JAPAN 2018

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Photos © Ruud Leeuw

Japan 2018 Travelogue - Ruud Leeuw

 

TAKAYAMA

On the trains
On our way to the Japan Alps..

Hida Limited Express
Changing trains at Nagoya, from the Shinkansen (above) to the Hida Limited Express (with panoramic windows)

Lunch on the train
Lunch on the train

Lunch on the train
We should have bought those nice lunch boxes.. There was also trolley service.


 

Takayama, Japan (2018)
We had a lovely train trip with the Hida Limited Express into the Japanese Alps. We had a few hours before
we were expected at our hotel. Fortunately we found coin lockers available for our baggage, so we could
explore the town, cameras at the ready.
(We almost forgot our bags here when we took the bus later that afternoon for our hotel..)

Takayama, Japan (2018)
There is a modern part of town to walk through before one crosses the river into historic Takayama, but
I was pleased to see some original wooden houses still lining the initial route we walked.

Takayama, Japan (2018)


Quite unexpectedly we passed a small gallery; the door was open, a sign invited us in.
I certainly appreciated Mr I. Tanaka's photography but regretted no one was there to talk to.
I would have loved to buy a book of his work. Perhaps one of these days through an internet purchase..?
Retracing my steps on Google Maps I found this to be in the Ekimae Chuo Dori, 2nd block after crossing 158 road,
Nadamachi quarter I think. Visit recommended, some fine photography on display here and books by Mr Tanaka to browse.

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The next day we returned for more; again we walked to the river for the old district
Hida Kokubun-ji Temple, Takayama
Through Google Maps I retraced my steps and found this temple to be the Hida Kokubun-ji Temple ".. one of the
few surviving provincial temples established by Emperor Shōmu during the Nara period (710 – 794)."
en.wikipedia.org:_Hida_Kokubun-ji

Hida Kokubun-ji Temple, Takayama
Hida Kokubun-ji Temple, Takayama

Takayama, Japan
Funny creatures... On the left the Ashinaga statue on the bridge of the Road 158 crossing the Miyagawa River.
That funny wood carving is located on the corner of the bridge and turning left for the Miyagawa Morning Market.

Takayama, Japan
The fish enjoyed the feeding but meanwhile a black kite (Milvus migrans lineatus) was keen to feed itself!

MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET

Miyagawa Morning Market, Takayama


I noticed, not for the first time, that the Japanese have a fondness for plastic wrappings.
No doubt the Japanese are a considerable contributor to the global 'plastic soup'.

Miyagawa Morning Market, Takayama
Nowhere to sit down to consume a snack except on a block of concrete, on a street corner.
Very few Japanese consume something on the street, it's not done; that is perhaps why these women look 'caught'?
A top three of regrets here: lack of street food, lack of benches to sit down, lack of trash cans in the streets.


 

TAKAYAMA AUTUMN FESTIVAL


Sakurayama Hachiman (Shrine) sponsors the Takayama Autumn Festival in October, a festival that features
large floats (at night) covered in lanterns. At festival time, up to 1 million people visit the shrine.
No wonder I had trouble booking a hotel 2 months before the festival!
We only visited during the day, as I had no prior knowledge of the lantern tour at night.

Takayama Autumn Festival (2018)
Quite by accident we found our stay at Takayama matching the Autumn Festival. At first I was dismayed because
I found available hotel accommodation scarce and expensive, but the festival is quite unique and we ended up
in an equally unique hotel (albeit 40 minutes out of town by Niho bus).

Our hotel, the Takayama 'WanWan' Dog Paradise Hotel, was indeed a hotel for dog lovers!
Something I had not expected inspite of the name, I thought it was one of those peculiar translations...
Takayama Dog Paradise Hotel
More on this remarkable hotel at the bottom of my Takayama account here!

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

The Takayama Matsuri (Festival) is regarded as one of the 3 most beautiful festivals in Japan (along with
Chichibu Matsuri in Saitama Prefecture and the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto.)
The focus of the festival is the magnificent floats which are pulled through the streets of the town.
The Takayama Matsuri is actually composed of 2 festivals: the Spring Festival (April 14th and 15th), in which 12 floats take part, and the Autumn Festival (October 9th and 10th), which features 11 floats.
www.hidahachimangu.jp/english/

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)
I did not know the floats would also move after sunset, illuminated by Chinese lanterns; must be an enchanting setting
to witness. If there is a next time I'll try to book earlier and find accommodation in town.

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

The Takayama Festival began about 350 years ago, as a simple village ceremony.
Since Takayama is in Hida, the center of Japan’s timber producing region, the town grew as an important distribution center for the area, attracting large numbers of sake brewers, cloth merchants, woodworkers and
other craftsmen.
As the result of these rich merchants’ support, and the pride in the high quality work of the artisans, the floats became more and more magnificent, also as a result of competition developed among the various districts of the town.

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)
These wooden dolls wearing silk and brocade are manipulated with strings and push rods from within the float by
expert puppeteers. Manipulations by strings of multiple puppets require the skills of upto 9 puppet masters!
The doll becomes almost lifelike as it performs a series of complex gestures, turns, and other movements.

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)
A tribute to Elliott Erwitt (b. 1928), Magnum photographer, also known for his photos of dogs

SAKURAYAMA HACHIMAN SHRINE

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Sakurayama Hachiman is the oldest shrine in Takayama. The town claims the shrine dates to the 4th century. However it's further claimed that it was founded by Emperor Nintoku who is considered a legendary figure. Japan's history is foggy before the Japanese started recording a written history in the 7th century.
www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/sakurayama-hachiman-shrine

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autumn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)
The origins of Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine date from the time of the Emperor Nintoku (413 - 439), when he
requested Prince Takefurukuma-no-mikoto to subjugate the monster Ryoumen Sukuna, an incredible beast with 2 heads,
4 arms and 4 legs... Before undertaking his task, the warrior enshrined his father, the Emperor Ojin, as the deity of this sanctuary and prayed for the success of his mission. In 1683, through the benefaction of Lord Kanamori, the shrine
was enlarged and officially established for the protection of the town.
More than 1.500.000 people vist the shrine annually!
www.hidahachimangu.jp/english/

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

Takayama Autmn Festival (2018)

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Takayama, Japan (2018)

Takayama, Japan (2018)

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HIDA TAKAYAMA TOWN MUSEUM

Hida Takayama Town Museum
Relaxed museum of local cultural history, with exhibits, a reading room & a modest garden.

Hida Takayama Town Museum
The Takayama Autumn Festival is the annual festival of Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

Hida Takayama Town Museum

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Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan (2018)
The historic houses district of Takayama

Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan (2018)

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TAKAYAMA JINYA

Takayama Jinya
"... the only existing building of its kind in Japan".

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Jinya
We shuffled around on our socks again, the shoes in a plastic carrier bag. The tatami mats felt comfortable.

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Jinya
I have read the size of rooms described by the number of tatami mats; must be some standard size to them.

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Jinya
'Use for tax collection, one sack contains about 60 kg of unpollished rice'

Takayama Jinya
Roofing material; the 'no smoking' sign I can understand, but 'no graffiti' may be a little harder to understand?

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Takayama, Japan (2018)

 


 

GOKAYAMA / SUGANUMA

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018
It is Suganuma, the hand written 'Sugamuma' is a spelling mistake.

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018

The Gokayama ('Five Mountains') area includes the former villages of Taira, Kamitaira, and Toga in Toyama Prefecture.
The gasshō hamlet of Ainokura is located in Taira, while that of Suganuma is in Kamitaira.
These locations have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List due to their traditional gasshō-zukuri houses.
The survival of this traditional architectural style is attributed to the region's secluded location.
Many of the houses surpass 200 or even 300 years in age.
en.wikipedia.org:_Gokayama

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018
The gassho roof has a slope of about 60 degrees forming a nearly equilateral triangle. This steep pitch allows snow to
slide off the roof easily. The enormous roof is supported by stout oak beams called chonabari, which are curved at the
base. The valley is in a mountain region with considerable snowfall. The roofs are rethatched every 15 to 20 years.

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018
Gasshō-zukuri houses in Suganuma

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018
The Shinto shrine for the village deity is nowadays located on a slight rise, but has twice been relocated since the 1930s

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018
Apart from one large irrigated rice field in the lower side of the village, all other rice fields or crop plots surround the farmhouses themselves. Irrigation was only introduced in 1945; before that the land was used for mulberry tree
cultivation to support silkworm production.

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018

Twenty-eight buildings and two other structures are included in the designation of 'historic buildings of Suganama Village' to be preserved.
Nine Gassho-style houses now remain, of which two were built towards the end of the Edo period (i.e. early 19th century) and six others were constructed in the Meiji period (1868 - 1912).
The last Gassho-style house to be constructed here was built in 1926.
Storehouses were either of wood or earth wall construction, and were built away from the houses so as to reduce risk from fire.

Gokayama (Sugamuma), 2018
There is a special kind in Japan of relation
between dog owners and their dogs!

 

 

SHIRAKAWA-GO

Shirakawa-go. Gassho style houses
A nice look down from the restaurant where we had a good lunch; part of the group excursion.
Shirakawa, Japan
A fine lunch was included in the tour.
We also had a good conversation going, I was sorry we had to break it up!

The historic village of Shirakawa is situated in a remote valley, surrounded by high and rugged mountains which receive particularly high snowfall in winter.
Remoteness and difficulty of access severely restricted the connection of this region with the outside world until around the 1950s. This isolation led to the development of its unique culture and traditions, including the architectural tradition of the Gassho-style farmhouses.
This region was known as 'the last unexplored area of Japan'!
en.wikipedia.org:_Historic_Villages_of_Shirakawa-go_and_Gokayama

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō
After the group lunch we spread out and walked the village on our own, with the help of a
map issued to us. A few houses were marked as open for a visit to their interiors.

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō
The historic village of Shirakawa-gō.
The houses are large, with three to four storeys encompassed between the low eaves, and historically intended to
house large extended families and a highly efficient space for a variety of industries.

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō
Wada House was one of the houses we could enter and explore.

The area's mountainous terrain and scarcity of flat land offered little opportunity for the traditional cultivation of rice. Farmers historically supplemented their yield with other grains such as buckwheat and millet.
Nevertheless, agriculture was only at the level of subsistence farming.
Of the marketable products coming from the area were Japanese paper (washi), nitre for gunpowder manufacture and sericulture (silkworm farming).
The production of silkworms has been traced back to the 16th century, but only got established as a side-industry in the late 17th century. It thrived right up until the 1970s (except for a period during WW2), but has since entirely disappeared.

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

The local economy is dominated strongly by seasonal tourism.
Due to the income from the tourists who came to see the gassho-zukuri villages, the financial condition of the village has been greatly improved, and tourist traffic increased further once the village became a UNESCO site.
However, the increasing number of visitors has resulted in damage to the area from pollution and by local inhabitants who turn their homes into hostels, gift shops and parking lots.
Which in turn has endangered its World Heritage status.
There is also a fear growing that the change to catering to tourists will harm the charm of the area's simplicity and fundamental Japanese scenery.
en.wikipedia.org::Shirakawa,_Gifu_(village)

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

Shirakawa is noted as one of the snowiest places in Japan. Yearly average snowfall amounts average out in excess of 10 meters (415.4") with snowbanks developing well over 2 meters tall !
The upper storeys of the gasshō houses were usually set aside for sericulture, while the areas below the first (ground) floor were often used for the production of nitre, one of the raw materials needed for the production of gunpowder.

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō
Kanda House, another house open to visit, showing fine decorations.
The guide had said the price of visits to Kanda House and Wada were included in the tour, but that was incorrect.
However, the fee was only some 200 Yen as I recall, so quite minimal really.

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō
'The second and third floor were workplaces for sericulture.'

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

The historic village of Shirakawa-gō

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TAKAYAMA 'WANWAN' DOG PARADISE HOTEL

Takayama Dog Paradise Hotel
Takayama Dog Paradise Hotel - the dogs are the VIPs in this hotel!

Takayama Dog Paradise Hotel
There is a seperate playroom for the dogs. Outside walking paths are set out but also a compound
where the dogs can run around freely, go wild! There is surprisingly little barking to be heard.

Takayama Dog Paradise Hotel
Dogs are carried around, often dressed up and they have a seat on the table.


There was only one restaurant here, dining was an expensive set menu (which we enjoyed once) and breakfast
was also a fairly expensive affair (since we did not eat much of the Japanese- and Chinese food), but we did enjoy
a leisurely breakfast here twice of bread, eggs and cakes. Other food & snacks we bought in town at the FamilyMart.

Takayama Dog Paradise Hotel

'Happy Life with Dogs'
The ticketdesk at the Takayama busstation advised us to disembark at stop 34, but fortunately my son caught
the driver over the public adress calling out 'Kutekogen', which we knew was our stop as advised by the hotel.
The hotel wasn't commonly known at the busstation, forty minutes outside Takayama, so next time we ordered
tickets for stop H34. One way fare was, if I remember correctly 800 Yen one-way per person (6,25 euro).
'Kutegogen' mean 'Kute Highlands'.

The food was here was excellent...

A few dishes from the 'set menu'. An adventure!


On a different subject, I was quite taken in with these bathroom facilities..

On the right a typical brilliant solution what to do with an infant while in the bathroom!


Our daily (morning) commoute to town, some passengers still resting
Niho bus travel (Japan)
Walking around with a good selection of cash, including coins, was unavoidable for (e.g.) bus fare


 

We changed busses in Hirayu and had a 45 minute wait. A good opportunity to have breakfast (at the busstation).
Hirayu busstation
A matter of ordering (pointing to a couple having toast) and getting tickets and a buzzer.

Hirayu busstation
Others used their time for a different activity while waiting for the bus. Hirayu is well known for its 'onsen': hot springs

A route by Niho bus to Matsumoto through the beautiful Japanese Alps. Sorry to leave peace and quiet behind.
Japanese Alps


MATSUMOTO

Matsumoto, city in Nagano Prefecture.
Matsumoto, located in Nagano Prefecture.

The area developed as the castle town of Matsumoto Domain under the Tokugawa shogunate of the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
The 3000 meter high Hida Mountains are to the west of the city.
Between the days of June 27 and June 28, 1994, the Matsumoto Incident sarin gas attack occurred. It was an attempted assassination perpetrated by members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult. Eight people were killed and over 500 were harmed by sarin gas that was released from a converted refrigeration truck in the Kaichi Heights area... The attack was perpetrated nine months before the better known Tokyo subway sarin attack.
en.wikipedia.org:_Matsumoto,_Nagano
en.wikipedia.org:_Edo_period
en.wikipedia.org:_Matsumoto_sarin_attack

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's premier historic castles, along with Himeji Castle and Kumamoto Castle. The building is also known as the 'Crow Castle' due to its black exterior.

The castle's origins go back to the Sengoku period (ca.1467 – ca.1600). At that time Shimadachi Sadanaga of the Ogasawara clan built a fort on this site in 1504, then named Fukashi Castle.
This Sengoku period ('Age of Warring States') is a period in Japanese history marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict.

Matsumoto Castle

The keep (tenshukaku), which was completed in the late 16th century, maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. Its complete defences would have included an extensive system of inter-connecting walls, moats, and gatehouses.

Matsumoto Castle was damaged in a 5.4 magnitude earthquake on June 30, 2011. The quake caused approximately ten cracks in the inner wall of the main tower.
The second floor of the main keep features a gun museum, Teppo Gura, with a collection of guns, armor, and other weapons.
en.wikipedia.org:_Matsumoto_Castle

 

Matsumoto Castle
The castle underwent 'the great Meiji renovation' between 1903-1913.
It underwent another renovation, 'the great Shōwa renovation, during the period 1950-1955.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle
'Yazama' and 'Teppozama' for shooting arrows and firing muskets.

Matsumoto Castle
A very interesting display in 'the gun museum'.

Matsumoto Castle
A much more interesting visit than the Himeji Castle, as that one had no display nor decoration whatsoever.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle
Ah, a Dutch connection..!

The Shimabara Rebellion (Shimabara no ran) was an uprising in what is now Nagasaki Prefecture, in southwestern Japan. It lasted from 17Dec1637 to 15Apr1638, during the Edo period.
It largely involved peasants, most of them Catholics.

In the wake of the Matsukura clan's construction of a new castle at Shimabara, taxes were drastically raised,
which provoked anger from local peasants and rōnin (samurai without masters). Religious persecution of the local Catholics exacerbated the discontent, which turned into open revolt in 1637.
The Tokugawa Shogunate sent a force of over 125.000 troops to suppress the rebels and, after a lengthy siege against the rebels at Hara Castle, defeated them.

The shogunate troops requested aid from the Dutch, who first gave them gunpowder and then cannons. Nicolaes Couckebacker, 'Opperhoofd' (Chief) of the Dutch factory on Hirado, also provided a vessel when requested, he personally accompanied the vessel de Ryp to a position offshore, near Hara Castle.
An all-out bombardment of the fortress commenced, both from the shore guns as well as from the 20 guns of the de Ryp. Atter 15 days of this, the ship withdrew at the request of the Japanese, following contemptuous messages sent by the rebels to the besieging troops.

In the wake of the rebellion, the Catholic rebel leader Amakusa Shirō was beheaded and the prohibition of Christianity was strictly enforced.
Also, Japan's national seclusion policy was tightened and official persecution of Christianity continued until the 1850s.
en.wikipedia.org:_Shimabara_Rebellion

Matsumoto Castle 

Matsumoto Castle
And again the visit needed our shoes to be taken off. Also we had to take them with us in a plastic bag, issued to us.
This meant more stuff to carry around while negotiationg the steep, well polished staircases.
I felt distinctly uncomfortable doing this, the staircases were very steep indeed.
I doubt whether such conditions would meet western health- and safety standards!

Matsumoto Castle

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From Matsumoto we continued by another Limited Express train to Shinjuku (Tokyo)
Japan travel by Limited Express
Travel on the Super Azusa Limited Express.

The Azusa and Super Azusa are limited express services operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), which run between Shinjuku and Matsumoto via the Chūō Main Line and Shinonoi Line.
The name Azusa is taken from the Azusa River in Matsumoto, Nagano.
en.wikipedia.org:_Azusa_(train)

At Shinjuku Station: E353 series EMU on a Super Azusa service
Hirayu busstation


 

 

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Created: 25-Oct-2018
Updated: 18-Nov-2018