DAY 6: SHIRAKAWA-GO VILLAGE + TAKAYAMA CITY TOUR PART 1
Shirakawa-go Village Tour
Ok, this is the day I have been waiting for and definitely the highlight of our Japan trip! The Shirakawa-go Village Tour! We booked this with J-Hopper and since we’re staying with them, we got a 500 yen off. The tour starts at 8:00 am so we made sure to wake up early to take a shower and prepare everything we needed. We even had time to buy breakfast from Family Mart from across the street.
The tour guide was super entertaining! She made sure to give us all the information we needed while we walk around the village ourselves. She’s basically there to keep us entertained and informed during our time on the bus, but by the time we get off, we’re on our own. It’s not so hard to navigate anyway since they gave us a map.
The first place we looked for was Kanda House. Our tour guide recommended that if we were to choose just one house to visit, her recommendation would be Kanda House since Kanda-san serves tea every single day to guests coming in. So we followed her and made Kanda House our first stop. I think we were only the second pair there when we arrived. The guide was right, the whole house smells like smoke because there’s a bonfire right in the middle of the room. Which is a nice touch since it was very cold outside. They also have a display in the attic and the view from their attic window is amazing! I loved Kanda-san. It’s also super cute because three generations of Kanda family women were there. ^^
We also got to visit Wada House and Nagase House but only from the outside. We didn’t have time to explore what was on the eastern side of the village. We also couldn’t go to the observation deck because there was too much snow and the guide advised us against it.
Seriously though, the photos here are unreal. Warning: picture heavy. Every spot looks like a freaking painting.
It was kind of bitin since it was just a half-day tour and we only had two hours to walk around the village. I think we can DIY this tour next time. There are buses going to Shirakawa-go anyway so transportation wouldn’t be a problem. By noon, we were back in Takayama. I really wanted to stay longer. 🙁
The staff at J-Hoppers are super helpful! They gave us some ideas on where to go in Takayama and also gave us a map to help us navigate. We went to see the Nakabashi Bridge first, aka the red bridge.
Then, we walked around Old Town and visited different souvenir shops. There were also a lot of food stalls selling Hida pork buns and Hida beef sushi. We got hungry at some point and found this really quaint ramen shop owned by an old Japanese couple. We dined upstairs and we were immediately attended to by an old woman. The service was really fast! We ordered Takayama ramen and some Hida beef sushi! Ohmigoodness, what they say about Hida beef is true! It’s super yummy! Now I understand why it’s super expensive! Before we went out, the old couple talked to us and I think they were saying something really exciting when we mentioned that we’re from the Philippines. We couldn’t really understand though since they were speaking in rapid Japanese. They seemed really nice.
After lunch, we visited this museum near the Hirase Sake Brewery. It was free and we had time so we went in. Bonus is they had stamps! Yay! Hahahaha! It’s a pretty small museum, and the displays are pretty limited. I got pretty curious about the Takayama Float Festival though. I think it would be nice to see the floats come to life. 🙂
Hirase Sake Brewery
We learned about the sake brewery tour from a J-Hopper staff. We’re lucky that the brewery doing the tours that week is Hirase Sake Brewery, which is the oldest and biggest sake brewery in Takayama. It’s a free tour and after the tour, you have the option to buy sake from them or not. They won’t get mad if you don’t buy anything. They do tours in English, too but I think only one person is doing it so we had to wait for a while. We were kept occupied though by offering us to try amazake, which is a Japanese drink made from fermented rice. It’s basically the leftover from making sake. It was a very informative tour and we had a tour of the entire place. We even got to try their sake towards the end of the tour. It was really strong. Whew! Before we went out, we even saw the owner of the brewery. It’s interesting to know that he’s the 14th generation already. Wow. This was a really really good experience. ^^
Hida Folk Village Winter Illumination
After the tour, we went back to J-Hopper’s cause we had to transfer rooms. We were in the mixed dorm the previous night, and then female dorm on the second night. I really like our second room better! The bed is on the floor and it has a tatami mat! So cute! After taking some rest, we went our again at around 7:00pm because there’s a winter illumination at Hida Folk Village. We had this scheduled for the next day along with our visit to the Teddy Bear Museum but Hida Folk Village Winter Illumination is so much better! It’s actually cheaper than going during the day, the places to go is pretty limited but the lights during the night totally makes up for it. There’s a bus going there directly so again, transpo is super easy! You can either buy your ticket at the bus station or pay to the driver directly. We were able to go to just one house, but we didn’t go inside because it’s so hard to take our boots off, then put them on again. But I will able to stamp my notebook with Nishida House’s stamp! There were other houses open but the snow was so high, we don’t actually know how to get there. LOL. The tour around can be done in less than hour.
We took the bus back to Nouhi Bus Station, bought dinner from Family Mart and went home. We actually planned to have dinner in one of the restaurants nearby but it was soooo cold that we just went home. I can’t take the coldness anymore. LOL. We had dinner in the hostel’s kitchen while watching Music Station. LOL. Oh how I missed JPOP stars. Hahaha!
DAY 7: TAKAYAMA CITY TOUR PART 2
Miyagawa Morning Market
We woke up late today since we didn’t really have a packed itinerary. We will only go to Miyagawa Morning Market and Teddy Bear Eco Village. We had a really nice stroll at Miyagawa Morning Market. The stuff to buy there is super varied – food, souvenirs, vegetable and fruits. We tried different kinds of pickled and dried stuff in this one place. We were also able to buy a lot of souvenirs from one store on this stretch. There’s even a Hello Kitty store. After walking through the entire stretch, we decided to try Takayama takoyaki, which is pretty much the same as what is being sold here in the Philippines. What I noticed though is that the inside is really gooey. The takoyaki seller was super cute and nice. ^^
From Miyagawa Morning Market, we walked back to Nouhi Bus Station where we took the bus going to Teddy Bear Eco Village. On the way, we bought mitarashi dango from this small place near the bridge. We also passed by Kokubunji Temple, but just took a photo from the main road.
Teddy Bear Eco Village
The bus to and fro Teddy Bear Eco Village runs quite a tight schedule and since we didn’t get to finish touring around by the time the next bus passed by, we had to wait for the next one. Really had fun at the Teddy Bear Eco Villlage though! Like every corner and spot is photo-worthy! I had tons of photos here! It’s definitely worth walking uphill in the snow because we missed our stop! Always press the button LOL! Because the driver doesn’t stop on every bus stop. Hahaha.
We walked to Hida Folk Village bus stop and decided to wait there because there are chairs and a roof. The bus stop in front of the Teddy Bear Eco Village is literally just a sign. We kind of became anxious because the bus was nowhere to be found at the designated time but turns out it was just late. Hahaha.
When we arrived at the guesthouse, we just took our luggage, dragged them again to Nouhi Bus Station to take the bus going back to Nagoya. I blogged about what happened next here.