We met the hotel manager Tanabe in the environment aconchegante and typical of that style establishment ryokan.
The hostess uses a very thoughtful and even more leisurely English. Linguistic experts deny it.
Still, the manager seems to agree with two controversial vocabulary theories linking Japan and Portugal: “Yes, that's exactly what I and many other Japanese think: Portuguese merchants introduced the arigato by repeating your thanks again and again.
As they did with many other words we use“. Shortly thereafter, he enters into ecstasy when we reveal to him the similarity between the soap Japanese and the national soap to wash our brains with a Japanese children's song that uses and abuses the term.
The Historical Core of Takayama
After the brief interaction, we left the Tanabe Hotel. Sanmachi-suji historic center is just a few hundred meters away. We ended up going through it, back and forth, over and over again.
This tiny, secular area of Takayama is made up of just three streets lined with Edo-period merchant homes and warehouses, antique shops, quaint restaurants, museums, and sake makers identifiable by the cedar-fringed spheres hanging on the door.
Here, traditional architecture and decoration reigns, embodied in dark wood facades, colored by plants and signs that signify the establishments.
Or they announce special promotions with regional touches refined over time by the many families of carpenters and joiners who, in the XNUMXth century, are believed to have participated in the construction of the splendid Hida Kokubun-ji temple of Takayama and its pagodas.
We contemplate and taste dozens of local products, including samples of comforting miso broths, or watch Japanese visitors investigate and photograph themselves along with anything that catches their attention. Until we lose track of time
Picturesque Rickshaws and Shobodan Fire Alerts
From time to time, the hurried passage of rickshaws pulled by conductors in typical costume, usually blue, redoubles the tourist dynamics of Sanmachi-Suji.
These human tugs are also guides. They explain, still panting from the effort employed in getting around, the most intimate secular secrets of the neighborhood.
Its vehicles have changed little compared to those that were invented in Japan, around the end of the XNUMXth century.
And that inspired a large part of those still drawn today in Asian countries and other parts of the world. Even so, they guarantee seasonal incomes more than decent by Japanese standards.
The afternoon comes to an end. It starts to drizzle once more.
The frigid downpour does not prevent a medieval messenger shobodan honor your civic mission and roam the streets banging two sticks together to produce a sound translatable as “kachium”, familiar among the residents.
Simultaneously, the elder proclaims the warning Hi no yojin! (Beware of fire) and reinforces the warning that residents must be careful with flames in their homes.
Takayama's heart remains heavily fueled.
It was built in wood at the end of the XNUMXth century. As was the entire fortified city that developed around the castle of the all-powerful Kanamori clan.
Takayama also long lasted as the capital of the old Hida province, a region lost in the mountainous interior of overcrowded Japan.
Zenkoji Temple Night Retreat and Takayama's Early Bird Exploration
When night sets in and the cold descends from the Japanese Alps, shop owners and employees rush to do the math, close and collect at home. The streets are deserted.
We follow the usual flow of the city. We return to the Zenkoji temple-inn where we had checked in on arrival at the village.
The main door was open, like almost all of the interior rooms, fusuma, which is how to say, Japanese and running. Inside, the monk Tommy was cleaning up the kitchen. It turned out to be much more austere than when we first saw it.
“Are they back?” He asks us in the American English he had acquired in the years he had lived in the United States. Don't forget that they can't make noise from 22 pm.” he reminds us without great delicacy, and then he goes back to his business. Tired as we walked, we just wanted to sleep.
We got up shortly after the next dawn, still half dazed from the remaining fatigue and the early cold. We improvised a quick breakfast.
We went out into the street determined to face an anxious and uncomplexed Japanese autumn.
Takayama had long since woken up with the frenzy of his two morning markets: the Jinya-mae, organized next to the house of governance (Jinya). And the Miya-gawa, arranged along the homonymous river that ran through the city.
Both were grouped with age-stiffened farmers. From time to time, passersby were offered small samples of their fuji apples and grapes as delicious as they were expensive.
They controlled in an almost mechanical way the repeated and abusive tests of the gaijin (foreigners). At the same time, they avoided the excursions of schoolchildren, veritable bands of children of prey.
Teramachi and Shiroyama-koen: Takayama's Shinto-Buddhist strongholds
As is to be expected in a Japanese city, Takayama also has its Shinto-Buddhist domains. They are called Teramachi and Shiroyama-Koen. They occupy the hills east of the city.
Shortly after leaving the markets, we point to these stops and follow them along a path that winds between cypresses, temples, shrines and vast cemeteries, in a scenario of a drenched atmosphere that is as lugubrious as it is sedative.
The walk entertains us for almost two hours. Reserve the steepest and most painful passages for us to finish: the climbs to Shiroyama-koen Park.
On the way back to the center, we are surprised by an open view over the prefabricated and anti-seismic houses of the city. From there, we didn't detect any sign of the historic nucleus that, even hidden, we knew how to resist among the tallest buildings.
We return to downtown Takayama and spend another day exploring its resilient secular stronghold.