We bought bento boxes (lunch boxes) for the bullet trains (shinkansen) and awaited anxiously at the platform to board. Japan is well known for the shinkansen and for a train enthusiast, this was an exciting experience. On the shinkansen, we ate bento and I had my first view of Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san) looming in the distance. After transferring to a local train in Nagoya, we started to head north into the countryside and up into the mountains. The train ride was absolutely beautiful, winding along a river valley with several dams and narrow reservoirs. Looking out the window, I could have sworn I was back in Oregon with steel hillsides covered with ferns and pistol-butted trees (indicating soil creep). However, the japanese cedar, rice paddies and prevalent family shrines built into the hillsides were pretty obvious give-aways.
Bento is where it's at for travel. This was mostly fish based with picked veggies and some potato salad.
Train up to Takayama from Nagoya.
Once in Takayama, we checked into our accommodations and began to explore the town. Takayama is a quiet down at the base of the Japanese alps. We spent some time wandering around, admiring the local traditional style homes and enjoyed sitting by the Miya-gawa (river). Dinner was at a tempura house and both the chef and cuisine were delightful. Conversations were vibrant and consisted of a fair amount of phrasebook reading, arm-waving and pointing. I'm quickly learning that props are essential for communicating in Japan, so I always carry a moleskin notebook and pen. I think this will end up being one of my favorite souvenirs. Many train stations have stamps for children (or child-minded adults) to collect in booklets. I have been adding these to my notebook.
Soba restaurant. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat. The old style water mill is used to grind buckwheat into flour.
Mexican food!? We didn't try it because we'd rather eat tempura than spend 900yen ($9) on guacamole!
Delicious tempura carnage. Was too hungry for the before picture.
Bridge in Takayama.
View of Takayama.
The Ryokan where we stayed was my first encounter with traditional style Japanese bedding. This consists of a mat about 2-3in thick, a small pillow filled with beads and a fluffy blanket. The hotel owner set warm water out for tea, and I enjoyed a very small cup before bed in the robe provided by the hotel. Waking up in the morning was lovely due to the light being filtered by the japanese screens. I enjoyed some tea, packed up my things and joined Kaitlin to head into the Alps!
Rhyokan bedding. As someone who likes a firm mattress, I had no issue with sleep.
Green tea time!