The ride to Takayama was more of what we had seen on the rest of our trains, scenic, but no need to elaborate further. After a quick transfer in Toyama, we settled in for the 2 hour, rather uneventful trip.
The entire time we were in Takayama we were trying to decide if it was more like a Daytona or a Charleston…and yes, sōri, I’m using Daytona in a derogatory fashion here. Our initial impressions were straight up Daytona, though after leaving I’m not so sure it just wasn’t some left over crabbiness from a full half day of train travel.
We walked the commiserate 15 minutes from the train to ryokan Sumiyoshi. Yes, for those of you paying attention, this place was named the same as our place in Kanazawa…but I don’t think there is any formal relation. The place was billed as “the antique” ryokan and this held up as the joint was scattered with all types of knick knacks in a every corner of every space you could imagine. Really good atmosphere. Combined with the little old hunched over Japanese women who greeted us, and prepared us tea, and down right refused to let us help her with our luggage (up stairs no less) you could almost get the sense that you were staying on your grandma’s attic for a few nights.
We were shown our room which was a (way too) large space on the second floor, adjacent to a porch that overlooked the Miya-gawa (gawa means river). The room had three separate chambers and a ninja hatch in the back for a quick get away in case I farted too loud.
1- Takayama Station
3- San-machi Suji area
4- Kyoya, holy crap GO HERE
The main tourist draws of this town are the walking tours and the Hida folk villiage. In our time here we would do none of these things. We were about halfway through the trip at this point and kind of in need of a vacation from our vacation…so we spent the time just, being with each other…ahhhhh.
We strolled the streets of the San-machi Suji, an area of old wood style buildings that was very quaint. This area used to be home to over 50 sake breweries (the Hida area in general is known for its brews), and we were able to find all of the 6 that remain in short order. All sake breweries for reasons I have yet to research hang balls of cedar leaves from their doors so they are very easy to spot…when I figure out why this is, it will make me that much more annoying in conversation when I bring it up like a know-it-all-mc-know-it-allson. … We sampled some of the sake and were going to buy a bottle before we realized that we only had ~$16 to our name. To make matters worse, the ATMs in Japan actually close around 5pm and it was getting onto 6 o’clock. It amazing the lengths that some people go to in this country to make it hard for you to give them money.
We got back to Sumiyoshi and had them help us find a place to eat dinner. The only requirement was that credit cards were accepted…this is actually a taller order than you might think. We had our eye on a place called Le Midi before we arrived in town but unfortunately it was closed on Thursdays. Things close on “different” days in Japan; I’m working on a theory that this (or more specifically, my annoyance with this) is somehow Jesus’ fault.
We ended up at a restaurant that was just around the corner from the ryokan called Kyoya. The close proximity was welcome since the temperature outside had plummeted into the 40s and was expected to get into the 30s by the time we would be done. Literature that we had read (okay not REAL literature) said that there were a few local food specialties in Takayama that we should try:
sansai ryori- dishes made with local mountain vegetables like radishes, butterbur, and yam-like things…
sansai soba – a local buckwheat noodle served hot.
Hida beef – beef second in a Japan only to Kobe.
hoba miso – mountain veggies and Hida beef on top of miso paste served and grilled on on a leaf.
The menu at Kyoya did not disappoint and in a feast of epic proportions were able to get ALL of these things by ordering 2 set meals. The restaurant itself was a bit like a Benihana mixed with a Melting Pot, housed inside of Marion’s bar in Nepal in Raiders of the Lost Ark…there is your canvas, you fill in the details. In the middle of our table was a charcoal grill and a lot of the food came out raw. You simply threw it up on the grill and then threw it in your mouth and then smiled.
My meal came with the Hida beef and mountain vegetables, a bowl of assorted sashimi (including some out of this world tuna, and another stupid raw shrimp), a grilled prawn, rice, an assortment of picked vegetables (the radishes were awesome), 2 types of Tofu, a seaweed salad (which I did not eat but Erin did), a bowl of sansai soba which was amazing with some local chili peppers for spice, the absolute best miso soup I’ve ever had, and finally some fresh cut fruit for desert.
Yes, that was just my meal.
Erin got basically everything that I got above, except in place of the sashimi she had the hoba miso which was the star of the evening. They brought out something that looked like a candle, and wrapped the top in tin foil to conduct the heat from the flame. On top they set the leaf (I think it’s a magnolia leaf, but reports vary) in which was wrapped the Hida beef, and vegetables and the miso paste; Our server showed us how to mix it up with our hashi (been paying attention?) as it cooked.
This whole escapade took about an hour and half to consume, which we did. I even ate the shrimp sashimi, but in a stroke of self proclaimed ingenuity, I put that little sucker on the grill first and cooked his ass…
We rolled back to the room about as fast as possible in the cold, kicked around a bit, and rented Lost In Translation on the iPad. This movie holds up pretty good against what we have experienced thur far. The Whiskey that Bill Murray’s character endorses has a real life counterpart here called Suntori Whiskey, lol. That being said, I don’t think we got 30 minutes in before passing out.
the place, down an alley, we walked past it twice before spotting it
A shot down Miya-gawa; our place is in those trees on the right.
Inside Kyoya, I mean Indy is about 10 seconds away from burning this place down on account of some evil German dudes
There were about 4 plates to come out after this picture was taken.
HOBA MISO! So you stir all that up with your chopsticks and the fire block it’s on cooks it. Delicious.