Shirakawa-gō was the last very famous Japanese touristic spot that I hadn’t yet visited since I arrived to Japan in 2004. The main reason why I had not yet visited this UNESCO World Heritage is because the access to it is not easy.
During our trip to Gifu I decided that it was the perfect chance fulfil my dream of seeing this place. We used our rented car from Takayama and drove all the way to Shirakawa-gō. It was a very easy ride, it was almost all the one hour travel driving on highways with no traffic at all and going through 11km long tunnels!
Walking through the streets of Shirakawa-gō is as beautiful and idillic as it looks like in pictures. When we arrived at nine in the morning, we were almost the first to arrive and it felt like time traveling to an old Japanese village. After ten in the morning hordes of tourists invaded every corner of Shirakawa-gō. So, here is my little piece of advice: if you can, and if you like loneliness when contemplating something beautiful as I do, visit Shirakawa-gō as early as posible.
I share here a series of pictures that I took randomly. These are details of Japan that I personally find interesting. I think there are some hints in them about this culture that can’t be explained in words.
Rotenburo 露天風呂 are outdoor hot-spring water baths. Usually, you pay an entrance that will give you access to the bathing area. An onsen 温泉 (Hot-spring) dedicated business, a hotel or a ryokan are most of the times managing the baths. But if you go to remote areas, sometimes you can find baths in the wild where you can just get naked and soak in warm water for free. Bathing in onsen waters is one of my favorite things to do in Japan, especially after a nice hike.
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.
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.
Hida Fold Village is a beautiful open air museum in Takayama (Gifu Prefecture). Since we were travelling by car, we chose it as our first place to visit, access from the 41 road (crossing Takayama from south to north) is almost direct (Turn left on the crossing with the 158).
Although it is located near the city, the Hida Fold Village is totally surrounded by nature. Walking around its pond and randomly entering its more than 30 traditional houses is a pleasure and feels like travelling back in time to the Edo Period (1603 – 1867).
Most of the houses are build following the gassho-zukuri style. This architecture is characterised by high roofs with very step angles that help with the snow season. The shape of the roofs looks like the position of the hands when performing the buddhist prayer “gassho”, that’s why the name of the style is gassho(Hands joining together in prayer)-zukuri(making or building).
I loved walking inside the houses and imagining the lifestyles of the people who lived in them in the old times. I learned that their lifestyle revolved not only around agriculture but they where involved in handcrafting, logging and even silk manufacturing (You can see silk worm raising devices). Almost all houses have an “irori” cooking area in the middle that helps to heat the entire place in winter when meters of snow cover all Gifu prefecture (Hida region).
The visit to this open air museum was an appetiser to before our visit to Shirakawa-go days later.
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 🙂
Legendary video game developer Hideo Kojima has lost his rights to Metal Gear when he severed ties with publisher Konami. And while the world isn’t expecting new Metal Gear content to show up anytime soon, this new Metal Gear-inspired pachinko game has appeared. In this article, let’s take a closer look at the new Metal Gear pachinko and how it pays homage to one of the best video game titles of all time.
It’s not surprising considering that creating a spin-off game from a popular title isn’t only inherent to video games. Motion picture films have always spawned numerous game titles. Another famous soldier, Rambo, has lots of games tied to his name including Rambo: The Video Game, which is still getting updates even after several years from its release date as shown by Game Spot. Several TV series have also inspired game developers such as the reality show X-Factor which has games like slots and Slingo that feature the title. Expanding outside a single premise is a path frequently taken in the entertainment industry.
The trailer showed that development, which played the memorable meeting scene of Naked Snake and The Boss. Other characters from the game will also appear, although it’s not definitely clear yet at this point how the actual gameplay will turn out to be.
When it comes to audio aspects, the music was taken from the iconic Metal Gear main theme. The original voice actors of the characters have also lent their voices once again to the game.
Here’s a video of the different parts and mechanics of the pachinko games:
Although Hideo Kojima is no longer with Konami, the company said that it still has plans for the franchise aside from the pachinko remake. Fans may be split between amused and annoyed, but one thing’s for sure: given that pachinko machines are big in Japan to the point that they have pachinko parlors, the Metal Gear series will still get the love and attention it deserves, at least in its home country.
Rice is probably the most important food source for the Japanese. Rice is usually bought at supermarkets in bags of 5kg or 10kg. But even though the supermarkets competition is strong, there are still plenty of rice shops that have survived only selling rice. These specialised shops sometimes have more varieties of rice that can’t be found in supermarkets, being able to choose their preferred type of rice is very important for many Japanese people. One of the most common varieties here in Japan is koshihikari.
I love the look and feel of rice shops, this is a local rice shop I photographed here in Tokyo:
And this is a huge rice vending machine. It is able to serve bags of 10Kg!
Kouyou (紅葉 こうよう) could be translated as “the colours of the leafs in autumn”. During the months of October and November, the green forests turn yellow, orange an vermillion until winter arrives and snow covers Japanese mountains with a white. The ginkgoes bring the yellow, the momiji and kaede (Maple trees) add the rest of the tones to the Japanese autumn.
It is celebrated all around Japan, and many places become touristic attractions just because they are specially beautiful during the kouyou. This is a list of the best locations to enjoy kouyou by Nihon Kankou: