Sake sake sake

In the morning we were served breakfast in the south chamber of our expansive room after a long soak in the bath…yes, another bucket and tub deal. Before boarding our train out of Takayama we had a few missions that we, convenient for writing, completed in chronological order.

Mission #1: Get Cash
The ryokan only accepts cash and since we still had nothing but loose coinage in our pockets, we asked them to point out where an ATM was. We were unable to locate our English map, so they pulled out a hilariously illegible sheet of paper that they insisted was a map and circled a building on it. By some stroke of luck were made our way there only to find that they do not accept our card. Again, hilariously, I tried to communicate this to a clerk. I think she understood me because she circled a different building on our “map”. We walked over to it and found an ATM, but it sounded like something was dying inside so I was a little nervous to put my card in. Thankfully I didn’t because the attendant, who spoke good English, told us that it was out of order and probably would have eaten it. He led us what I’m assuming was the only remaining ATM in the city. Thankfully it accepted our card and we were back in business after 45 minutes of ping ponging around the city.

Mission #2: Buy some sake.
I had sampled a sake from a brewery called Funasaka that I really liked. This is rare for me because sake that I’ve had in the past has either been too dry or too fruity for my taste…or is a blur because it was consumed during the Epcot food & wine festival. Further the sake was served cold which was a first, and I liked it much better than hot sake. Also the guy who helped me sample the different types the brewery makes was really nice and spoke good English. We eventually re-found the place (these streets are a little tricky) and I got a bottle.

Mission #3: Center4 Hamburgers.
The #1 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor in Takayama is named, in a very Zoolander-esque fashion, The Center4 Hamburgers. It is exactly that. It’s run by a young local couple and features a Hida beef burger for ¥2100. Tucked in the back of a hallway off a street in San-machi Suji; past some antiques and a garden full of junk, lies this absolute treat. The place is just big enough to seat 12, is decorated in the right amount of random (a boat hanging from ceiling, an entire shelf devoted to Canada, a Bob Dylan poster) and was playing Johnny Cash’s NIN cover when we walked in. The burger (I did not get the Hida beef burger) was perfect, and the Yona Yona beer, which I had not seen before was equally satisfying. If you are somehow reading this and are in or are going to be in Takayama, go eat here.

In addition, we walked through a morning farmers market and sampled pickled versions of all the local vegetables, had some dried persimmons, and bought some rice crackers from a crazy old guy who was the most excited person about crackers probably ever. We also dove into an awesome antique store that had stacks of ornate trunks and flat ware and castle nails and cart wheels and well just about everything. I was trying to make up a reason to buy something, but it didn’t happen.

1- Takayama Station
2- Sumiyoshi
3- San-machi Suji area
4- Kyoya, holy crap GO HERE
5- Funasaka
6- Center4 Hamburgers
7- Farmer’s Market street

We left Takayama converted, liking it more and more with every store we went into. I don’t think either of us were sad that we skipped the touristy stuff, but somehow I think another day there wouldn’t be wasted.

The train we were taking to Kyoto left at 130, so after finishing up lunch we got down to the tracks and hopped on our JR. It was a bit of a hustle, but we made it with 10 minutes to spare…trains are still easy.

The trip was basically a straight shot down the center of Honshu along a much less manicured river. After a brief stop in Gifu, the train kicked into reverse until arriving in Nagoya. We got off. The rest of the trip to Kyoto would be on our first Shinkansen: the bullet train.

Man these things look cool coming into and leaving the station. The interior is nice as well, though it was much more crowded than our sleepy little JR trains had been. There is no doubt we were moving fast, but I was a little disappointed we weren’t going faster. The trip wasn’t very long though, and we were up and down mountains so I imagine the terrain had something to do with that. Perhaps the trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima will be a different story.

We pulled into Kyoto station, got our bearings and walked to our hotel. While not technically a ryoken (we have western beds and our own bathroom here) it is advertised as such. Whatever, I’m not complaining. We figured out the bus system (though the guide is in English, some of the tables are a bit confusing), which is the main form of public transit in the city, and headed out for a quick dinner at a Thai restaurant about 10km north of us. The place, simply called Siam, served a decent curry; we sat at the counter in front of the cook and he whipped it all up in front of us.

Before getting back on the bus, Erin insisted we stop into a 7-11 for some dessert. We picked out some kind of ice cream thing wrapped in a dough ball (which was a surprise since we had no idea what we were getting really) and headed back.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain all day again which is a bit of a bummer, but Kyoto promises to be an interesting place.

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