After Tokyo we traveled to Takayama, a small city in the Japanese Alps, also called Hida Takayama after the region where it is located. In picking this place, I was motivated by the desire to spend part of the vacation where it wasn’t quite so hot. In this, I was misguided. Takayama does have cold and snowy winters, but the summers are almost as hot as those in Tokyo.
Fortunately, there were other good reasons to visit Takayama. It’s a historic town surrounded by forested hills. Here’s a view from a bridge over the Miyagawa River.
And another view looking in the opposite direction. Takayama was a town poor in agriculture but rich in timber. Most taxes were paid in rice before the modern era, but Takayama paid the central government with timber and the labor of local carpenters. The carpenters became famous for their skill as they helped construct palaces, temples, and public buildings in the capital.
Here’s a typical street in the more modern part of Takayama.
Even in a small city, there is no open space for gardens in front of any of the buildings. People still do garden, though, in small containers lined up along the street. Here someone is growing beans, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and various herbs.
Colorful hanging pots are combined with tomato vines. Morning Glory vines are also a favorite.
Here’s some Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra) with a small shrib – Viburnum?
People use long dippers to moisten their pots from the water running down the city gutters.
Parts of Takayama contain merchants homes and other wooden buildings dating back three or four hundred years.
Many of these are open to the public, and some have been converted to museums.
There are many shrines in Takayama, but we visited one called Sakuramaya Hachimangu. The history of this shrine is supposed to date back about 1,500 years, to a story that sounds a bit like a Japanese version of St. George and the dragon.
The towering conifers that surround this shrine were, to me, it’s most outstanding feature.
The buildings themselves had a most solemn and mysterious ambiance.
The trees seem to be watching over the buildings like benevolent spirits.
There are several smaller sub-shrines surrounding the main building.
There’s an exhibition hall adjacent to the Sakuramaya Hachimangu that is dedicated to the parade floats used in Takayama’s spring and autumn festivals. The festivals date back to the 1600s. I was not at first enthusiastic about visiting a hall dedicated to parade floats. But then, these are not just any floats.
These are floats that can weigh several tons and are topped with multiple giant marionettes, some of whom play musical instruments.
At festival time, the floats are hauled outside and taken through the streets of the town. Here’s a short video from the festival.
They are covered with intricate carvings.
The floats are kept behind glass in a temperature-controlled area. However, you can examine them at ground level, and then walk up an ascending hallway that lets you view the floats from above.
Hida Takayama is certainly calmer and less overwhelming than Tokyo. We did enjoy our visit, even if it didn’t have the cool weather we craved.