One of the draws for us in Takayama is the morning market (朝市場) held by the river every morning until noon. Lots of little stalls selling produce, handicrafts, and local food to snack on for breakfast. We headed out from our ryokan under grey skies. It’s fun walking around the old portions of Takayama just to see the architecture. And being there mid-week in early November meant the streets were practically devoid of tourist traffic. Which also meant that quite a few shops were closed except on weekends. Quite a difference from bustling fall leaf-peeping season.
Shop entrance detail on the way to the morning market.
We stopped into a couple of locations we remembered from previous visits: the dango vendor who also sells local Hida coffee milk and the egg square guy. Egg squares… how to explain them? They’re basically little sake-sweetened meringue cubes, grilled. Sooooo delicious! Well, they had been the previous two times. This time, however, they seemed to have gained more publicity and the quality was, well, not as good. That did save us several hundred yen, though, as we didn’t have to buy several boxes to hoard.
This cute little guy can be found along the river where the morning market is held.
Building detail along the river near the morning market; I liked the contrast of the traditional plaster and wood structure with the modern corrugated metal siding.
The market on the day we visited was very sparse. Again, mid-week and no longer tourist season. After we had grabbed a few yummies from the vendors, we headed to Takayama Station to catch the local to Furukawa, just up the valley a little ways. I had read that it was a less touristy, quieter version of Takayama and wanted to give it a look.
Sign spotted on the way to Takayama Station. An Italian what?
We arrived in Furukawa, which is definitely off of the gaijin tourist radar. And being mid-week in early November, it seemed pretty dead. We decided to wander around a bit and just enjoy the quiet. We were all prepared (so we thought) in our waterproof raincoats, so the light mist that began to fall wasn’t a worry. It also made for some beautiful shots of the surrounding valley.
At the point when I took this photo above, it had started to rain more heavily (notice the water draining from the bank into the river). We ducked under the cover of a garage and waited a bit. And waited. I was getting cold and hungry, so I wanted to press on. The rain let up a tiny bit, so we decided to head down a few more streets to try to find someplace to eat. Luckily, Furukawa does have quite nice tourist map available at their tourist office in the train station. After wandering down one street of residential buildings, we decided to head to a more promising “touristy” area in search of food. And that, my friends, is when the heavens opened up. It was like being back in Texas during a gully washer, except this one was in ~40F weather. Unamused, we found shelter under a pavilion in a park in the middle of town. And found this…
Yes, the robot from Laputa. There may have been a little plaque explaining why it was there in (middle of nowhere) Furukawa, but I don’t remember. We were cold, wet, hungry and trying to be amused with the situation.
Eventually the rain let up the tiniest little bit and I decided to head out in search of umbrellas. I found them half a block away in a little shop… at twice the price they would have cost us at the 7-11 in Takayama. 仕方がない、ねえ。 Unwilling to spend the rest of the day dodging rain showers, we bought them and immediately continued the search for food. We eventually found a nice place where we got Hida 牛丼 beef bowls. Not as tasty as the beef we had eaten the previous day, but satisfying after a cold, rainy start.
The heavy rains kept away for the rest of the time we were there, so we wandered and enjoyed the town. We kept seeing persimmons strung up outside houses and wondered why. We didn’t learn the answer until we stayed in Yamagata. There we learned that there are different types (their names escape me now), and the ones we had seen hanging were not as sweet as the fuyu type. Thus, people string them up and let them sweeten up before eating. Interesting.
Manhole covers in Furukawa, representing a festival of some sort.
A tiny canal in Furukawa, filled with carp.
Self-portrait in Furukawa.
On the way back to the station, we noticed (and chuckled over) this bit of advertising. 🙂
All in all, Furukawa was quite lovely. I purchased my favorite souvenir of the trip there: a tiny, hand-carved (from yew) fox charm on a phone strap. (I am actually using it now, and it reminds me of this day when I look at it.) I would absolutely go back for another visit, hopefully when the rain isn’t pouring quite as much and also when fewer shops are closed for the season. If you’re in the Takayama area, it’s worth a half-day trip on the train to explore.
Back (warm and dry) in our ryokan in Takayama, a view of the sunset beneath the heavy rain clouds.
That night we had reserved dinner at the inn. And like dummies, we didn’t bring a camera to record it. I highly recommend their traditional Japanese dinner. There were three of us eating, and barely enough room on the table for all of the dishes that kept arriving. So tasty, too. And cheap! Less than 2000 yen per person and made by local ladies at the inn every night. Yum. I was amused to notice that when the large covered bowl of rice was brought in by the helpers, it was placed at my side. The side of me not next to my husband. Dishing out the rice is still the woman’s job in Japan. 🙂
We relaxed a bit after dinner, then enjoyed the baths one last time. The next day (Election Day in the US) we were headed from Takayama to Matsue.