Hida Maigo – Day 5

 

Morning in the sleepy mountain village is chilly and quiet.

Sun rises over the Lonely Mountains.. I mean Shirakawa

Sun rises over the Lonely Mountains.. I mean Shirakawa

 

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The snow has stopped, leaving a layer of fresh powdery snow over the world. So soft, they crumbs beneath the feet like marshmallows.

I would have made a snow angel, but there’s no clothes to change if I got wet.

Breakfast at Shimizu is fairly basic, a little disappointing to be honest. But alas, not here for good food to begin with. For homestays in this remote village, other than the few professionally run ones, light up nights are one of the few chances for the people here to supplement their income during the winters, not complaining if they want to save a few yens.

Outside of light up nights, I would definitely book one of the professionally run homestays through the tourism centre.

Simple breakfast, there's also mangolia leaf miso and miso soup

Simple breakfast

 

There's also magnolia leaf miso. No where as luxurious as Yatsusan-kan

There’s also hoba miso. Taste no where as good as Yatsusan-kan

 

Our room, beds folded to one corner.

Our room, beds folded to one corner.

 

The main living area

The main living area

 

The main building is sheltered with a straw fence

The main building is sheltered by a straw fence

We check out just before 9. I asks if we can leave our luggage here, and the owner tells us we can leave them at the tourism centre. If we tell the tourism centre we stayed at Shimizu, we can leave our luggage there free.

That’s actually very convenient, means we don’t need to waste time coming back here in the afternoon. If we had to store our luggage at the tourism centre’s lockers it would have easily been 500Y a piece.

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Snow covered Shirakawa in the morning sunlight is a sight to behold. A pristine white landscape void of footprints or grass or stone. The snow a contrasting blue hue in the long shadows.

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There's already several bus of tourists

There’s already several bus of tourists

At the tourism centre we drop off our luggages and head to the Minkaen, a museum that consists of a dozen gassho houses that has been relocated from various places after being abandoned.

Shimizu had given us discount coupons (400Y instead of 500Y) for the place. But I seems to have lost one on the way. The guy at the counter is very nice though, seeing we have 2 so we obviously stayed at a homestay, he asked us who gave us the coupons and stamped another coupon for us on the spot.

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Minkaen

gassho-zukuri museum Minkaen

 

Model of a gassho-zukuri

Model of a gassho-zukuri

 

Thinly frozen pool

Thinly frozen pool

 

Watermill

Watermill

 

The wheels are frozen

The wheels are frozen

 

Higurashi scene

Higurashi scene

 

 

Inside a large traditional guzzho house

Inside a large traditional gassho house

 

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The farmers supplemented their income by raising silkworms and weaving

The farmers supplemented their income by raising silkworms and weaving

 

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Inside of a gassho house had to be very dark before the spread of electricity and light

Inside of a gassho house had to be very dark before the spread of electricity and light

 

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A water powered rice mortar

A water powered rice mortar

 

Worker clearing the walkpaths

Worker clearing the walkpaths

The museum is very much worth the visit, there’s a good variety of gassho houses, from huge five floors mansion sized to small two floors storage for harvests. English texts are lacking, not counting the 40min long video that introduces the culture and heritage of the gassho houses which is english subbed.

Originally I expected the place to take a little more than half an hour, we ended up spending some 80 minutes there.

I can’t say if it’s more worth visiting than the single houses like Kanda House or Nagase House as I ended up not visiting them, cost per variety,  you can’t go wrong with the museum though.

After the museum, I again split up with my parents. They go sightseeing around the village while I go off on my Higurashi pilgrimage and photo taking. For lunch, we still had some bread from FamilyMart back in Takayama, so we decided to have those then maybe soba or something if we need to by ourselves.

All the people arriving at the village

All the people arriving at the village

My stop is the Hachiman shrine, the shrine where Rika from Higurashi is a miko at and tragically the site where she is brutally slain each time.

Hachiman shrine, Higurashi scene

Hachiman shrine, Higurashi scene

 

Hachiman shrine

Hachiman shrine

 

Higurashi scene

Higurashi scene

 

Unlike Hie shrine in Takayama, here the ema stand is packed full of emas. Probably because during winter there are very few worshippers so the caretakers do not need to clean them up as often.

The stand is full of emas from fellow pilgrims

The stand is full of emas from fellow pilgrims

 

The stand is full of emas from fellow pilgrims

Someone made an ema out of the letter style of the game/anime

 

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Wow one from 2012, the caretaker is being very kind

Wow one from 2012, the caretaker is being very kind

 

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There's two sides to Rena. On one hand she kidnaps cute children, on the other she hacks you with a machete.

There’s two sides to Rena. On one hand she kidnaps cute children, on the other she hacks you with a machete.

 

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I was hoping there would be one like this

I was hoping there would be one like this

 

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Higurashi scene

Higurashi scene

 

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Shirakawa-go no Yu (bathhouse and also accommodations)

Shirakawa-go no Yu (bathhouse and also accommodations)

 

Shirakawa clinic centre. Higurashi scene

Shirakawa clinic centre. Higurashi scene

 

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Base of the trail

The base of the trail to the vantage point now has a rope across it with a sign saying the trail is closed. Somewhat disappointed, I turned back from ascending the trail.

Higurashi scene

Higurashi scene

 

Higurashi scene

Higurashi scene

 

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Melting snow on the roofs sends off white smoke

Melting snow on the roofs sends off white smoke

 

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To get to the vantage point, I have to take the shuttle bus instead. I think 200Y per ride? It’s always packed full of people, the village now swarming with endless stream of tourists.

Most of the tourists came with tours, they won’t be staying here for more than one or two hours, most definitely not enough to experience the village.

That’s why I generally avoid going with tours. Tour companies always try to squeeze in as many sightseeing points as possible to make their “sale”, disregarding whether there’s sufficient time to see the place. Some Taiwanese companies are even known for busing people about all day before settling them into onsen hotels past dinner time. Wasting time that could have been spent relaxing at the onsen notwithstanding, it often means the onsen has all of the guests’ dinner prepared and tabled, cold by the time the guests finally arrive.

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Turns out I need not have paid heed to the sign at the bottom of the trail. Plenty of people are walking up and down the trail, and indeed from up here it’s easy to see the trail is free of snow and no danger to walk on.

I thus walk down the trail, saving the trouble of waiting and paying for the shuttle.

Higurashi scene

Higurashi scene

 

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Time flies quickly. Soon it is 3 in the afternoon and I meet my parents at the tourism office and get ready for the bus back to Nagoya.

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Gifu bus ticket from convenience store

Gifu bus ticket from convenience store

 

Our ride back to Nagoya

Our ride back to Nagoya

 

Shirakawa tourism office

Shirakawa tourism office

The bus to Nagoya is a 3 hour journey, it makes 3-4 stops along the way where it sets off/pick up passengers as well letting people go to the restroom.

Rest stop along the way

Rest stop along the way

 

A skii field in the distance

A skii field in the distance

The Meitetsu bus centre is on the 3rd floor (I think) of the Meitetsu building. There’s an elevator that goes directly to the ground floor.

Back in Nagoya, Meitetsu bus centre

Back in Nagoya, Meitetsu bus centre

We cross the road and check in once more at Montblanc. It is so comforting to have the hotel so near, after several days of walking we are pretty exhausted. I can’t imagine if we had to transfer to the metro or walk another 10 minutes to get to a hotel.

While the hotel choice was spot on, I made the mistake of not researching enough on food places at Nagoya station (I focused mostly ramens, and well, parents don’t like ramen). There isn’t enough time to go to Sakae and being as tired as we are, didn’t feel like the restaurants on top of Takashimaya department store above the station. So we looked for something simple and quick in the underground mall.

Not much can be said for underground mall quality. Had I researched more I probably could have found something within a few hundred metres of the station.

Random eatery in the underground mall

Random eatery in the underground mall

After returning to Montblanc, I duck out for a short walk, browse around the nearby convenience store, and also take the opportunity to charge up my Suica card from the Tokyo trip several years ago.

If a card isn’t charged up or used in 10 years the card will expire, now I don’t think it’ll take me that long to get a chance to use it, but it is still nice to put some money in it as I had run it empty last time, having money in it will save some time next time I’m in Japan.

Suica card

Suica card

 

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