Takayama’s Sanmachi Suji is arguably Takayama’s biggest draw. I was one of those who, upon seeing photos of the town, searched how to get there on that very instance. It was quite the journey from Kyoto, but we were finally in Takayama, and we were ready to behold the wonderful sight.
I felt it was quite necessary that we reach these historic streets before loads of tour buses even arrive. Soon after wrapping up our Miyagawa Morning Market visit, we headed straight to this area. Three streets comprised Sanmachi Suji, and all were spectacularly preserved. Our early morning stroll meant a lot of the shops were still busy preparing to open up, with shopkeepers just hanging the curtains by the doorway. Small gardens adorned the shopfront, often curated minimally. Ceramic figures provided accent and interest, while lush plants contrasted wonderfully to the dark hue of wood that the shophouses had adopted in time. Netting was set up so the vines could crawl up the walls in the coming months. Summer surely had its way of bringing life to the old-world feel of this town.
It was the woodwork, however, that drew attention to anyone who wandered here. Takayama artisans were known for their mastery of wood, often creating some of the best wooden structures not only in this town but also in the rest of the country. It came as no surprise that these shophouses turned out to be the way they are. The craftsmanship was superb, that even many centuries later, the buildings were not only beautiful but they were strong as well.
Our visit was cut short by a sudden downpour. Not wanting to waste the little time we had left here, we opted to head to Takayama Jinya to let the time pass while doing a bit of sightseeing.
By the time we finished going around Takayama Jinya, the rain dwindled down to a drizzle. It was time to finally explore the shops. Sake breweries were some of the more popular ones, as this town is known for their sake, the Japanese rice wine. I would’ve wanted to do a taste test as offered by one of the breweries, but our visit to Shirakawago later in the day stopped me from doing so; I didn’t think I could explore the village with a tipsy head. The bottles of sake were displayed very elegantly, though, and I couldn’t help admiring the thoughtful hands of the Japanese when it came to visual harmony.
Emerging from the sake shop, we saw several young teenagers in uniform; presumably, they were on a field trip. These students go to such scenic places on their field trips: young children visiting Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen the previous day and young adolescents in Takayama on this day. I was a bit envious of the quality of their school excursions. Lucky them, these memories would surely last a lifetime.
One shop was where a lot of these students queued up. The line was a bit slow, but moving. I instantly knew what it was: the Hida beef sushi. I got in line as well and we had our fair share of these wonderful treats. After the rare beef sushi, we also sampled some Hida beef buns. We stopped by some of the shops that sold rice cracker treats and made a short visit to a souvenir shop that piqued our interest at the junction of the main road.
It was a quick lunch and our hotel checkout that followed, before heading to the bus station for our visit to Shirakawago. More on Japan next time. Happy (virtual) travels!