Monday, March 31, 2014

Japan Holiday - Day 3

The Japanese came from Mongolia according to Colin. I didn't know that. Which makes the Mongolians their forefathers and should be proud as the Japs are smart and industrious people. Colin also said the Mongols tried twice to conquer Japan but failed. I cannot imagine if they succeeded. Would we be driving non-Japanese cars now? And no Sony, Canon, Panasonic, etc?

My internet research didn't confirm what Colin said. Here's a link to read if you are interested.

The weather continues to remain fantastic as we make our way northward from Gifu into the historic village of Shirakawa-go, another UNESCO world heritage site. It is a mountain village located at the highest peak on Mount Haku in the Ryōhaku Mountains. Almost 96% is covered by forest and this area is the snowiest place not only in Japan but the whole world! To get there our coach driver drove for 3 hours up the gradual mountain slopes traversing some 20 tunnels the longest of which is 11 km long. As we edge uphill towards the 1000m above sea level mark we started seeing snow in the distant hills then closer, even by the slopes. Being in early spring we still see lots of ice so you can imagine how it would appear during winter.

The outside temperature is 5°C but without a wind we didn't feel cold. We arrived at the lookout area perched over the village to take remembrance photos before proceeding down into the village itself to visit the museum, had a lovely lunch nearby that include wagyu beef which tasted soft and tender. We spent an hour strolling the main street of the village which is mostly uninhabited and admired the unique buildings covered with thatched roofings that you can read more HERE.

Leaving the village we next visited Takayama Jinja, a national historic site. Takayama Jinja was a branch office of the Edo Bakufu government from 1692 to 1868. But in 1867 Bakufu lost its political power and was returned to Emperor Meiji.

The visit to the mountains was the first highlight of this holiday that I shall always remember so it was with sadness to return to the lowlands to our hotel, the Hotel Hana Isawa which is an onsen or hotspring hotel. This is a most memorable night in which we were asked to wear the yukata (literally bath robe) and jinpe (optional overcoat) and sandals for a cross-legged dinner traditional style.

THIS is how you should wear the yukata. An excellent pictorial guide for ladies is found HERE. And a FORUM on wearing yukata in public.
THIS is how to take a hotbath in public.

It was a lovely experience for us. In between dinner and the onsen, which only a few of our tour group had the courage to go (you basically bath naked with strangers in a common same sex only hot bath) but we did and have not regretted it, we were treated to a 30 minutes free acrobatic show by three Chinese girls contracted by the hotel to entertain the guests after dinner.

Tonight we sleep on futons. I like the firmness sleeping on tatami mats but finding difficulty getting up I prefer regular beds. But the experience is treasured. And I did have a great sleep, especially after pampering my body to a hot bath.

Please check my Facebook HERE for a selection of today's holiday photos.

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