You’d think we would learn our learn our lesson by now about long train rides and travel times and being prepared, Takayama is 3 hours away from Nagoya, nestled away in the mountains of the Gifu area and famous for a beautiful traditional ‘old town’ of Japan. On the train we were super excited to see fluffy snow for our first time, but as ventured closer to Takayama, lush greenery was replaced by a winter wonderland and everything was covered in snow and ice and we were not prepared for this kind of winter.
Arriving much later than we anticipated, we realized we had a lot less time then we thought we had, we had become so used to bigger cities that we forgot places close a lot earlier in rural areas as the sun set. We quickly decided to take a bus to Hida no Sato – a open air museum exhibiting traditional houses and lifestyle from the Hida region during the Edo Period.
Hide no Sato was one of the highlights of the Japan holiday and it is truly spectacular during winter. Everything is covered in luscious, fluffy white snow, and walking into Hide no Sato was magical and stunning. The snow was about 10-15cm deep and the grounds and houses meticulously maintained, clean and spotless and even had English translations of all the signs explaining the lifestyle and functions of the house during the Era.
Unfortunately, my camera died shortly after we left Hide no Sato and we didn’t get enough time to explore the streets and shop of the preserved old town as the sun was already setting and most of the shops were already closed. Takayama is a amazing place, that everyone should visit and is a relaxing change of pace from the bigger cities. We will definitely be back and wish we had more time to explore Takayama and the surrounding towns!
Our obsession with long train trips and onsens continued and we decided to go on a day trip to visit Arima Onsen, just north of Kobe. We booked a day stay at a onsen including a 5 – 6 course lunch – including Sashimi, Kobe beef, Tempura among many others, and a dip in their famous sulphur onsens.
Visiting Kyoto for just a one day trip was not enough for Stan and I, so we decided to pay another visit to the city. Also, it was an excuse for us to visit this restaurant called Kichi-Kichi for the chef’s famous omu-rice with demi-glace sauce. Our first stop for the day was the Fushimi-Inari shrine, which most people who have watched Memoirs of a Geisha would be familiar with. Unfortunately, we did not see any young aspiring geisha running through the torii gates full of glee.
Crab is on the menu again? That was my initial thought when Stan and I were led into a separate room for our breakfast. The first food item we saw was a bowl of steamy, hot soup with half a crab inside. As I gave a quick glance on our table, I saw a closed bamboo box and two fish laying on top of a portable charcoal grill and felt somewhat relieved. The hostess sat us down and gestured towards a pot, telling us we could help ourselves with more crab miso soup. I was really surprised and impressed that the hostess set my chopsticks on the left side of the table. A small gesture but I really appreciated it. I know custom-wise it is considered rude to hold chopsticks with the left hand but as a lefty, it just could not be helped. It baffles Stan that I could do many other chores with my right, such as cutting, chopping, holding a badminton racquet, and scissors but my left is reserved only for 3 things, writing, drawing and holding chopsticks.
Travelling far distances with luggage is never fun, you get tired, exhausted and staircases become your worst nightmare and natural enemy. We travelled from Tokyo to Kinosaki Onsen to stay at a ryokan for one night and we never knew it could be so far. Armed with katsu sandwiches and drinks we thought we were ready for a 6 to 7 hour journey to Kinosaki. The katsu sandwiches were gone by the time we got off the first train and we had another 2 to 3 more trains to catch as transferring trains got more difficult when we travelled towards the countryside. Watching the scenery I slowly came to realise how far away we had travelled from Tokyo as the usual city skyscrapers were replaced with forest and rivers and houses became farms. By this time the sun was already setting as it was winter and Chia found a map behind her train seat, showing our location, we had travelled over 7 hours on trains, covering over 648 kilometers, passing by many prefectures.