Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hida-Takayama: In Which I Fell In Love with Japan's Countryside

Hida-Takayama in Gifu Prefecture may not be as famous as other cities like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka but when I learned that it's still a traditional city, I got intrigued and decided to make it my first stop during my October 2015 trip.

I flew to Nagoya Airport because it's the closest major airport to Hida-Takayama and there's a direct connection from Manila. From Nagoya Airport, I took the Meitetsu Line to Nagoya Station (~1 hour, JPY870). There are no more trains to Hida-Takayama in the evening so I booked a hostel in Nagoya prior to coming to Japan. I got a dorm bed in Glocal Nagoya Backpackers, which is within walking distance from Nagoya Station, for JPY3240 for one night. That hostel had really soft beds and warm comforters so I slept comfortably!

The next morning, I got my JR Pass exchanged and then took the JR Wide View Hida Limited Express to Takayama Station. I didn't sleep throughout the 2.5-hour trip because the countryside views were amazing.

It's a dam! These are things I studied in university so I'm pretty fascinated by them

It's also possible to take a bus to Takayama from Nagoya. Travel time is roughly the same as the limited express but the bus fare is only around JPY3000 while the limited express costs around JPY6000. I took the train, however, because I had a JR Pass with me.

I arrived in Takayama Station at noon and walked to my hostel (J-Hoppers Takayama). Hida-Takayama is a small city and most sights can be reached by foot. After settling at my hostel, I went to the Old Town area.

This is Takayama Jinya. It's a former government building with many different rooms inside. It now functions as a museum and is open to the public. You take your shoes off before entering and carry them in a plastic bag given at the entrance. Some people may think it's a hassle but I love walking on tatami mats and wooden floors without shoes so I enjoyed it.


Pardon the selfie. It's not easy taking photos of yourself when you're traveling alone lol.


Afterwards, I walked around the Old Town where various shops selling Japanese products are located. I didn't buy anything but it was enjoyable just looking around.

It was raining lightly that afternoon and it was pretty cold. I went inside a nikuman shop that had a stove heater and bought a nikuman (meat buns) filled with Hida beef. Hida beef or Hida-gyu is actually a famous kind of beef in Japan (i.e. wagyu).

Ramune (Japanese soda with an interesting bottle design, JPY150) and Hida gyunikuman (JPY450)

And then I resumed my walking.

In the evening, I went to a restaurant and had Hida beef for dinner.

JPY2600. I don't normally spend that much for food but I just had to try the Hida beef.
It was a Sunday but you see in the photos that there's not a lot of people in Hida-Takayama. Later, I will learn that while the famous Kyoto is also a very beautiful traditional Japanese city, it's brimming with tourists, which kinda spoils the fun. I enjoyed Hida-Takayama because even though it's not exactly "off the beaten path", I can immerse myself in traditional Japanese culture minus the crowds. It's very accessible and easy to navigate plus the food is really good! It was only the first day of my trip but I found myself in love with Japan's countryside.

Unlike the big cities, there may not be as much to do in Hida-Takayama but it makes an ideal base for day trips to other beautiful places like Kamikochi, Shirakawa-go, Okuhida (hot springs), and Gero Onsen. I personally went on day trips to Shirakawa-go and Kamikochi and I will write about them next!

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