Japan - Village


My main purpose for this October 2016 Japan trip was to visit and home stay at this UNESCO heritage village. Too bad my friends couldn't make it, so this was my 6 days solo exploration.

  Nagoya - Oct 5-6, 2016
It's my second (or third times) to Nagoya so I skipped the castle and explore the local area. Eat, shop, onsen are my target goal here. 

Toyota Building

Famous NANA

Busy Nagoyan life
  Shopping at this Penguin shop is a must. Full of unique toys such as Tengas... Haha  

Exploring the Osu local shopping district of Nagoya

The famous Osu temple
Aside from being sheltered on the walking street...

this area has no distinctive attractive character...
The area is famous for second had clothings. That's all about it...

Researching on premium wagu, costing around JPY2,200 per 100 gram for 5A grade

Enjoyed some stews at local Japanese bar (Isakawa)

Premium wagu. Yum

Famous Nagoya grilled ell dish at Ciao-Morita Restaurant at Sakae District. JPY2,500 per set.

It's freshly grilled, so the ell was tender and crispy at the same time, and softens when inside the mouth. It's such so tasty... ^^

Takayama - Oct 7
In the morning I took a 2.5 hour coach from Nagoya to Takayama. Costing around JPY5,000 return. I reserved a seat 2 weeks in advance but actually the coach was half full for my schedule. I arrived Takayama prior to noon, dropped off my luggage then off for heritage exploration.

I arrived Takayama village and visited the old town. It's a work day in Japan so not many visitors were here. Then I had the privilege to explore the old town and temples undisturbed. My pace of life had then assimilated with the locals, being slow and appreciative.

Unryuji Temple

Tenshoji Temple

This heritage temple walk took me around 2 hours to complete. The 10 temples and 2 shrines along the path dated back to the 1600s. Yet they were relocated from the town to this temple walk area.

Guess this would be the guardian of the ground

Cleansing the body and soul before going into the temple

This wall painting depicted the Buddhism theology - Life after death is never ending cycle of inferno, unless one follows the path to seek the truth and meaning of Buddhism.    

A Buddha in Japanese depiction

Carry a smile

Temple roofing

This would be a tomb

Inside the temple
Looking down the Takayama village from a hill

Ground view of local area
Traditional high street. Renovated in traditional style

Old soy sauce factory. Still in operation
Traditional home, mainly built from wood

Traditional rickshaw, need a bulky guy for a ride
Traditional hand painted pottery and hand crafted wood panel display, so exquisite
Traditional toy and doll shop. Despite the huge volume of diverse items, Japanese has its way to arrange a neat and beautiful display
Bought the traditional blue clothes for JPY2,000

Plums shop
Corner store of alcohol bar and beef stew shop. The beef at this Hida region is famous.

Ventured out at 7 when all shops were closed; only a few eateries opened. Tried this local sushi house

Appearance and presentation of sushi are not too fancy. Perhaps it's the authentic way

Tried this Hida beef sushi. Ate the beef separately. It's raw, chewy and yummy. ^^ JPY600 for 2

I stayed at Minshuku Kuwataniya Inn which was a traditional home turned into guest house. It is quite an experience to explore the Japanese traditional living. A night around JPY9,000.

In traditional Japanese bath robe

My tatami room.

Shared shower room. After washing the body, then go for hot spa
Ogimachi Village of Shirakawa-go -
 Oct 9

I took an one hour morning bus from Takayama to Ogimachi,  arrived around 9:30am. I called in the Nohi Bus company to reserve a seat a week in advance. Cost around JPY4,000 return, paid at Takayama station. It was around 80% occupied on my scheduled bus.

More than 600 people still live in this Ogimachi Village. This heritage got preserved as villagers help each other to cultivate fields, build houses, re-attach the roof to withstand the heavy snow

Got in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1995

A 20 min walk up from town for the view of the village. There is only one main street of 1km which defines the whole Ogimachi Village

This style of house is called Gassho style. They are characterized by a large, steep thatch roof. The roof resembles hands folded in prayer, thus the name "gassho" (to pray) style house.

The big roof of a Gassho house must be

re-thatched every 30 years with silver grass
Villagers grow the grass at their back yard and store for future uses

When neglected, weeds and mosses grew and grass rotten
Each of these houses is family house, so each of them is registered by the family name

Most of the houses turned into shops, eateries, exhibition houses or home stay

Villagers used to raise silkworms in the open room under the roof truss while the first two floors were living quarters

Hida beef bun

Local square at the heart of the Ogimachi Village. This space was actually reclaimed from 3 houses

The only main street, no car allowed from 9am to 4pm
An exhibition house

Souvenir shop
Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine
Locals drew their wishes in cartoons and animation. It's so Japanese. Haha

Local lucky charm. Different color represents different wish. Red is the most popular for family
This Shimizu House is my Gassho style home stay for the night. It's among the two guest houses I googled that containt English description. After I arrived here, I realized that the village has around 20 houses for home stay. Yet, not all of them are in Gassho style and almost all of them don't offer English service... The room was JPY10,000 a night with local traditional dinner and breakfast.

  Definitely it's an UNESCO experience to stay inside a heritage local house to experience how traditional Japanese lives. Most of the partition of the house are slide doors including the exterior ones. These three slide doors are from my room.  

Four layers of slide doors: mosquito screen, shaded screen, opaque and clear glass

Though the house was elevated, cold air from the ground did chill me at night. Then realized I didn't turn on the heater carpet. On top of the carpet I gotta set up a layer of cushion and bed sheet as bed.
I was sharing the first floor with 2 couples, a senior couple from Belgium and a young couple from Israel, while the home mom and dad live on the second floor. We had a good chat about our present life, situation in Europe and Middle-east. Honestly for the 2 hours I chatted with them had been more than what I'd spoken with any other in my entire trip, as Japanese doesn't speak any English... Anyhow, we chatted during the home made traditional local dinner at 6 pm and breakfast at 7 am. After I finished the dinner around 8-ish, I attempted to have a walk of the village, but failed after 20 metres away from home as there was no street light. It was pitch dark and I dared not walk further... It's really a village. Definitely taking in the experience.


Takayama Autumn Festival - Oct 9
Another highlight of my village trip was to attend this Takayama Autumn Festival. As the parade of the festival started at one, I took the return bus from Shirakawa to Takayama prior to noon. Ten floats had already been on display on the street in front of the main Sakura Shrine of Takayama.

Even though the origin of the festival is unknown, it is believed that the festival started between 1586 and 1692 when a noble family governed this Hida Takayama area. The festival is regarded as one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan, partly attributable to the festival floats which have been preserved for about 300 years!

There are total of 11 floats for the Autumn festival. If the day is likely to rain, these floats would stay inside their store house and no parade will proceed. I was fortunate that the rain stopped around 8am so the festival proceeded as usual.

Each float has three level. The first two are chambers with statues and offerings, while the top is for performance

Each float has a designated name, while the float keepers dress differently for each team

All floats are beautifully decorated with carvings, dolls, elaborately woven thick curtains, lacquer ware, and bamboo blinds. This float was decorated with 12 Chinese zodiac animals - Dogs, Chicken, Monkey on this side

God's Music Float goes at the forefront of the autumn festival parade. Flutes and Drums were played on the float

During the morning session, only 4 floats parade on the street. Perhaps the rests are only for the night ghosts

The front team pulled, the back team pushed

Parade at the village

Different team attire

Each float has it own store house. They only come out once a year. Summer and Autumn festival each has its different sets of floats

The special carrier to transport the ornaments and offerings for each float 

Of the 11 floats, the marionette float was displayed inside the Sakurayama Shrine for marionette performance

2 performances were arranged for both days. But need to get into the Shrine an hour early as there was traffic control. The marionette was about 2 children swung themselves on the monkey bars with no string attached, and seated on the monks shoulder while can still wave to the crowd. so cool

The festival also included traditional children's games

Food stalls were must! I got myself full with just street delicacy

Traditional children's snack, egg, carrot, and some chewy dough. Anyhow, just trying the difference

Wrote some of my postcards at the local playground. It's a safe area with girls just played carefree

The night parade started around 6. Prior to that around 4, each team was installing lantern and night elements on the float  
Night parade route is different from the morning

The Autumn festival was held on October 9 and 10 of each year. But there is only one night parade, held only on the 9th while all 11 floats participate

As I carried a camera, the lady in the front yielded her spot for me to take picture. So thankful
God's Music Float was again the first of the parade

There was no street light, only lantern and the moon
The night parade had an eerie feeling...

like its dedicated to the god of ghost...


Even though I booked my trip 4 months in advance, I wasn't able to secure a room in any English hotel booking site amid the festive season unless I was willing to pay US$300+... so on the last day of the trip I stayed at an onsen in a tatami hall sharing with another 20 guys. Many guys around the world encountered the same problem as I did. Then I chatted with a guy from Malaysia for an hour. It brought back the old memory of chatting with random travelers at hostels... Too bad the local Japaneses do not speak English, or else there would be more cultural exchange. Nonetheless, I spent 3 nights at onsen hotel in this trip, so I'd witnessed quite some onsen culture. I really appreciate the Japanese culture of openness of nudity toward family and friends. Nudity isn't something to be ashamed of. Haha. 

Overall, during this trip, I neither cleansed my soul nor experienced any wow factors. Perhaps I've experienced the feeling before. Yet I was just enjoying the days as normal. It occurs to me that I start to feel the world as ONE. 

  Return flight - Oct 10
Today, being the last day of the trip, commuting occupied most of my time. My day began at 6 in the morning, catching a taxi from Onsen to Takayama station > bus to Nagoya > JR to somewhere > taxi to airport > flight to HK > bus to arrive home at 8pm.

I was supposed to take an express train from Nagoya to airport. However there was an accident and service was terminated. I talked to the station staff and they just kept saying sorry sorry sorry! I was so pissed. Luckily I saw a Japanese girl inquiring for alternative path so I requested to follow her. She was a Japanese-Korean mixed; her boyfriend was a Korean.

Here is the picture of 3 of us with diverse background on a real adventure of our own. The taxi driver charged us flat at JPY10,000. The ride would have been a few fold if it wasn't her explaining the situation. Anyhow, I arrived 30 min before original fight time, yet the flight was delayed by 30 minutes. So I was safe. I'm so thankful. Glad we all shared a special moment.