On our third day we drove one hour to the East from Takayama and found ourselves in a valley that reminded me of Switzerland. The first western explorers, after the Meiji opening of Japan, found the mountains of the Hida range that divide Gifu and Nagano prefecture to be utterly similar to the European Alps and decided to name them Japanese Alps. The name stuck with the Japanese people and now the the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi mountains are all officially called Japanese Alps.
We arrived at the Shinhotaka ropeway and parked our car before nine in the morning. We were almost alone, surrounded by nature and the sound of the water hiting the rocky river. But suddenly, three buses filled with old Japanese people (probably retired) arrived and we found ourselves queuing in order to ride the Shinhotaka Ropeway. I’ll never get used to queuing in Japan, there always queues even in remote places where you would not expect it 🙂
The views from the top of the Shinhotaka Ropeway are astounding, pure nature beauty. From there, we started walking up into the mountains following a beginners route called Nishihodoku (西穂独標): Shinhotaka Ropeway ― Nishiho Mountain Cottage ― Maruyama (丸山) ― Nishihodoku. There was no snow at this time of the year and it was a very easy hike that we enjoyed very much. But beware, in winter it can be a very dangerous area: more details about the difficulty of Hotaka hiking routes.
Photo of us with a Japanese Post at 2,156 meters of altitude
This is the Nishiho Mountain Cottage. There is food (Ramen!), drinks and you can spend the night here.
Photo of us at one of the summits.
Our second day in Takayama was NOT planned. I’m a very J on the last component of the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I like to plan everything beforehand. In order to “fight” against my personality (My confort zone) sometimes I do things that are totally against how I would normally do. For example, not planning a trip is something that brings me out of my confort zone 🙂
We parked our car near the Takayama station and started strolling on the east side of the city. We soon found ourselves walking in streets filled with traditional houses. Beautiful alleys but also filled with tourists, ironically, not planning our day, brought us to the Sanmachi Suji, the most touristic place in Takayama. We crossed several bridges, contemplated the carps swimming in the river and walked northbound until we found ourselves almost alone.
It was then, when we serendipitously found the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by green nature and lightened by the sunset ocre tones. The legend says that this shrine was build to protect Takayama against the monster Ryomen Sukuna, a beast with two heads and eight extremities.
When we entered the grounds of the shrine nobody else was there, it was magical to be there alone. Planning the day would have make it a totally different experience.
That’s me taking the previous picture!
During the last two weeks I’ve been traveling and discovering new places I’ve never been before here in Japan. I’ve been living in Tokyo more than ten years but I feel that I still don’t know anything about these islands and that’s probably what keeps me here. I like the feeling of wonder when I walk randomly and discover a hidden shrine in a forest or find an utterly beautiful garden in an area where there are apparently only ugly buildings (Yes, Japan is also ugly).
I always travel by train, it is so convenient! But this time I chose to challenge my comfort zone and drive a car. I thought I could reach almost anyplace in Japan by train, but I was wrong. Japan by car is really beautiful and I will repeat in the future.
During the next days I will write here about the places I discovered during this trip to Gifu and Fukui. These are two of my favorite pictures from the trip 🙂