Travelogue: Japan – Takayama & Shirakawago

Alright I’m back in Japan again, but hopefully this time less stressful and more chill. Check-in was very fast since there was nobody at the counters and the staff told me I could go use the lounge first. So I popped by T3 to see the wizarding world which was very meh, before going to Dnata lounge which JAL has access to. I was all ready for sleep to be honest, but the food smelled good. So… one thing led to another. Anyway even though was quite a fair bit of people at the lounge, it was still scarily quiet, to the point where I felt obliged to keep my phone on silent and move my cutlery in silence :/

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Thought the food and drinks here are pretty good! You can find beef stew, carrot cake and satay!

And 6 hours later, landed at Haneda Airport, cleared customs and collected baggage in record time. I think it helped when you have a orange tag. Lol. So I went off to search for the JR office which was also at the arrival hall. The office wasn’t opened, but there was already a queue. Had to exchange for my JR pass and reserved seats on the trains but unfortunately, it says that this JR office is the busiest so they can only help with ticket reservations if you are travelling on that day itself. So I got my Shinagawa-Nagoya and Nagoya-Takayama tickets and head off to Shinagawa station to do the rest

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Trying to get tourists to go to other stations

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All set to go!

It was quite a stress-free journey to Shinagawa via the Tokyo monorail cos the stations had escalators!! I had worried if it’s just stairs only. And since I had so much time before my train departs, I plopped down at Starbucks and stoned. I concluded the Starbucks in Japan is so much nicer – less bitter, less acidic, more velvety. I think it’s the milk

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On the monorail

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Breakfast!

So.. the challenge came when I couldn’t decide if I had to go through the South or North entrance. I was just pacing back and forth for a long time cos I couldn’t tell the difference! In the end, I decided to just pick one randomly. I figured if it’s wrong, the guy at the gate will tell me to go the other way. Lol #sosmartright

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But it turned out I picked the right one

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Shinkansen to Nagoya

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Limited Express Hida train

And 4.5 hours later.. I found myself at Takayama. It was a really long journey. I was pleasantly surprised by how modern the train station is, like seriously. Home was at Country Hotel Takayama which was conveniently located across the station cos I didn’t want to drag my luggage all over the place, then I head off in the direction of Sannomachi to explore, and bulk of the time was probably spent at Harada Sake brewery which you get to taste some sake at ¥300. You even get to bring home the cup!

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The train station

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Spotted on the way. Is this for real?!

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Not before getting a stick of Hida Beef (¥400) cos I was famished. It’s.. a little salty

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They happily smile for me afterwards. lol

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Sugidama – balls made of cedar branches hung over old sake breweries

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Yup, the sake and the sake cup. So they have about 9 kinds of sake and you can try all of them once. It’s not a sake buffet and they have signs that emphasise strongly on that

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And I got a sake icecream (¥350) too, but oops sorry out of focus

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A local specialty – Mitarashi Dango

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Had this for ¥80. Lets say it’s an acquired taste. I cannot decide if I like it or not. It’s not the kind where you have the first bite and go hmmm.. delicious! It’s more like hmm, and lots of question marks go through your head. It’s salty and parts of it burnt, then bland and chewy like texture of rice cake. It’s confusing

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Another local specialty – Hida beef sushi which I didn’t try. Takayama is well known for Hida beef, so much that every restaurant seems to serve something related to that. And you can find street food like Hida beef sushi, beef croquettes, beef buns etc. It was an overkill. I asked a local what’s nice to eat around here, other than beef and she laughed. Well, that says a lot

 

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Sannomachi street

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And I walked the whole street till night. I’m kidding. That was like 5pm, it felt like 10pm already honestly. And it was so deserted at some point I felt out of place. Ha

Went for dinner at Center4 Hamburgers, a place that serve Hida Beef burgers. It’s quite an interesting place, with furnishing inspired from Country/Western feels though they have a strict policy no photos of interior allowed. You need to see it for yourself

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Hida Beef Burger ¥2,650

And the burger is served!

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I like the texture of the beef patty, and I must say it’s quite a delicious burger. Though I find out later from locals that this is burger is considered really expensive. HA

Center4 Hamburgers

94 上一之町 Takayama, Gifu Prefecture 506-0844

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Walked back, and here’s a picture of the empty main road at 7pm! I’m like thinking don’t these people need to eat or something? It’s like a ghost town 

Next morning was spent at the morning markets. Went to the Miyagawa morning market first, which was rather quiet. The stalls were selling fresh produce even though there are some shops along the way as well

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Breakfast! 3 for ¥200

Then head to Jinya-mae morning market next which was slightly smaller but equally quiet as well. But the main attraction was the Takayama Jinya, that was the government office in the Edo period. It is designated as a National historic site, and also one of a kind in Japan

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Jinya-mae morning market

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Takayama Jinya, and some of the shots below (Entrance Fee: ¥430)

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The kitchen area

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We were all amused by the sign that says it’s not for use. Did anyone actually try to use it?

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Japanese-style garden

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The farmers were taxed heavily in the past. One sack weighs about 60kg – oh wow

The place is huge, so big that when I turned around I was suddenly left alone in the premises. Lol. But I think it’s quite a nice place for photos.. lots of photos

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Moving on, walked around the ninomachi street which was also part of the preservation area

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And some of the buildings

Took a pit stop at Traveller Coffee House for a hot cup of coffee before heading off to Takayama Showa-kan museum, a retro meseum that brings you back to the Showa period (1926-1929)

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Cafe Au Lait ¥500

The coffee was quite decent and given its convenient location along the main road, can consider it as a rest stop if you are tired!

Entrance ticket to the museum is priced at ¥800 but the lady asked if I wanna view another exhibition held at the Old Town museum so the combination ticket at ¥1,000 is much cheaper. Well, since I had lots of time, why not. But I figure if you don’t have time, just the Showa museum will do. Since I can’t really understand what the artwork is talking about and neither am I a fan of pachinko

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Showa Alley

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Barber Shop

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Post office at the back

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Me in the elementary classroom

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Private Home – that doll is freaky btw

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Movie Theatre

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Singer wanna-be in the music store

It’s not that nobody visits the place. I was lucky when I was there, nobody was around

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Exhibition at the Old Town museum

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Yup, basically that’s about it

So went on to Ichinomachi street, walked to Hachiman Shrine where you can visit the Takayama Yatai Kaikan (float festival exhibition hall) as well. Nope I didn’t go in cos I figured I probably can see replica of it in other places. Then visited the Museum of History and Art just cos it’s free before ending off at the Craft Museum that was just directly opposite

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Hachiman Shrine

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Then it was time for lunch and I was famished. So I googled tabelog and this place came up really highly recommended for ramen so off I went to Mame Tengu Honten. There was a line when I reached but surprisingly I was the last in line. I must have made it to the last of the peak hour

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Hido Takayama Noodle with Egg ¥800

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The noodles feel very much like wanton mee but softer. I thought it was pretty decent but nothing much memorable

Mame Tengu Honten

〒506-0012 Gifu Prefecture, Takayama, 八軒町2丁目62

There was this bar that caught my eye when I walked along the street to Sannomachi so I made a mental note to visit it. The plan was to have one drink and go back for dinner, but the night turned out quite unexpected. In any case, this sake rinha – sake cocktail mixed with lime and soda is quite good. Then the stranger next to me started chatting with me and 5 mins later, we visited his best friend’s izakaya that was a short walk away

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One sake cocktail that started off the night

The izakaya is a very homely place but I’m not sure what’s on the menu since the chef / owner decided to serve us as he pleases. I found out his family has been in the F&B business for 25 years and he just opened this izakaya 6 years ago. He’s quite a reserved guy but I think his choice of alcohol is quite solid. Lol

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Roast Duck

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Sashimi

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Grilled Hida Beef (what’s new). And apparently this beef has won an award

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In all honesty, the food was okay and there was this private tour that was going on at the next table as well. So the tour guide, apparently a Cambridge graduate was bringing 2 tourists on a sake tasting tour even though there was not much interaction between us and them

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If you are interested, here’s the place 

Not sure how long we stayed there but the next thing I know, we were off to a local Japanese karaoke bar – my first I would say. And it was an interesting experience. Haha they have so much alcohol and there were choices of English and Chinese songs as well. So this karaoke bar was run by his friend’s wife and then the whole family came. Lol and yes, we took turn singing, drinking and.. non stop eating

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And when I thought I could called it a night, we had supper at another izakaya which was interesting cos I didn’t know it was so well hidden! No photos cos I was really tired already. And that wraps up the night! It sounded quite adventurous but I think it can also be quite dangerous cos Takayama is quite.. quiet. Well, I’m glad I’m still in one piece 

Next day was a day trip to Shirakawago – a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its gassho-style houses some of which are more than 250 years. The bus departs from the bus terminal and you can either purchase your tickets from the ticket office or buy them online. The trip takes about 40 minutes and soon we arrived at Shirakawago

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I must say the station is super modern

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Look at the bike shelter!

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And the famous Takayama charm asking you to have a photo with him

Shirakawago is quite a small town and armed with a map from the bus station, you probably have more than enough time to conquer all. Though the map can get quite confusing

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First stop – Wada house. It is the largest gassho-style house and the first and second floor are opened to public. It is the only house I paid and entered even though there are other gassho houses that are recommended to visit cos I reckon it probably all look the same

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So here’s Shirakawago and the very pretty lake

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Obviously more picture worthy than the view point

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The view from the top which was hmm meh. I think the photos definitely look better

Lunch was at Irori which was located next to the bus station. Was happy to see something other than beef! But honestly the food was just okay, a little salty though 

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Grilled Chicken Set ¥1,836

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Ordered an additional warabi mochi as well – lets just say I have tasted better

Irori

374-1 Ogimachi, Shirakawa, Ono District, Gifu Prefecture 501-5627

And then it’s back to Takayama, napped, before heading out to Sannomachi Street (again). I think I must have walked up and down the street 10 times. But this time cos I wanted to try this snack which was sold out the previous day. It feels like taiyaki but instead, it is made with puff pastry. Very delicious – worth a try!

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And getting some sarubobo dolls along the way, just cos it’s Takayama’s lucky charm. No prize for guessing which colour I took 🙂

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It’s called 茶乃芽. Don’t think there’s a name in English. You can probably look for this storefront

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Sweet Bean Pancakes and Roasted Green Tea with Milk ¥700

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Beautiful skyline on the way back!

That’s about it for Takayama since the next day it’s check-out day! It’s a small town, but I think it’s quite a touristy place. Apparently, it’s considered off-peak season now which explained the ether empty streets at erms 5pm. Retail shops close early so it feels like there’s nothing to do once sun sets. And I think 3D2N is sufficient. Staying for 3 nights feel too much for me. Haha but it’s still quite a nice quaint town to explore, which pretty much reminds of Kyoto