My second day in Takayama was just as much fun as the first. It was full of eating, shopping and puttering. I woke up early and tried to beat the crowds of people to the old town area of Takayama, all in the name of getting a few pictures without the swarms of tourists that would inevitably descend given time.
Walking the streets of Takayama’s old town is my number one recommendation for tourists. It is the cultural heart of Takayama. The old town area has been beautifully preserved with many buildings and whole streets of houses dating from the time of the Edo Period, which was a time when Takayama thrived as a wealthy merchant town. The old town streets are perfect for people who love to putter.
I’m pretty sure this is the number 1 most photographed house on Sannomachi Street, all because some very marketing-savvy person planted a beaaaaautiful purple wisteria tree outside. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to witness it in full-bloom!
While walking along the streets you can’t help but notice large spheres that appear to be made of cedar branches hanging outside many store entrances. These spheres are called “sugidama” and are hung over the entrances of a sake brewery. As sake is one of Takayama’s local specialities there were many local breweries along this street. The best part, they are perfectly happy to pour you liberal amounts of sake to sample.
I think one of my favorite memories from this trip however, happened at approximately 10am in the morning. My friend Ken who coordinates the orphanage volunteer visits in Fukui texted me wondering if I was free and could come play with the kids. He’s got a 6th sense for these kind of things, and knew within 2 texts that I was hopelessly tipsy.
Text from Ken: Jessie….you are drunk. Before noon. On a Sunday morning……
At which point I realized that he thought I was drinking alone in my apartment before noon on a Sunday. I hastily explained the situation in an attempt to save my reputation. I told him I had taken a spontaneous holiday, and was sampling sake so I could buy my father a bottle for Father’s Day, and because I was driving home I had to start early in the morning so I would have no liquor in my system when I needed to drive home in the evening.
Next text from Ken: “Jessie, you are drinking, before noon on a Sunday morning….like a boss”
I was absolutely tickled pink. Compared to my other ALT brethren I’m far from being the wildest one of the bunch and I have never been called “boss”. I have to admit, I really liked it.
After texting Ken I realized however, that I was consuming quite a bit of sake with little more than a banana and a cup of tea in my stomach. Food was essential. Suddenly, almost as if fate heard my thoughts and decided to intervene mere seconds after this thought crossed my mind, I saw a long line of Japanese people waiting to buy food. Without stopping to think twice I hopped in line too. I have a traveling commandment in Japan, if you see a group of Japanese tourists in line for something, hop in line, don’t ask questions and be prepared to be amazed, because whatever you’re about to eat it’s going to be delicious . This rule is doubly important when you see elderly little old ladies in line, with great age comes great food wisdom, they really know their stuff! During my 2 years in Japan I have never regretted obeying this commandment.
Seeing as I’m not the biggest egg fan, I opted for A: Succulent medium rare beef nigiri. Both were mind boggling good, but if you twisted my arm I would have to say my favourite was the ginger soy version. Better yet, the whole snack was eco-friendly! That’s no plate people! It was a rice cracker which you could munch into oblivion after finishing the nigiri. My stomach and I both think more street vendors should serve their snacks on edible “plates”. My stomach was satisfied and I decided it was time to check out the Fujii Art Gallery (Fujii Bijutsu Mingeikan), and take a breather from sake sampling. This museum is also known as the Fujii Folk Craft Museum and exhibits various household items and art objects.
It was really interesting but at an entrance fee of 700yen, the price was a bit too steep in my opinion.
Therefore, the second thing I would recommend doing in this area is visiting one of the two morning markets.I went to both, and my recommendation would be the Miyakawa Morning Market because the atmosphere of strolling by stalls alongside the river was more pleasant.
While strolling along the river, shopping was inevitable. I’m not one for shopping normally, but my dad’s birthday and father’s day were very soon so I shopped up a storm to have things to send home for him. I was so happy because I found some of his favourite Japanese snacks.
I love this store because they allow you to sample nearly all of their top sellers. This particular package is my favourite, garlic flavoured crackers, the perfect gift for garlic-lovers that’ll make their toes curl and their loved ones run in fear from their breath. Vampire protection is an additional bonus. As a small present for Tomomi, I also bought something from this store (Takumi)
As lunchtime approached I made my way to the end of the Miyakawa Market and up into on of the side streets. A good friend of mine had recommended the restaurant Kyo for its fabulous lunch sets. He’s a big foodie like me so I knew I’d love it.
Address: 77 1-chome town daxin Takayama, Gifu, 506-0851 Tel: 0577-34-766
It was the best meal I think I’ve had in Japan and the family who owns the restaurant was very kind to me. The set was very reasonable for the quality and it tasted so good my taste buds are still singing hallelujah when I think about it. The most surprising thing about the whole meal however, was the beer.
I love dark beers and I don’t get to drink them as often as I like in Japan, due to the price. Darker beers don’t seem to be as popular here, so I was pretty surprised it was the default local brew served. As the first swig of ice cold beer hit my lips, I could actually feel my eyes pop just a little. It was unbelievably delicious! So unbelievably delicious I thought the sake was playing games with my mind. So, I naturally had to take a second gulp. Nope, it wasn’t a trick, it was really truly the best beer I’ve ever had.
Beer is like wine, sometimes what tastes amazing to one person doesn’t suit someone else, everyone has different preferences. For me, this tasted like my dream beer. I’m sure you’ve all imagined the perfect beer in your minds at one point or another. You take a sip of a beer and wish it was just a little more “this” or a little more “that”….. this one was simply amazing. As soon at the kind lady serving me came by to fill up my water I quickly asked her where I could buy some of this beer because I loved it. It turns out I was in luck, they had a store along Sannomachi Street. Check it out everyone, I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Full to bursting by this point and my wallet much lighter after buying quite a bit of beer from the Takayama Brewing Company I figured I would take a time out and relax for a bit before driving home. I went in search of a nice coffee shop to read my book and drink some coffee before hitting the road. I stumbled upon the adorable Hidacchi Cafe.
I lost all track of time hiding away from the the bustling streets of Sannomachi nose buried deep in my excellent book (The Stockholm Octavo, should you be so interested). Unexpectedly rain began to downpour and I thanked my lucky stars I was already happily nestled away in a cafe, I felt a little bad for the many drenched to the bone people who tried to come into the cafe but it was full and they were forced to run back out into the rain. Putting my book down, I stared up at the sky lost in thought. I love sitting at a window with a hot drink watching thunderstorms, I find it very relaxing. All too soon though it came time for me to hit the road. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful adventure.