four storeys between low eaves and were historically intended to house large extended families.

The structures face to the north and south, taking Shirakawa-go’s predominant wind direction into account and minimising wind resistance, while controlling the amount of sunlight hitting the roof, to provide cool summers and warmer winters.

The Gassho-style house is architecturally one of the most important and rare types of farmhouse in Japan.

The clustering of so many surviving examples has given the area its World Heritage Site status.

Gassho style houses had been built in Shirakawa-go and Gokayama from around 1800 until the early 1900s. The old buildings are said to have stood for over 300 years.

However, from around 1940, the construction of dams led to some settlements being submerged.

Additionally, lots of people left for the cities, some houses were lost to fire, and many of gassho style houses were re-sold.

There were around 300 gassho style houses in 1924, but by 1961, the figure had plummeted to just 190.

Against this backdrop of rapidly disappearing heritage, residents of Ogi Town started a movement to save the houses from within the village. In 1971, the three principles of “Do not sell”, “Do not rent”, and “Do not destroy” were agreed on.

The size of the houses and the scale of the roofing required means that it takes rather rather a lot of hands to help out.

Below we come across villagers working together to re-roof one of the beautiful buildings.

The village, once we get closer, is truly stunning. A little time capsule of gorgeous architecture and traditional community.

Lots more to come of this special place. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

Tiny Takayama details

This post is mainly random shots of more delicious details from around Takayama.

Above the man sticks his head in a regional icon – a Sarubobo – AKA monkey baby!.

These are red human-shaped dolls, with no facial features, made in a variety of sizes.

Traditionally, sarubobos are made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as dolls, and for their daughters as a charm for good marriage, good children and to ensure a well-rounded couple.

Some more raccoon dogs with their magical expanding scrotums can be found hiding around corners.

Meanwhile sumptuous coloured fabrics are piled high in local shops, ready for making into kimonos.

A pharmacy window attracts my attention with its display of old medicine labels.

Back in the little Sanmachi Suji District now. This consists of three streets in the heart of Takayama’s old town, which lies just to the east of the Miya-gawa River.

The streets are lined with traditional houses, shops, restaurants, sake breweries and cafes. These three quaint streets are among the most picturesque in Japan, and gives you a feel of what Japan looked like around the turn of last century.

But modernity is never too far away in the shape of wacky posters and eyewateringly priced meats – ‘high priced parts’ anyone?

Plus there’s always some graffiti paste ups for me to enjoy too,

Next up we’re catching the bus and heading for the hills to explore the staggeringly beautiful Shirakawa-go, an area with over 100 traditional thatch-roof houses, known as gassho-zukuri in Japanese.

Shrines and sushi

Follow us as we trot around the quaint little streets of Takayama, chock full of gorgeous old buildings and quirky sights.

Takayama gained importance as a source of high quality timber and highly skilled carpenters during the feudal ages.

Consequently the city was put under direct control of the shogun and had quite a bit of prosperity despite its remote mountain location.

Takayama’s old quarter (called “Sanmachi”) is known for the beauty of its lattice-lined buildings, along which waters flows through the canals on either side of the street.

With lots of sake breweries and souvenir stores, the area is as bustling as it is beautiful.

Next up we wander to the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine.

The origins of the shrine date to the time of the Emperor Nintoku, when he requested Prince Takefurukuma no Mikoto to destroy Sukuna – an incredible beast.

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Before undertaking his task, the warrior enshrined his father, the Emperor Ohjin, as the deity of this shrine and prayed for the success of his mission.

More than 1.5 million people visit the shrine annually but we had the place to ourselves.

Lots more to see from this beautiful little town, watch this space.

 

Traditional Takayama

We’ve arrived in the exquisite little Japanese town of Takayama. We’re staying at the gorgeous traditional homestay of Guesthouse and cafe SOY 

This beautiful house is chock a bloc full of beautiful dark wood, sliding doors, futons and other traditional Japanese architecture and decor.

We can heartily recommend this lovely little place. It’s about 15 minutes out of town but the wonderful Tai happily picks you up and drops you off.

You also get the most gorgeously presented breakfasts each morning – each one was like a 5 star restaurant creation!

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After adjusting to our new surroundings for a while it’s off to the gorgeous town of Takayama.

Takayama is a city in Japan’s mountainous Gifu Prefecture.

The narrow streets of its Sanmachi Suji historic district are lined with beautiful wooden merchants’ houses dating to the Edo Period.

Takayama is known as a “little Kyoto” for its gridiron street plan and preserved, historic, wooden buildings.

Even though the small streets get hellishly clogged with sightseers, it is impossible not to be charmed by this lovely little place.

Takayama has a proliferation of Sake breweries, easily spotted by odd balls  found hanging outside. These are Sugidama, which means “cedar ball,” and that’s what they are, fresh cedar branches tied together and clipped into a perfect spheres.

Sake makers would hang up a fresh green sugidama in November or December, right after they pressed sake made from the new rice harvest. Customers knew that a few months later, when the sugidama turned completely brown, the sake was ready to drink.

These days, you’re most likely to spot a sugidama outside sake sellers and restaurants that pride themselves on a great selection of nihonshu (sake).

Prepare yourself for multitude of snaps from this incredibly photogenic little town!

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