One Day: Travelling from Kanazawa to Takayama, Japan

By: leelefever on May 20, 2006 - 1:16am

8:15AM: Wake up, shower, pack backpacks, post to TwinF.

9:08AM: Depart Kanazawa Garden Hotel for the beautiful Kanazawa train station (literally best exterior we've seen)- no train schedule to Takayama in hand.

9:22AM: Arrive at station, get coffee, breakfast, visit ticket counter.  Ticket guy gives us ticket to Toyama (next town up) and says little but "change change change- change change change".

9:49AM: Board train to Toyama.

10:30AM: Arrive at Toyama, find schedule for next train to Takayama- see that next train leaves at 10:31 on Track 3.

10:31AM:  Race to Track 3 in time to view the caboose of Takayama train mock us while departing station. Exasperate knowing former train guy could have let us know.

10:35AM: Visit ticket counter to discover meaning of "change change change".  To get to Takayama, we must depart at 1:47PM (3 hours later), change to a bus, and then change back to train to arrive at 5:15PM.  Feel pangs of discouragement.

10:47AM:  Resolve to tour Toyama.  Put bags in locker (US$5), rip out page in guidebook, which reads "The heavily industrialized city of Toyama has few tourist attractions." Roll eyes, take page with us.

11:21AM: While sitting on park swings at Toyama Castle Park, discuss Ben Franklin's public library idea and the naming of UPenn's Oxymoronic Fighting Quaker Marching Band (of which Sachi's brother Mark was percussion leader).

12:17PM: Eat ramen noodles for lunch next to Japanese businessmen.  Despite delicious noodles, discussed our preference for the rich and hearty Southern Kyushu ramen. 

1:44PM:  Buy two giant maple cream puffs and salmon sushi. Board two-car train packed with Japanese school girls, which seem to make up at least 60% of the Japanese population on weekdays around 12-2.  Wonder outloud- why aren't they in school right now? Why do they ALL have the same haircut?

2:35PM: Arrive in the tiny mountain town of Inotani having gobbled cream puffs and sushi. Oishi!

3:25PM: Depart Inotani on a small bus containing 3 people (us included) with legroom about 3 inches shorter than Lee's femur.  Ride through the brand new 2.6 km Koshiji Tunnel.  Even on the rickety mountain bus, an automated female voice reminds us of the stops in Japanese.

4:35PM: Arrive in the two-horse town of Tsunogawa to catch final train.

4:45PM: Depart Tsunogawa for Takayama in 2 car train, containing the same 3 people as the bus.

5:15PM: Arrive in Takayama- on time as usual.  Pick up map from tourist office.  Walk to first choice hotel- closed for renovation.  Walk back to tourist office for more info.  Walk to Rickshaw Inn (7 minutes) to find it is full- realize we should had the tourist office call first. Walk to Hotel Hana- get room for US$93 per night for 2 nights- expected. Relax.

6:05PM: Tour town on foot, laugh at our knack for walking streets after closing time.

6:45PM: Eat at tiny bar restaurant run by a friendly couple knowing little English.  Have local specialty Hida Beef and sake.  Sachi translates conversations about us between unsuspecting people at the bar.

8:15PM:  Return to hotel for long hard night's sleep.

On Location: Bowling for Takayama

By: leelefever on May 20, 2006 - 12:45am

I never knew much about the mountainous areas of Japan other than the fact they are high enough and get enough snow to host a Winter Olympics, as they did in Nagano in 1998. 

Despite being hard to get to from the west coast (Kanazawa) and rain being the dominant condition, the Japan Alps have been a truly worthwhile experience.  We’ve spent the last three days in small city of Takayama and the tiny village of Kamakochi, both in the Japan Alps.

Takayama is famed for its charm, as it has been able to hold onto it’s historical past through the preservation of traditional family homes.  You can walk across the whole town in 20 minutes and most of the sites are within a 500 meters of one another.  Like so many towns, it has it’s special selections of foods and Takayama’s is Hida Beef and Hodo Miso, which is cooked on a magnolia leaf.  We enjoyed the street food as always.  This is Sachi with grilled mochi (rice) balls.

Like Tsuwano, Takayama has a too-good-to-be true feeling. I don't know how these places stay so impeccably clean and orderly.

We’ve been referring to the movie “The Truman Show” where Jim Carrey plays a character that discovers as an adult that his whole life has been staged for an elaborate TV show.  Walking around some of these towns feels like we must be walking through a movie set, where a director is whispering directions into the ears of the townspeople via tiny earphones.  “OK Ms. Fujimori, when they walk by, stop watering the bonsai tree and smile and wave”.  But, it’s all real- all of it, and that’s the charm for which places like Takayama are known.


Alas, we did get tired of the rain and went bowling for an hour.  Sachi beat me in points, but I beat her 2 games to 1 and declare final victory- though she's filing an appeal. The alley was exactly like any one in America, except it didn’t sell beer.  Everyone sells beer in Japan! It’s even in vending machines. No beer in the bowling alley?  That’s just plain un-Japanese!


We stayed in the mostly characterless Hotel Hana, which is close to both the train station and the sights. We paid about $93 for a western style room.  Many of the hotels we choose are called “business hotels” and are low on charm but have the amenities we prefer, like an attached bathroom and Internet access. 

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