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Monday, May 14, 2007

Cycling in Takayama

After our leisurely stroll along the two morning markets of Takayama, we stopped in at a couple of sake breweries nestled amidst a street of old private houses. These old houses, made of beautiful dark stained timbers, were occasionally splashed with purple from the overhanging tendrils of pretty wisteria. The cold sake was definitely warming, and along the way we feasted on an endless supply of samples of rice crackers, soy candies, pickles, cured beef, bean cakes and more.

Lunch was an opportunity to try another regional dish, hida chuka, made with locally made ramen noodles. Fresh noodles were topped with a round slice of fatty pork, a slice of fishcake stamped with a hot pink swirl, pickled vegetables and some very slippery tiny brown mushrooms. The broth was clear and sweet. The noodles were slurped down with ease.

Takayama is a bit of a tourist town (the tourist to local ratio is extremely high compared to anywhere else we've been in Japan) and prices seem to reflect this. Our noodles were fairly cheap though - 580 yen.

On bikes we explored much of Takayama, a great way to get around the mostly flat town, even if we did stop each time a truck thundered past. We went looking for the pathway of cherry blossom trees, but the trees were now bare.

The most bizarre experience was spotting a huge building emblazoned with the words "Big Max" surrounded by an enormous mall-like car-park. Maybe it's a shopping centre! we called to each with excitement. We are always on the lookout for supermarkets and 100 yen shops. We parked the bikes and approached the doors, which slid open for an overwhelming onslaught of pachinko! The sound truly is incredible, like a stadium filled with pinball games short-circuiting in a frenzy. There's pinging, and clattering, and tinny voices yelling, and electronic music, and the air is thick with smoke, and you can't hear yourself think, and it seemed like the whole town of Takayama was sitting there in chairs, motionless, amidst the constant bouncing of pachinko balls.

Next door however, we did find the 100 yen shop. Woohoo! We felt much better after that.

A quick whirlwind tour followed of Matsumoto Heritage House, Hie Jinja shrine and more preserved traditional buildings in Sanmchi and Shimo-nino-machi. The air does smell sweeter here and the tree-lined avenues do impart a sense of calm.

Our dinner banquet included chicken teriyaki, marinated angelica spears, a crumble of yam mash, a sweet clear broth and a hotpot of beef sukiyaki and enoki mushrooms in a delicious stock.

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/14/2007 11:31:00 pm

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