Take me to Takayama

Let me tell you about a story how two sisters who planned to watch Summer Sonic in Osaka last August - to follow and fall in love all over again with the French boys Phoenix...

Well, they didn't make it. 

We bought our plane tickets with Summer Sonic in mind however, we ditched the plan and decided to stop somewhere central Japan and explore. And that's how we ended in Takayama. I told you another story about it here, but yeah, Takayama.


Little town, it was a quiet village and it was too pretty for us. It brought us to a place that gives you that fuzzy feeling. Seriously. It is a rural town that boasts of pretty and succulent tomatoes (oh yes, I did use the word succulent!), amazing breads (ask my sister, she's the bakery connoisseur), beautiful architecture and artistry. As I've said, too bad we came during the summer season. Spring would've been a better time to have gone, to coincide with their Spring Festival and immerse and breathe everything about this place.

Nevertheless, walking around Takayama that time was yes, tiring, but super worth every callous..es.

There are morning markets that opens 6am to 11am, the Miyagawa Morning Market in the north and Jinya Mae Morning Market in the south. Farmers get to sell their abnormally huge harvests there. You can have a sample of their plums, tomatoes, corn and other vegetables. Fresh pickled stuff are also available. And then some would also sell their handicrafts. I bought a Sarubobo doll for around Y250 here as well (much cheaper here than the stores in Old Town).

Nakabashi Bridge, also known as 'that Red Bridge' for tourists. This is one of the popular bridges used during the festivals. The colorful floats pass by here and it was a shame we didn't get to experience that - there's a next time for it though.

So this is where they store one of the many floats that goes around during the festival.

I assume this serves a holy purpose for the float right across it.

Tourists/travelers can rent bikes to go around town. Rental can be for a few minutes to your duration of
stay in Takayama. Bike rentals are easily found in the surrounding areas.

A corner at the Old Town.

One of the interesting craft stores in Takayama. This particular one is found when you are making your way to
Hida Folk Village from the Old Town down the road.

We stumbled upon a cemetery while making our way to the temples on  the northeastern area.

My tour buddy.


Soba Partrol!!!

Sarubobo dolls are supposed to be monkeys but for our lovely auntie, they are Japanese
Teddy Bears. Haha. Kawaii!

Food Trippin

The food is definitely so good in Takayama most likely because the food source is pretty close by - so whatever is put in front of you, guaranteed fresh, man. While hanging out with our local friend, whom we met in the hostel we were staying at, she would tell us to look out for Japanese establishments with "JA" on them, it means high quality - be it food or any products sold. So one night she bought us to a yakiniku place, get ready to spend anywhere from Y900++ to Y3000 or more if you really want to have the precious slices of Hida Beef! Good thing we were with a local and we had a go signal that even the Y900 is already good enough. 

Also we found this soba place she vetted for. Handmade soba would sell so fast that's why we had to be there before the lunch rush!

According to our local friend Mae, this is the best handmade soba in town. They usually ran out of supply
after 2pm. So make sure you get there early! It is the tall and narrow building on the left side (top left corner photo).
(Top right corner photo) My Hida Beef Ramen bowl. 

Clockwise from left: Auntie selling sticky rice balls for Y70, Hida-Beef-Yaki Y300, instead of using tako (octopus)
they have beef!, and breads from Blue Penguin Bakery (price range is from Y100 to Y200+)

This pumpkin pudding from Le Midi is zee bomb. Should be around Y350-400 per bottle.

Ah the Mackintosh Tearoom. This is the museum cafe atop the hill. The view is great and the tomato sauce is delish.
Fresh, I tell you. The dessert sampler was okay though, I had  better breads from the town.

In conclusion

If you are a culture junkie, I highly recommend this place. My photos don't give justice to what Takayama can offer. They have old towns, old houses, rich traditions, Hida Beef, museums, shrines after shrines after shrines, temples after temples after temples, bridges after bridges after bridges.

For such a small place, it is packed. Artists and writers would definitely fall in love with the place for the immense inspiration provided. I would've stayed here for months, or at least enough time where you can finish a novel. Pretty town, I tell ya. 

How to get here?

If you have the JR pass, should be about 4hr train ride from Tokyo. However we took the bus from Shinjuku and the ride was around 4.5-5hrs, cost us about Y6,690/pax (Nohi Bus). I didn't mind the long ride at all because the sights on the way to Hida Takayaman was awesome. You'd be passing by rivers, dams, towns and a lot of tunnels. 

And during this ride, I found out... the Japanese people love their tunnels.


Hida Folk Village

One exciting thing when we were planning our Japan trip is breaking off our travel to explore a place unpopular to most Filipino travelers, Hida-Takayama. This is an intelligent guess since well, how many friends do you know have gone to Hida, Japan? I'm pretty sure most wouldn't know the place. It was a toss up between Hida and the Mt Fuji region for us, but the World Heritage Site won us over.

Hida Folk Village

This is an open village with 30 traditional houses that highlights the craftsmanship of the Japanese, specially the men and women from the Hida area. People here are known wood experts. Most temples found in Kyoto were made by Hida artists, that's how good they were. Some houses are the actual houses from the 1700s but some are not 100% from that century as some were damaged due to aging and the many seasons it weathered. Entrance to this village is Y700/pax.

It was a good day for us to walk around. We were worried that we may not be able to do so because since we arrived in Japan, we were often blessed with rainshowers, but that day was a good day.

This sight greets you when you enter the Folk Village.
Sitting atop is the Takumi Shrine which is only opened for viewing twice a year.
This day wasn't one of those two days. Sayang.

Taguchi's House

Parked bike. 

Wakayama's House
Interior at Wakayama's House

Michikami's House

So you know where to get your wheels on. Hehe.

We traveled to Hida-Takayama during the Japanese Summer season thus the surroundings are mainly unicolored - green. Photos of the village during the other seasons looked wonderful and it wouldn't hurt to experience that as well.

It is highly recommended to go during Spring and Autumn to coincide with the Takayama Spring and Takayama Autumn Festivals - just make sure to book flights/land travels and accommodations ahead since those are their peak periods with tourists coming from everywhere.


Tokyu Plaza Shibuya


Hachiko, my hero akita dog.  When you are nearby
Shibuya crossing, why don't you say hello, yes?
That was all I need to know about Shibuya, nothing else. I needed to pay tribute to this hero dog. I had to queue among travelers who wanted their photo to be taken with Hachiko's statue. I tried hard not to go all cheesy and just take a shot... but the force in Hachi was strong. I had to hug him and hold him. I tried hard not to cry. Every animal lover knows who this tough guy is. If you don't, I suggest you watch any films about him and cry your hearts out. 

So you see, I only had Hachi on my checklist in Shibuya and I can move along. He said otherwise. He wanted me to stay and see what were in store for me. 

The Food Show

Facing Hachi, you have the Tokyu Plaza Shibuya on your left and what lies beneath is a happy place for all you food lovers. The Food Show on Basement 1 was a gem of a place! I can tell you that we had one of our best meals there. What I can't tell you on the other hand is if it is an economical place or a pricey one because it differs from one food stall to another.

The first one we tried was a smaller sit-down resto, tucked in one corner of the Food Show basement (once again everything was in Japanese, sorry I can't share with you the name. Even the receipt is in Japanese. Hopefully the logo on the stuff below is a clue?). My sister ordered a rice topping meal set while I got a sushi platter. Our meals were fresh and smells of the sea. Haha. The good kind.

(Update: Found out the name of the place! Uoriki Kaisen Sushi, B1 Tokyu Department Store)

A tip an elderly Japanese lady we met there, shared with us this: during the summer season, if you can, don't try the sushi restaurants found on street level. The quality is less good. Unless of course you end up in a fine dine resto.

Seafood Rice Toppings for Y1000. This was fine with me but
not a fan of the baby fishies. 
My sushi platter for Y1100. My favorite is the white finfish (2nd on top).
The taste and texture was grade A. Win.

Japanese Cuisine Delica (Soup Bowl)

Rice Toppings + Soup for Y770.

Because one trip to Tokyu Plaza Shibuya's Food Show wasn't enough. We had to go back in and enjoy our time there. The Japanese Cuisine Delica has other branches in Japan (I know I've seen one in Tokyo or Kyoto). To be served, you use a vending machine to print your order and then you hand it over to the wait staff.

I had fish and shrimp toppings while my sister got the beef topping. Everything is served as a set meal composed of: a tofu dipped in soy sauce, boiled lotus root, pickles and your own tea pot of soup broth. For about Php400, this meal was beyond okay. The broth was clear and really tasty. I can just imagine it being boiled with crushed fish bones, those secret herbs and locked in with prayers! I don't know but it was really good.

On the floor

(Update: Also found out that in Japan this haven of mine is called DEPACHIKA)

Imagine one whole floor filled with assortment of food from cooked  to uncooked dishes, salads, appetizers, main meals, bento boxes, desserts of cakes and gelatos... man that floor was crazy.

Showcase at La Terre Saison.

Strawberry Sorbet from La Terre Saison for Y400. I tried asking the lady in the
counter what flavors they have but it was difficult for her to speak to me in English,
in the end, I selected via color preference. I hoped for this sorbet to be
raspberry flavored but it wasn't.
Clockwise from top: 1) Tako stall, 2) a stall that sells traditional Japanese snacks where 3) Kat bought her Japanese cakes, green tea flavor. The red bean filled, fish shaped cake is a taiyaki.

We didn't know at that time that Tokyo was training us to  be ice cream connoisseurs for our trip across Japan. Ice creams are a big deal in Japan apparently, lol. No really, they love their ice creams! And what can we do but try of course.

Luckily, without any research, we were able to try the best one among those sold in the Food Show. That is according to the same lady who shared us her info on where to eat summertime sushi, hehe.

Friends, ogle on this:

PARIYA Gelato. I tasted as much as I could but the Tiramisu x Raspberry won me over. A scoop is about Y400...
filled to the tip! 
Yeah I know we do have fancy looking gelato in Manila but the exotic flavors we crave for are food items that are readily available and common to them. But don't hate on me because I would still rally for our Philippine Mangoes! Ours is definitely the best, no doubt. But for other fancy flavors, PARIYA wins.

To sum it up my dear friends, when in Shibuya, swing by Tokyu Plaza Shibuya and dive in.



Clockwise from left: Gojyuunotou, Senjoji, walking farther away from Asakusa you can walk towards Sumidagawa River and get a view of the Tokyo Skytree and the inner streets in Asakusa.

It was my first time in Japan yet I wasn't remotely excited to visit the Asakusa District. I know, I know. 

Shoot me now. 


From Tokyo Narita International Airport, it took us at least three hours  to get to our hotel in Hanzomon. We were tired from the air x land travel combo but we had to rush, as in immediately after check-in, to The National Museum of Western Art in Ueno before it closes. It is that time of the month that entrance is free. Yes, Tokyo Cheapo will be proud.  

Travelers take note: Admission is free to the Permanent Collection of the museum every 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, it opens 9.30am and closes 5pm from Tues - Sun (it closes 8pm on Fridays). 

(That's rice ball for you hommies)
( ...but they can be in triangle form, too)

Since arriving, we haven't eaten anything and I had nothing but dreams of having my first meal in Japan to be perfect. For weeks I had a vision of a perfectly prepared bowl of ramen by an authentic kitchen master. With us rushing however, this dream wasn't meant to be. For my first meal, we headed to the nearest convenience store and grabbed a single piece of onigiri and a bottle of ginger ale to share.

Surprise. It was heaven. Seriously. 

If you happen to pass by any of the Sunkus branches and you have about Y300 to spare, trust us, the tofu skin onigiri is the bomb with the ginger ale drink... and it deserves a photo on this post. See the photo below, it is that glorious, golden triangle in the middle. After trying that out, every time we popped inside convenience stores, we try out their onigiri but nothing compares to this bomb though :(

Tofu Skin Onigiri is love.  This particular one more importantly.

Unlike the convenience stores we have in Manila, in Japan they don't have an area for you to sit and eat inside. It is uncommon for locals to eat while walking, too. Since we were so hungry, we just went outside and stood close to the store and had our fare. Make sure to dispose your trash accordingly as they are labeled so.

I'm not including my story of the museum visit on this post. I'm sorry  if you are expecting any reviews. I could live inside the museum if you must know. So yes, I am still recommending anyone to swing by the museum especially if you have Ueno on your list. There are a lot of things to do there and places to eat, too - but this goes with almost everywhere we've been in Japan anyway.


No escape

From Ueno we took the train to get to Asakusa. There's no escape for me it seems. One reason perhaps as to why I am not excited about Asakusa is: because it is in fact a touristy place, it is the mother of all mother of tourist places in Tokyo. I may have wanted to do the off the beaten path, the outskirts, the unknown, the offbeat places kind of traveling. But the inner nerd in me was screaming, "It is the freakin center of old Japan, woman! Tanga ka ba?" Ok, you win Asakusa, you win.

Although it is summer time in Japan, we happen to arrive when there is a tropical storm brewing from Kanto down to Kyushu. Temperamental weather is nothing new to us anyways. I actually like strolling in cold weather anyway and luckily no thunderstorm that night in Asakusa. Yey!

This was just a few steps away from the Senjoji.
With one whole day of walking on empty stomachs, it is just right to eat.. at one point. With the help from the nice ladies from the Asakusa Culture Tourist Info Center (building below), we were lead to a locally known ramen house (insert choir of angels here)! Food!!!

The inspo for this architectural building are stacked machiya houses. Google machiya house now. 

The lady who assisted us gave us a map and recommended three places where we can grab dinner. Here's the map:

1. Maguro Bito. This one is quite popular among travelers it seemed. It came highly recommended as researched by my sister. I heard sushi here is good too. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to try it because we had to choose which among the three we should go to before the shops close and call it a night.

2. That thing she wrote in Japanese. 

3. Yoroiya. The place that made me cry and fell in love with yuzu (Japanese citron). My first bowl of ramen is one for the books. An English menu is available so don't worry. You do have a chance to select which among the varieties you want to try. 

I had mine with the plums... and I wasn't prepared with how sour it was. But just like eating spicy food, you just can't stop eating it even if it burns your tongue. It was sour but it was so good. So I finished mine to the last drop.

We spent atleast Y1800 for two bowls of ramen and a serving of gyoza. I would spend another RT plane tickets to have this bowl of ramen again. That good. 

I wish I can tell you exactly what is the name of this ramen. I will share with you this photo instead. 

Yoroiya is between Nakamise Dori and Metoro Dori streets. When walking around the area, try to look up and you should see a larger than life statue sitting atop the resto. 


First day

Asakusa was nothing but nice to me. Thank you Asakusa for my amazing first day in Japan and your amazing ramen. 

Lesson learned? I take bad photos and I suck for pre-judging Asakusa. Asakusa wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, gloomy weather or not. If I had more time, I don't mind going for my seconds, at all.