Takayama: Exploring the Town

So. We should have planned for more time here in Takayama. I’m not sure where we’d have found the time, but I love this town and am sad to leave tomorrow morning!

Part of it could be the amazing airbnb Logan found, but I think most of it is the walkable town center, fascinating shops, beautiful scenery, and traditional architecture. 

Today we just bummed around the center of town with no particular plan in mind. The first stop was beef nigirisushi from a snack window called Hida Kotte Ushi. They have a super limited menu, as befits a snack window, but a pretty intimidating line! I waited while Logan took the toddler for a bit of a walk.

We ordered two of their little sampler sets, which are served on a fried prawn cracker instead of a plate (love!). There’s one piece of seared beef with salt and pepper, one with ginger and soy, and one piece made of beef tartare with a raw quail egg wrapped in seaweed. So delicious. What a way to show off the local beef (Hida beef)!

We made quick work of the sushi (Ami liked the prawn cracker). The streets were pretty crowded with tour groups, but we had decent luck dodging them.

Ami with hairy boar!

Ami as cat (dog?) in a sarubobo (baby monkey) outfit!

Next (I mean, the beef sushi bites were pretty small…) lunch! Takayama is famous for a particular kind of ramen called chuka soba. This is ramen made with a more crimped type of egg noodle, served in a broth made of chicken, pork bones, and bonito (dried fish). The place we went is called Menya Shirakawa, and they have three things on their food menu: Medium ramen, large ramen, and an egg to put in your ramen if you want it. The line was pretty long, but thankfully moved quickly.

But oh, was the ramen worth it! Logan successfully begged for extra pork, because the toddler LOVES it. He and I ate exactly one bite each of our sliced pork; Ami ate the rest.

After lunch, it was time to take care of some administrative duties. Apparently, we can’t travel for more than three weeks without having to ship a box of souvenirs home. Off to Japan Post with 25 pounds of gifts/home goods/clothes!

Because this is Japan, the post office PROVIDES READING GLASSES. What?! 

Feeling considerably lighter, we returned to our regularly scheduled sightseeing! I always feel nervous shipping boxes like this, but if I can’t trust the Japanese post to get our box to us expediently, I’m not sure who I can trust.

Off to Nakabashi Bridge!

I was hoping for a tea shop that would serve us matcha and a nice mochi. We headed straight up a hill to a lovely place that served us a very nice cuppa, but no mochi. 😦 Very nice view of town, though!

We’d promised Ami some ice cream, so our next adventure was locating the good stuff. We got distracted by an iffy sweet pressed rice cake.

And a line of tanukis and frogs

But eventually, we found a very nice cone of vanilla. One for Ami and one for Logan (Logan has learned that there is no such thing as sharing an ice cream cone with the toddler, unless you only want about 15% of the thing).

Refreshed, we stopped into a sake and souvenir shop that offered tastings. After trying teeny samples, Logan and I decided to buy a glass each and sit in their lovely courtyard. Bonus: a large pile of snow! Ami had a blast climbing and playing while we drank our sakes… that is, until her gloves and pants got a bit wet and she realized that snow is actually super cold. Brrr. (You can’t really see it in this picture, but the glass on the left has gold flakes in it. The sake tasted NOTHING like goldshlager, though.)

As it was getting kind of late in the day, it was time to make our way towards dinner.

Man, in looking back, it sort of seems like all we did today was bounce between eating opportunities.

Any ideas why these trees are tied up like this? We’ve seen this all over Takayama, and yesterday in Shirakawa-go. Form, or function?

Ami with giant porcelain dog. It caught her eye, what can I say?

Dinner was at Maruaki, a butcher shop with a large attached restaurant. For the day before his birthday, Logan wanted some more Hida beef!

Beef achieved! Along with a terrific salad, and really nice bacon for the toddler. We ordered two kids of beef. One was a high-quality Hida beef sirloin (that’s what you see in the foreground) and then slices of chuck flap. It was a treat getting to try two very different pieces of meat. The sirloin was chewier (but still very tender) and had a strong flavor which was brought out best by just a small sprinkle of salt. The chuck flap was super soft and milder in flavor. We got to cook everything at our table, too.

While Ami has been really wonderful this entire trip, mealtimes have been a bit of a struggle. She seems to have forgotten almost entirely how to work a spoon, or a fork, or sometimes how to raise a glass to her lips and drink. And of course she won’t let Logan help her with any of this… it’s all on me. I’m sure it’s because everything all day long is so different, and she just wants some babying, but I would really, really like to have a meal where I can just feed myself my own food for a bit. 

But then she demands hugs and it’s so hard to be upset.

The restaurant was only a 7-minute walk from our place, so we strolled home, content with our great day.

Tomorrow: we say goodbye to Takayama and head back to Tokyo. This means our trip is almost over! I honestly can’t decide if I want to go home and sleep in my bed and settle back into my routine… or if I want to keep traveling. All in all, travel with a toddler has been WAY easier than I’d imagined in my most optimistic moments. Travel with her is very different than it was pre-baby, of course, but seeing her delight in everything here has been worth any and all of the accommodations we’ve had to make. 

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