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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Not the only gaijin in town

When planning this trip I thought about going to a part of Japan I had never been. I like old and historical and had heard about the folk village next to the town of Takayama. Takayama itself I read had a well preserved historic quarter. These are quite rare in Japan, due to the rush to modernise late in the 19th century, the damage from heavy bombing in World War II and then the rebuilding efforts after the war. Various Japanese castles are 1960s era replicas (Osaka and Hiroshima castles) due to the originals being destroyed during the war.

So rather naively I thought that as Takayama wasn't on the Shinkansen tourist route (Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka(Nara)) and more difficult to get to, I would be the one representative of a western tourist in amongst the Japanese tour bus groups. I was very wrong! 

It was a long and windy train journey through the Japanese Alps to Takayama and on my train were not one but 2 western tour groups complete with guides. One was a group of Italians on a tour of Japan and the other were a group of Brits doing the same. My non reserved seated carriage was a noisy affair with the jolly Brits but even they quieted down as the journey wound its way into the 2nd hour and counting! All up with the Shinkansen 2 hour trip to Nagoya, changing trains there and then the "Limited Express" which took 2 hours and 20 very long minutes, it was a time consuming journey to get there!

Once I had arrived, found my hotel, (chosen for convenience as it was directly across the road from the train station!) I caught a little local bus to the folk village Hida-no-sato. I'd come looking for old and historic and that's what I got.

The folk village was put together to preserve the uniquely local buildings from the area as villages were flooded for hydroelectric plants. The buildings were dismantled and then rebuilt in a village environment on a hillside outside of Takayama.

The small hut on the water's edge is an ice hut. During winter the lake would freeze and ice was cut from it wrapped in straw and stored in the ice hut for later use.



I sighed when I saw this sign to remove your shoes before entering. I'm so out of practise for being a tourist in Japan, I didn't wear slip on shoes!! Rookie mistake, mine at least didn't have laces, just straps and luckily velcro ones at that but still a pain when entering and exiting the houses!

Old Japanese houses had a fireplace in the centre of the room, the rooms were separated by screens but they could also all be opened up to create larger areas or rooms.

This house was unusual for the area, it belonged to a nearby area which received less snow. It has the hallway (what looks like a verandah) open to the elements, the area close to Takayama receives heavy snowfalls so the outside hallways are enclosed. Old Japanese houses had the hallways around the building not internally.


The different houses showed various aspects of traditional village life. This was for pounding rice.

In the winter with snow on the ground sleds were used to transport goods over level ground. They were either pulled by oxen, horses or as the picture shows by humans. This was the biggest for the heaviest loads the "Daimochi" 'dai' is a superlative for most.


These 2 rocks aren't all that interesting to look at until you read what they were used for. They were used to judge who the strongest man in the village was. Contenders had to lift the stones, the were deliberately round so that arm strength and grip would settle the outcome as to who was the strongest as both were needed to lift the stone. The bigger stone weighs 93.75kg and the smaller 75kg.


The houses have steep thatched roofs so that in an area of heavy snowfall the snow would slide off.

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