It’s a beautiful place, well supplied with restaurants – beef restaurants. The beef here is either Hida or other – the former is grown here, and the latter – well, might even be from Oz…
Their beef is definitely best cooked; at least for my taste, anyway – and whose else’s would really matter? It is what’s called marbled – in other words the fat is inside the muscle, instead of on the outside. In a human there would be an outcry about obesity and health costs, but hey, they’re only cattle, and I guess they don’t have the same obsession with cellulite that we humans have.
Anyway, I digress; the meal I like best is a marinated beef cooked and served on rice – it’s a sweetish flavour, and warming: considering how much snow we’ve seen in the last week, it’s no time for sashimi. According to one of the leaflets we find, winter is for eating fatty foods, which makes sense when you think about it. Food for all seasons, fat, bitter, salty and sweet. Maybe this is the reason there are no obese Japanese (truly ruly), and some of them live to 120 years old, still scootering around on their mopeds, instead of languishing in nursing homes in their seventies. But that’s not the reason for being in Takayama – the beef, or the 120 year-olds.
The town is a UNESCO listed place due to the preserved Edo-period houses which line the streets of the old town. In some places they are so authentic I bump my head on the lintel on the way out – people used to be shorter then.
Oops – gotta go, some snow scenes to snap…
Anyway, were was I – Oh yes, Edo period: between 1600 – 1800 hundred, rounding off some decades. The houses are built of wood, with tatami mats, and paper partitions; I wonder how they kept the houses warm: do the paper sliding doors insulate better than glass? Is that why double glazing was invented – so you keep the view outside AND keep the heat in? Whatever the reason, there’s something elegant and stylish in the way the house is laid out, the one we visit, at any rate. Glimpses here and there into a zen-inspired garden provide a sense of calm, and the walls are barely decorated, which gives elegance and serenity, and makes me want to take all but one painting off our walls at home. The house has its own well, and a kettle still hangs above a fireplace on the ground.
There are scores of tourists here, mostly Asian with a few Caucasians sprinkled around. It’s obviously a popular destination judging by the buses that disgorge multitudes who then follow a person waving a flag at the front. We dodge and weave as much as possible as we take in the main sights: the festival float museum (these get pulled out and around town twice a year at spring and autumn), the preservation areas where the old houses are (and the tourists – oh, that’s me!), and some of the shrines. The place isn’t big, and it doesn’t take too long to get around.
A few bean paste steamed buns, a couple of coffees, and we repair to the hotel for a good soak. Even though Takayama is nestled in a valley and the town is almost completely on the flat, our trek back to the hotel is up what feels like a 45 degree slope, so a tub is welcome.