Morning in the sleepy mountain village is chilly and quiet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.