Sunday, October 2, 2016

Takayama

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We drove from Fujiyoshida to Matsumoto, arriving in the late morning.  We picked up picnic lunch ingredients, and drove out for a half-day trip to Takayama, which was just 2 hours by car (5 by train, for comparison) through some fantastic twisty mountain roads. It was a fun drive for David--there were sections of road that were eerily familiar, having been recreated in a racing game he enjoys.  It's weird to drive a section of road that your brain is convinced it knows when you've never been there in person before. 

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Matsumoto itself had been a bit challenging to us; it was the largest city we'd been in since leaving Tokyo, and was large enough that it wasn't easy to navigate by vision alone.  Despite its size, it was a black hole to the MiFi device we'd rented for mobile internet in Japan, so there was no Googling for a grocery store, and Google Maps was useless.  We were able to identify a grocery store in Maps.Me (offline for the win) but Matsumoto was also a black hole for GPS signal and we ended up relying on Kiki for the first time to navigate--the Nissan's GPS receiver was able to pick up satelites, and Kiki took care of us!  Once we were out of the city, we didn't need any guidance--there was just the one road, with no viable alternatives.

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Our first stop in Takayama was the Hida No Sato (Folk Village), which looks like it's even more beautiful in the fall, based on the pictures from their site.  It's a museum of traditional structures built between 1700 and 1900 that have been relocated here.  Most have a very steep roof pitch, and they were all at least partially open for visitors to explore.


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As we wound our way up into the mountains, we noticed that we had gotten ahead of the cherry blossoms--they were just beginning to open up here in Takayama, but down in Fujiyoshida and in Tokyo they were already beginning to fade.

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At first glance, we thought this was an exhibit of period firefighting equipment, but we think it’s the actual equipment they have standing ready in case of a fire, since the village is outside town, and everything is wood and thatch.  The small pumps can easily be moved to any of the structures, and draw water from the central lake.

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As we headed back down into Takayama Lana noticed a familiar sign that we didn't realize was familiar-but-out-of-place until we were almost past it. Here in the middle of nowhere we came upon a Denver Park sign. Only after we pulled over to investigate did we realize that Takayama is a sister city to Denver, and there is in fact a City of Takayama Park in Denver, along the Cherry Creek. It was a "who'd a thunk?" kind of moment, but we were glad we noticed it.

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Driving down into town we could see that even that small drop in elevation was affecting the cherry blossoms--they were stunning with the new-green leaves of various other kinds of trees and the bright red bridge.

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We'd stumbled upon Nakabashi bridge while driving through Takayma to the Hida Folk Village, and David wanted to go back to photograph it.  We found a tiny public parking garage just past the bridge, and took some pictures of the bridge and surrounding cherry blossoms.  Then, since we were already parked, we explored the area on foot.  There were a number of narrow, pedestrian streets with shops not far away.

One was clearly selling sake, based on the sugidama--that large brown ball hanging from the eaves in front of the shop.  Traditionally, the sake brewer would gather green cedar branches and bind them together and shape them into a ball and hang it when they had brewed a fresh batch; when it turned brown, customers knew the batch was ready.  

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But neither of us have much interest in liquor, so we visited the fabric store next door instead.  David found the first of several fabrics--a sashiko indigo wave--that he bought in Japan for making bowties.  Lana found a kleenex pack cover with sashiko needlework. The purchases were elegantly wrapped for us, making the purchase a present in its own right.


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After making our purchases we realized it was getting late and we had a two hour drive still ahead of us. Thankfully the traffic was lighter on the way out of Takayama and we made it back to Matsumoto fairly quickly, despite some rain and impending darkness. One of our few regrets about Japan was that we didn't take more time in Takayama, which was beautifully scenic and picturesque. A night or two in town would have been nice, but we had to move on after a few hours.