After coming back home, I found myself caught up in the crazy whirl of work… business meetings and site recces, intensive rehearsals and training, besides four big shows to perform 🙂 Things are busier than before and I’m back in the groove of things, but it’s always isn’t easy to make time for leisure & ‘me’ time.
To be honest, I feel horrible that my hectic schedule hasn’t allowed me to make it down for family dinners during the CNY stretch, as even my weekends are all burnt. I’m just really fortunate that my family understands.
Taking a 4 hour train ride from Kyoto, the BFF & I explore Takayama, situated in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, which has retained a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities. It’s a beautiful place which has touched my heart…
Reaching Takayama’s quaint little train station, which was so different from the train stations at Tokyo & Osaka, we were picked up by our courteous driver and driven to the beautiful Hidatei-Hanaougi (飛騨亭花扇).
The ryokan’s service was truly world class. The BFF & I were assigned our own personal server, as well as, dresser. Our traditional Japanese room was complete with tatami mats and futons, and we also shared a private outdoor onsen /温泉 (spring) *grin* Yes, we really spoiled ourselves… We’d selected a room with an open-air bath so we could gaze at the star-filled night skies, and we were hoping to experience snow too!
Dinner was at a separate private dining room, which had a wonderful picturesque view… and gosh, we were treated like royalty! Dressed in our personally chosen yukatas (a causal cotton kimono), we were really fed well and exquisitely pampered. The food was delicious and fresh, and after so many hours traveling, I really enjoyed the winding down period.
The next morning, I woke up at about 6am and sliding open our balcony doors, I quickly realized that it was snowing! Looking outside, I saw everything covered in a soft blanket of white and the snowflakes were gentling falling. It was truly, beautiful. So after taking some hot soba tea and rousing the still-sleeping BFF, we went out on our open balcony and relished a dip in our private onsen.
It was freezing cold as it was snowing outside, so it took some courage taking off your clothes and gingerly getting into this steamy onsen… as usual, the BFF was the pluckier one, so I got in after her, my precious towel near me the entire time 😛
The experience was amazing, watching pure white snow drift slowly down and being disappearing into nothingness when the flakes touch your warm skin as you soak in the hot spring. Plus, the view from where we were was just magical.
It was the most beautiful morning of my life 🙂 Freshening up, we then headed down to our private dining room for breakfast after our dresser came to our room to dress us up in our yukatas.
The wintry view from our breakfast room was just truly amazing… It felt like how Christmas should be, like a scene in a snow globe, not the commercial bright lights along Orchard Road.
After a hearty Japanese breakfast, we decided to head out to the folk town and soak in the sights. So we left our comfy ryokan and drove out to the heart of the city.
It had stopped snowing by the time we were in town, but it was raining lightly. Still, Takayama’s scenic beauty came through and I felt so at awe as we plodding down the streets, walked by its rivers, and honored the tall mountains that surrounded us. After all, takayama means “tall mountains” 🙂
I noticed a flock of birds fly above the cold river and it was almost like experiencing poetry in motion, as I stood in the cold crisp air, my breath coming out in puffs of steam.
Walking down lanes and getting lost like a stranger in a strange land, I came across some interesting places and things.
…For instance, a spooky looking local museum focused on showcasing authentic ancient Japanese weaponry and armor…
…A freaky little animated man who does an appearing sushi trick, which reminded me of the brilliant automaton stuff Robert Houdin made a very long time ago 🙂
…Sad but funny melting snow people… and of course, people and places…
After many happy hours wandering around the streets of Takayama, we went back to our ryokan at about 6pm and got ready for dinner. I was so glad we decided to venture to this special place, though it was such a long train ride away.
So that’s yours truly in my chosen traditional yukata for the evening, with a cute Sarubobo doll specially got for Okaasan Mang, who was in Kyoto but meeting us in Tokyo the next day.
Dinner that night was a scrumptious shabu shabu with the freshly sliced beef from the Hida region, known for its delicacy. This is the splendid view from our private dining room…
We were supposed to meet up with Mang in Tokyo as we had plans to catch Cirque Du Soleil’s ZED, as well as, head to the Studio Ghibli Museum. I’m a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan, having adored all his works… so I was really disappointed that we couldn’t get tickets for both shows.
Still, we decided to make the most out of Tokyo anyway, so we decided to do a Disney amusement park thingy 🙂 Thus, this was my last day at Takayama. I woke up about 6am again and the rising sun was just so beautiful to watch 🙂
Like Kyoto, Takayama will always have a special place in my heart. It is after all, where I experienced wintry snow in a piping hot onsen and also made a snowman with the BFF *grin*
Taking a train from Takayama to Nagoya, the two of us girls caught another train to Tokyo , where Mang was waiting for us at the Marunouchi Hotel in the heart of Tokyo’s central business district.
It was a long journey to Tokyo from where we are, so I bought a Bento box (lunch box) and amused myself by taking pictures along the way. Here are some pictures of scenic views along the ride…
Yes, I’ve never seen so much snow in my life 🙂 Being a typical Singaporean girl who’s spent most her life in the tropics, it was quite the eye opener *grin* The bullet train traveled a whole lot faster than the one at Takayama station, which wasn’t as modern as the shinkansen system.
However, there is an old-school quaintness of the Takayama train station, and I bought a kids meal there before we boarded the train for Takayama-Nagoya-Tokyo. The Bento box was in the shape of a Sarubobo… remember, that Japanese lucky charm that I bought for Mang?
Sarubobos are specially acquainted with the mountain city of Takayama and these traditional Japanese amulets were passed from grandmothers to grandchildren and mothers to daughters, for good luck. These days, these charms are now mass produced and sold as souvenirs in all shapes and sizes. I even saw a Hello Kitty one!
For an old soul like me, Takayama is a gorgeous place… and if you’ve got time to spare when you’re in Japan, you should definitely seek it out. It’s only got less than 200,000 locals living in the city and its old town is beautifully preserved. I’d definitely be back, because there’s so much more I’ve yet to explore about it.
I’ll upload the rest of my Japan pictures soon… what I’ve got left are the ones from Tokyo & Kyoto, before the BFF & I flew back to Singapore. Thanks for your patience 😉