Our little trip with Birgit and Julian continues. From Matsumoto we took the bus across the mountain pass to the small town of Takayama. Once again, we were stunned by the beauty of the cherry blossom as we walked through the old town and tried many local specialties, mainly involving Hida beef which is a type of Wagyu just like its famous cousin the Kobe beef (itself much more famous abroad, although Japanese people do not consider it as being the best between the hundreds of different wagyu “appellations”). We thus had hida beef in steamed buns, sushis, ramens, croquettes, etc. We also tasted several sakes from local breweries while visiting small shops with crafted goods.
Takayama is very touristy, but as soon as we leave the old town and head to the hills, we find ourselves alone between centuries-old temples or shrines and even older cedar trees decorated with folded paper notes. Those hold the wishes of hundreds of faithful worshippers, desperate students, dreamy lovers or hopeful businessmen.
The next day we also came across a tiny morning market where little old grandmas were selling their homegrown fruit and pickled veggies in small stands. Hadn’t we had to carry our backpacks for the next months, we probably would have shopped a lot of nice little souvenirs and snacks.
In the evening, Birgit invited us to a Hida beef BBQ restaurant, and we each had our own little charcoal grill. The meat was incredibly tasty and melted on our tongues. You can see the marbling (fatness level) on the picture below.
The next day, we headed to Shirakawa-go – a tiny village nested in the mountains famous for its Ghassos: old farmhouses with a particular straw roof structure. Those offered a perfect environment for breeding silkworms, and had up to 5 floors! Some were home to families with more than 30 people. The weather was a bit gloomy but the village gave a bit of a time-travel feeling. Walking through a group of those farmhouses, we felt a bit like we were in Asterix and Obélix’s village.
It was finally time for us to leave the mountains, so we headed to Kanazawa, a big town on the northern coast of Japan. This also marked the end of our little week trip to the nature together with Birgit and Julian. However, before saying goodbye, we visited Kanazawa’s famous Kenrokuen garden (known as one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens), as well as the city’s famous samurai district where old upper-class houses have been kept as they looked during the Edo era.
For our last evening together, we treated ourselves to a nice typical sushi restaurant (just 8 seats!), as Kanazawa is famous for its seafood. The place was run by an old chef that was as talkative as a dead tuna while his wife had so much make-up she looked like a parrot fish, but the sushi were delicious and the service was authentic (the chef dropped each sushi directly on the counter in front of us and you eat it directly with your fingers).