This Open Road

A season walking southbound on the Appalachian Trail

Weekend in Takayama and Hida-Furukawa

2 1/2 hours northeast of Nagoya by bus, tucked away in the foothills of the Northern Japan Alps, is the smallish community of Takayama. It’s famous for its traditional architecture, nearby onsen (hot springs), quirky shops, specialty restaurants and ancient shrines (including one originally built in the 8th century which was later destroyed by fire; some of the present buildings on the site date back to the 16th century).

Last weekend, Hannah, Kim and I met for a girls’ weekend in Takayama. Kim and I took a bus from Nagoya and Hannah arrived from Kanazawa, after a few days of exploring that region. We had a fine time walking all around this lovely hamlet, ducking in and out of shops, eating at local traditional restaurants, perusing the morning markets, strolling along the paths that meandered through the forested grounds of a local temple and enjoying the camaraderie that goes with such trips.

It was during a walk after dinner at a tiny family owned restaurant, that I was struck again with the privilege of getting to choose this life. It was so ordinary – walking with two friends after a satisfying meal. But it was beyond that: I was walking along a quiet street, otherwise dark except for the muted street lights along the route, in a mountain community in Japan, with two people with whom I shared several values, namely, a love for travel, other cultures and teaching. And there we were: we had made independent decisions, applied for a job, finagled some logistics (a lot of logistics, actually), boarded a plane for Japan, and, on this weekend, ended up in Takayama. And as we walked on that road, on that chilly evening, I considered the simple reality of it. How did I end up here when I could have been anywhere else? I’ve been fortunate to have had other situations in which I could have asked the same question – from any peak, valley or trail I’ve ever hiked; from dirt roads, cafes and hutongs in Bolivia, Boulder and Beijing. But in this moment, I was in the foothills of the the Japan Alps and could not be more thankful for it.

Everyone has their own story, however easy or difficult getting to where we intend might be. I’ve been in a long season of getting to travel and work and it’s never lost on me how lucky I am. This little excursion was another reminder of that.

Meeting Kim and heading to Nagoya Station to catch our bus!

Meeting Kim and heading to Nagoya Station to catch our bus!

Excited trip faces - ready to go!

Excited trip faces – ready to go!

First thing to do: eat traditional ramen. This was the best ramen either of us have eaten yet.

First thing to do: eat some traditional food. This was the best ramen either of us have had yet.

We met Hannah and began our tour of Takayama.

We met Hannah and began our tour of Takayama.

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Sacred temple grounds.

Sacred temple grounds.

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Rickshaw.

Rickshaw on the bridge.

Robyn on the bridge.

Robyn on the bridge.

Tiny corner neighborhood restaurant. We all agreed this was a highlight of Japan so far.

Tiny corner neighborhood restaurant. We all agreed this was a highlight of Japan so far.

Food is served in several small dishes. More was to come even after this photo.

The food was served in several small dishes. More was to come after this photo was taken.

Our newest favorite Japanese restaurant.

Our newest favorite Japanese restaurant.

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46-Takayama 087

On our second day, we took a train 15 minutes away from Takayama to Hida-Furukawa. While there were lots of tourists in Takayama, we seemed to be the only foreigners in Hida-Furukawa. This was a small, unassuming community that seemed not to notice (or care) that only a short distance away was a place that drew travelers from all over the world.

Finding the way in Hida-Furukawa.

Finding the way in Hida-Furukawa.

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60-Takayama 113

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Hannah captured the perfect moment of laughter.

Hannah captured the moment perfectly.

There were three shrines that seemed overwhelmingly large relative to the size of the town. The first...

There were two shrines that seemed overwhelmingly large relative to the size of the town. The first…

The second shrine.

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There were two shrines that seemed out of proportion relative to the size of the town.

The second.

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After all the walking and shrine-looking, it was time for…coffee!!

Somehow we just new this was the place.

Somehow we just knew this was the place.

Japanese-style.

Japanese-style coffee time.

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Perfect.

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A unique display we saw along the street.

A unique display we saw along the street.

Detail.

Detail.

Tiny stairs engraved into the rock.

Tiny stairs engraved into the rock.

Ready to head back to Takayama.

Ready to head back to Takayama.

We stayed at J-Hoppers, a cozy, clean, hostel run by super nice staff.

We stayed at J-Hoppers, a cozy, clean hostel run by very nice and helpful staff.

(Maybe it was too early for pictures...)

(Maybe it was too early for pictures…)

We had a fantastic time in Takayama. I was there for two days and one night and felt like that was plenty of time to take in the richness and essence of the town. Hannah and Kim stayed for another night and visited a nearby onsen, which I heard was beautiful and relaxing.

Takayama is now one of my favorite places in Japan and I’d love to return sometime for another visit.

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11 responses to “Weekend in Takayama and Hida-Furukawa

  1. Mom November 2, 2013 at 1:42 am

    I can only echo brother Dan–great photos and narrative!! This is one of my favorites of your many posts. I loved the laughing photo too but LOLed at the one of “maybe too early for pictures.” Love you much.

  2. Gus Pegel October 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I made mistake. I was in Nagoya, Japan 1977 not 78.

  3. Patris October 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    You are lucky! And it is good to appreciate it! Thank you for sharing! Here’s something you might find amusing: my desk is in the corner where yours was now, and the last 2 days I had to get a lap blanket to keep warm! I haven’t needed your fancy handwarmers yet, but then it hasn’t snowed yet!
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Aunt Carylon October 31, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Love the laughing picture! Thanks for taking me on this beautiful trip!!! Hugs!

  5. Gus Pegel October 30, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Fantastic Robyn,
    I was there in 1978 during my Road Trip from top to bottom. You are so lucky to be over there.
    Your photo’s and writings are fabulous. Can not wait to hear more from you.
    Cheers from Downunder
    http://www.squidoo.com/extraordinary-road-trip-japan

  6. Uncle Dan October 30, 2013 at 12:17 am

    What a great experience you are having. Great photos and narrative too. Thanks……………….

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