(And now back to some photos from our trip to Japan this fall. I’m picking up where I left off, which was in Matsumoto.)
After Matsumoto, we planned to head to Hida-Takayama, which is one of my favorite areas of Japan. We checked into the JR trains covered by our Rail Passes and, thanks to the mountains, it would have taken a good 5 hours by train to get from Matsumoto to Takayama. So we decided to take the highway bus, instead; it would only take about 2.5 hours. Alas, it wasn’t covered by our Rail Passes, but decided that more time in Takayama was worth the cost of the tickets.
So, in Matsumoto, the highway bus terminal in on the ground floor of a mall near the station. Since we weren’t quite sure what to expect on the bus (would I get car sick?) the guys went to get some drinks in the B1 grocery store while I guarded the luggage out by the bus stop. While I waited, I couldn’t help but notice this box next to me.
Oh, the Engrish! I knew it was a fire extinguisher, but how that got to panther… I have no idea. (We once stayed in a room in Kyoto with the “Blame Instrument” which was an emergency ladder for the window.) When the guys returned, we all had a good laugh about this.
The bus arrived and we discovered that all luggage was carry-on; there was no under bus stowage. Oh, boy. Luckily it was a big bus and not crowded, so we three headed all the way to the back row, where we could stow our various bags. Including us, there were three other passengers and the driver.
Once we got underway, I wished that the bus was about half as long as it was. Twisting mountain passes on (to my American eyes) narrow roads…
Thankfully it wasn’t like that. I don’t think we ever got going too fast; sometimes our sedate speed seemed too fast to me. Our bus driver was a pro, though. I wonder how many times he has made that same trip? While we had obviously missed peak leaf-peeping time, the views were still breathtaking. This is a route that I would love to travel again, though perhaps in a nice, ground-and-ccrve-hugging sports car instead.
Eventually we arrived safe and sound in Takayama. Yay! The (nice, new?) bus station is located right next to the JR station, so we knew exactly where we were.
We stowed our bags in con lockers and went to get some lunch. (Side rant: Oh, how I wish we could have coin lockers in airports here in the US! They are so convenient!) Part of our reason for visiting Takayama is for their Hida beef. We had it before on our 2009 trip, and the memory of that lunch burned bright. We knew the restaurant we wanted to visit (it’s hard to miss, as there’s a large black cow statue outside), so off we went.
Cute sign on the way to lunch.
Ah, the sure sign of a Japanese vacation: drinking beer and grilling meats at lunchtime. With some token veggies, of course. Thankfully there were mushrooms for hubby and kabocha (pumpkin) for me. Yum!
Happy, and with one mission accomplished, we headed out to see the Festival Museum, which housed some of the floats used every year in Takayama’s huge matsuri (festival). The floats were incredible, but most of my shots are less than stellar thanks to reflections from the glass. Here is a view from the upper observation deck. Just left of center is a human-sized mannequin. These floats are tall!
Impressive as this was, better times awaited. Entry into the Festival Museum also gets you entry into a building containing a 1/10th scale model of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, where Ieyasu Tokugawa is buried. Why they have this in Takayama, I still don’t really know. However, it was amazing! The detail was unbelievable. And thanks to it being mid-week, it was pretty much deserted. We had the place to ourselves and we spent a long time photographing the buildings. The room would go from a morning light setting to an evening light setting, allowing you to pick your mood for your shot. Very, very cool!
After that, tired from a long day, we headed to the station to grab our bags and head to the ryokan. We stayed at the lovely Oyado Yamakyu, where we stayed in 2007. It has an air of Ghibli’s Sen to Chihiro (Spirited Away). It also features large common baths, with smaller outside baths as well. What could be more perfect after a long day of sightseeing in chilly weather? Not much.
Cute car spotted on the way to our inn.
Relaxing with tea and sarubobo snacks.