Though not renowned for its gardens and temples (as much as the likes of Kyoto and Nara), Takayama nonetheless has a rich history in Shinto and Buddhist religions and the resulting town and its surrounds are sometimes dubbed 'Little Tokyo'.

  The main reason I set the detour to Takayama was to experience the purported beauty of this part of the Japanese Highlands; to see a traditional style town center; and to try a Japanese bath or sento which in its daily rituals is a far cry from the baths I'm used to having at home... A bonus experience however that probably exceeded the other three is pure heartfelt enjoyment was cooking over coals the delicious Hida beef of the region, certainly the tastiest Wag-yu I've ever had, but I digress...

Being one of the busiest holiday times of the year in Golden Week (a holiday period containing numerous Public Holidays that stretch to be the longest holiday most Japanese businessmen and women take all year), Takayama was a bustling hub of tourism. Bustling but extremely ordered and polite such that it didn't seem to affect our enjoyment of it. This also meant that many of the temples and shrines that are traditionally quiet or closed to the public are open and involved in daily ceremonial worship to fallen Emperors and the deity. On the outskirts of Takayama there are numerous examples of these places of worship and they are enjoyable not so much for their grandeur (as are many in Kyoto and beyond) but for their unpretentious and conventional place in the landscape.

Beomjong or Temple BellBeomjong Temple Bell

 What makes this so enjoyable is that the observation of the temples/shrines and their associated landscapes are less fettered by tourism. This seems ironic being they exist in a tourist town, but by lacking in the size and attractiveness of their counterparts in other parts of Japan, they don't attract the typical crowds. The gardens then are attractive places of contemplation that seem better used by the common people than as grounds for the wealthier families that originally created them some 300 years ago.

The other advantage of heading into the highlands was that many of the flowering trees were still in bloom and the new leaves of the maples and Prunus were rich in colour. Though not on the scale of the height of cherry blossom season, many of the  Prunus as well as some Magnolia were looking incredible in the clear mountain air.



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