Takayama is a relatively small Japanese city (population-wise), with only a small number of high buildings. Takayama is best known for the carpentry. Carpenters from Takayama are believed to have worked on many of the temples in Kyoto and Nara. Takayama used to have a castle, of which now only remain the ruins. Because of it's location it has always been fairly isolated and it has developed it's own culture.
After leaving Hiroshima early in the morning, most of the day was spend in the train. We traveled all the way from Hiroshima (by Shinkansen Nozomi train and LTD.EXP Hida 19), through Kyoto and Nagoya. The last leg from Nagoya to Takayama was very beautiful with wide views over various valleys and rivers. We arrived late at Takayama, but just before the Tourist Information at the station square closed (at 17h00). Here we could still arrange a hotel (actually ryokan Rickshaw) for the night.
The ryokan had the typical tatami mats on the floor, and a bed just hovering above these mats. Although sort of authentic, this ryokan also seemed a bit tailored to the taste of tourists, and provided a lousy breakfast, and was too expensive for our taste. We decided to stay a second day in Takayama, but in an other hotel. We decided that a business hotel would perfectly suit our needs. Near the station was a business hotel. No one seemed to speak even a bit of English, which gave us the reassuring feeling of authenticity. With a Japanese Phrasebook we managed to explain we wanted to stay for the night, and leave our suitcases for the day. The authentic feel was further enhanced when we entered the room at the end of the day, and found that the doors were way to low for me. The receptionist put us in a western style room, but with only our Japanese Phrasebook hand, we could not figure out whether the hotel had only western style rooms or that the Japanese style rooms were not available anymore.
The first day in Takayama was spend walking around the center and picking a nice restaurant to eat. We also walked through the Old Town area that was kept as a National Heritage site. This was a busy (touristy) shopping street at daytime, but when we passed through the first night, it was completely deserted. With the dark carpentry the street had a somewhat spooky appearance at nighttime. The next day we also passed through the street and visited several Sake breweries, soya-sauce producers, and stores that sold the typical Japanese wooden slippers.
Because of its rather small size, Takayama is a nice city to walk through. We obtained a map from the tourist information desk, and just strolled around, We walked part of the part of the Higashiyama Walking Course Course, which guides you along several of Takayama's temples. We bumped into several interesting places like shrines and a hillside cemetery. The next morning we visited the Miyagawa morning markets that is located along the Miyagawa River of the river. It is a great place to buy souvenirs, but even more to try all kinds of Japanese food. We were just too late to visit the other morning market: the Jinya-mae Market. We passed alongside Takayama Jinya, a former magistrate office turned museum. We went to Hida-no-Sato, or Hida Folk Village.
The next day we took the bus, through the Japanese Alps, to Matsumoto.