Takayama

We left Hakone bright and early in a taxi outfitted with snow-white lacy seat covers driven by a man in a suit.
And that was just a plain, regular taxi.
To reach Takayama, we had to take four different trains; one connection was all but 1 min.! But Japanese efficiency made it all possible.
On the train, we passed scenic mountains and rivers, rocks and woods, until we arrived in Takayama.
The old town of Takayama is a movie set of feudal Japan – doesn’t look real. I am not sure you can call it beautiful, but it is certainly exotic and, in its own way, charming. The river meanders through the town; its twists and turns open up to picturesque clusters of houses perched on its banks. The houses are built of wood, they look ancient – with wood darkened by age and the elements. I am shocked they haven’t burned over the years!. The streets are narrow, the houses are low, and there are concrete ditches running along the length of the street with clean water rushing through. Some of the streets are residential – people still live in these ancient houses! Others are commercial – with tasteful souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, and antique stores. There are a lot of tourists, and they are mostly Japanese.
When you enter the shops, you almost have to bow – the ceilings are that low! Many coffee shops have gardens in the back, and there is a lot of beautifully carved wood both on the inside and on the outside.
We are staying in a traditional ryokan. So traditional, as a matter of fact, that we don’t even have a private shower – the only way to wash yourself is to go down into the communal bath/shower – banya again! At least, we have an “en suite” bathroom. Many rooms don’t, and there is a row of bathrooms in the hallway with red slippers lined up in front. Each slipper is market “Toilet”.
Two of the staff actually speak passable English, which is a rarity here in Japan, but it’s compensated by amazing service: when you ask for something, they don’t walk, they scurry to help you (that is, if they understood…)
Right behind our ryokan is a row of temples. They are set perfectly at the foot of the mountains against the backdrop of a pine-tree forest soaring towards the sky.
Dinner at the ryokan is a multi-course affair. It is served on low tables with diners sitting on pillows. Our room – tatami, upon which an attendant set up our bedding. This is a far cry from the Andaz at Toranamon Hills.

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