After six great days in Tokyo, our next stop was the small rural town of Takayama, which is situated in the mountains northwest of the metropolitan area. Getting there from Tokyo requires about 4.5 hours of train travel, including a change of trains and a half-hour layover.
Takayama is a popular destination for both Japanese and foreign tourists. Within its old town district are several blocks of well-preserved feudal-era buildings, and other scattered remnants of the past.
One of the old-era experiences that Takayama tourists can enjoy is a stay in a ryokan, a unique kind of hotel in which the guests follow certain rigid traditions of Japanese life long ago. For example, you only wear house kimonos and sandals to breakfast and dinner. (You can also wear them outside if you like.) Each ryokan has indoor and outdoor spa facilities for you to enjoy, but again, you must wear special clothing and observe particular bathing rituals. Of course, it’s all done for fun nowadays, so there’s no point in resisting. You just go along for the ride.
But despite tripping through the past in Takayama, there are still plenty of modern trappings, not to mention more of the adorable Japanese quirkiness we observed in Tokyo. For example, pudding shaped into voluptuous breasts is a thing here.
And if the strawberry cheesecake Kit Kat’s we saw in Yokohama don’t sound appealing, perhaps you’d be more a fan of the green tea flavored ones.
In Takayama, unusual pearls of wisdom are dispensed cheerfully and without charge.
I wonder if this tourist couple heeded that particular bit of advice.
If you’re having trouble choosing a partner, at least pick a pair of personalized chopsticks. (They’ll even engrave your name on them.)
It’s going to be hard to select just one of these beautiful napkins, so go ahead and buy several.
And don’t forget a disposable camera (yes, somehow that’s still a thing in one of the world’s most technologically advanced societies) to capture all your favorite Takayama moments.
One of those moments should be adding your name to the guestbook wall on the main street.
That’s assuming you can find a sliver of empty space. (It helps that George is much taller than your average Japanese male.)
As in Tokyo, the people in Takayama were effortlessly polite and agreeable.
Although sometimes it was hard to tell what they were thinking.
Even when the Japanese get angry and want to tell someone off, they prefer less confrontational written communications.
But they’re also quick to let you know how much they like you.
(I’m pretty sure those young ladies are fans of the blog. I guess I’ll have to learn how to handle the intense fame and exposure.)
If you’re planning to visit Japan, I definitely recommend including Takayama in your itinerary. I think two nights is the perfect amount of time here – the first to get acclimated (and learn how to wear the clothing – the kimonos come with instructions) and then a full day and evening to explore the old town and shops.
There’s something to be said for briefly immersing yourself in a way of living that’s a bit uncomfortable and foreign. Still, we were also perfectly happy to put back on our familiar old tee-shirts and jeans. Conformity may have certain advantages, but individuality has a few of its own.