From the coast into the mountains — from Kanazawa the journey went on to Toyama and Takayama. The town is well worth a visit, even in winter. And did you know that the beef of the local cattle tastes as good as the one from Hyogo?

Toyama

Starting the day leisurely I packed my things and left the hotel in Kanazawa at 10 o’ clock. At the station I bridged the time until the train departure with a matcha latte at Tully’s Coffee. Then, at half past I passed the Shinkansen gates and boarded the Tsurugi bound for Toyama.

Today’s destination is Takayama, located in the midst of the Japanese Alps in Gifu prefecture. In 2012 I visited the city on the way to Shirakawa-go but did not have much time then to explore the town rich of culture.

With the new Shinkansen line it became convenient to reach Takayama on the coast line via Toyama instead of taking the bus over the pass routes. With the Japan Rail Pass the whole journey is covered and this way I could make a brief stop in Toyama on the way.

Toyama prefecture’s most famous attraction is the Tateyama Kurobe alpine route which is a must-see trip I heard. In winter the route is closed though, so I chose to spend just a few hours in the city of Toyama.

In the north of the station lies the Kansui Park that I ended up not visiting because of the bad weather. Next time I will make up for it for sure and visit the local Starbucks branch there that is dubbed the most beautiful (I think the one near Fukuoka deserves the title even more).

Photo: www.ana-cooljapan.com

At a coin locker I relieved myself of my baggage and exited the station on the south side. I walked a few blocks in the same direction to find the Toyama Castle Park which was a bit underwhelming having seen more impressive castles before. A bit further lies the Glass Art Museum which was unfortunately closed today (Wednesday).

To save time I hopped on to the local tram which happened to be a historic car with wooden interior and foldable tables.

Back at the station I visited Iroha Ramen, a local Ramen chain that is famous for its Black Toyama Ramen, one of the local dishes besides seafood from the bay and Sake.

I went with the lunch menu that included the ramen with the black soy broth, rice, some potato salad and a fried shrimp with cabbage. The broth tasted rich and full of seafood flavor, the noodles were firm and the chashu melted in the mouth.

Right across was a Daiso branch so I could not resist and shop some 100 yen priced everyday items.

After the filling meal I picked up my suitcase and boarded the Hida Limited Express for Takayama. This train had only three cars and was using diesel instead of electricity. The scenery outside quickly changed from urban to rural and the green fields to snow covered mountains. The scenic ride reminded me lot of the train rides in Switzerland. 

Takayama

One and a half hours into the mountains the train stopped at Takayama station. Unsurprisingly, most passengers left the train with me and headed to the East exit. In Takayama I decided to stay at a Ryokan, the Futarishizuka Hakuun, on the Eastern hill overlooking the city. A driver kindly picked me up so I did not have to carry my belongings through the city and up the hill.

The okami kindly showed me my six-tatami room with wooden bathtub and a lovely view over the city.

In Takayama I am staying two nights and I already feel that the time is not enough to see all the interesting buildings and temples in the town. It was almost 4 already, so I wanted to visit at least one museum before all of them close at five. The streets were lined with traditional wood houses, with temples here and there. Even the local conbini tried to fit in by changing its color scheme.

The Hirata Folk Art Museum is a former historic house that can be visited for a small fee. The two-story house is a reconstruction of a house of the Edo period and was built in 1897. In the store house in the back were several exhibits depicting the lifestyle of that time.

Before it got dark I wanted to go to the next village, Hida-Furukawa, but in a hurry I hopped on the wrong train and made an involuntary 50 minute journey in the opposite direction to Gero Onsen. Since I was thinking of visiting the Onsen town anyways it was not a terrible turn of events. Two hours later I was back in Takayama and was looking forward to dinner.

At Tenaga Ashinaga I ordered some highly anticipated Hida Beef, which is equally delicious to Kobe Beef. Hoba Miso is another regional speciality, or rather a way of preparing food. In this case, the thinly sliced beef is seasoned with miso and cooked on a magnolia leaf over a clay stove called a shichirin. The combination of the slightly cooked meat with the miso sauce made me jump for joy. Pairing this with steaming rice was just perfect. The meal was rather cheap for the gourmet ingredients (1700 yen).

While I was walking back to the ryokan it was slightly snowing making the scene perfect. With a pot of green tea I started writing and then headed to bed. Tomorrow I want to rise early to visit the cultural heritage villages Shirakawa-go and Ainokura.

Japan 2017/18 Day 13: Toyama and Takayama
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