Friday, June 28, 2013

Japan Trip - Day 4 & 5 (November 2012)

We stayed overnight in Hotel Associa Takayama Resort on November 23. Even though the hotel is situated on the hill, far away from Takayama train station and its downtown area, hourly free shuttle bus between the hotel and train station is available. They also have a service centre near the train station to deliver luggages to the hotel for its guests.

The Western-style guest room was quite huge, 35 square metres or 376 square feet. Much bigger than the standard guest rooms in other Japanese hotels.

The reason I picked this hotel is because it provided the wonderful view of the whole Takayama surrounded by the north Japanese Alps (北阿爾卑斯山脈的全景). Here’s what I could see from the guest room I stayed in. Besides the guest room, there was another place to enjoy this amazing view … outdoor hot spring (onsen) 露天溫泉, which I did in the morning of November 24!

The hot spring baths (溫泉) are located on 5th and 7th floors. The onsen on 5th floor is called “Overlooking Bath” 望之湯 and on 7th floor is called “Sky Bath” 天之湯. Each floor has an indoor bath and five outdoor baths. Why they have hot spring baths on different floors? Because the hotel designates one floor to one gender and changes the rotation everyday.

I forgot which floor I enjoyed the hot spring, maybe it was “Sky Bath”. I recall there was a telescope outdoor to view the north Japanese Alps which I could only see blurry mountains without eyeglasses (冇眼鏡, 有望遠鏡都睇得矓查查).

Breakfast buffet on 2nd floor with nice ambiance and okay food selection. They even had lychees 荔枝.

After breakfast and hot spring, it’s time to get back to downtown Takayama by free shuttle. Miyagawa morning market 宮川朝市 was closed already so we just walked along Miyagawa River around that area on a sunny, beautiful day.

There were quite a few Chinese restaurants (中華料理) in Takayama, mainly serving Hida Chinese noodles (中華麺). I didn’t plan to have lunch there until I found out that they were very popular, some even had long line-ups. I was very curious what made its menu so attractive so I decided to try it out. Not easy to find one with seats available … finally saw a tiny one on a less crowded street near Old Private Houses 古い町並. It had only 4 tables with 2 occupied (one of them with Caucasian customers). I ordered Chinese noodle with pork. As a Japanese-style Chinese cuisine, it was not bad!

Around 4:30 pm we took the train back to Nagoya, it was full of passengers.

On November 25, I had to leave Japan around 4 pm. I ate lunch in a Chinese restaurant again in Chubu Centrair International Airport. This time I ordered a combo with spinach congee, dim sum (dumplings) and tofu pudding. Did you notice the goji berries 杞子 in tofu pudding? They even put goji into my friend’s congee which was kind of interesting since it’s uncommon to place goji in congee or tofu pudding in my culture.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Japan Trip - Day 3 (November 2012)

In the morning of November 23, we took the local train to Hida Furukawa 飛驒古川. The view along the rail was quite similar to the roadside view of BC Interior, Canada 加拿大卑斯省內陸 with infinite green fields surrounded by distant mountains behind the floating clouds.

It was a cabbage and persimmon season, some local residents put their cabbages outside the houses along canal Setogawa 瀬戸川or hung their persimmons outdoor to dry.

I never expected to see a Chinese restaurant in such a small, quiet town. Is it owned by Chinese???

Revisited this tiny dairy shop 牧成舎 at the corner where it specialises in Hida milk products 飛驒乳製品. It has only 3-4 tables inside as 80% are take-out orders. They do deliver milk to its neighbourhood.

I read that the carp 鯉魚 are removed from Setogawa during winter season starting in November. So were there still any carp?

Wow! Still lots of them!!! Just like the last time I visited there in spring … way more than number of people we saw in Furukawa. Except that this time no feeding to carp was allowed. Somehow I felt the water in Setogawa was more clear compared to the last visit.

Back to Takayama by train around noon. Last time I stayed in Old Private Houses 古い町並 district for only a short while, so this time I spent almost 3 hours walking around Old Privates Houses and shopping at the souvenir stores.

We found a nice coffee shop at the corner of a street. Let’s go in for an afternoon tea!

Last time I couldn’t take a perfect photo of the riverside scenery from Nakabashi Bridge. Finally I could do it this time J

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Japan Trip - Day 2 (November 2012)

Next morning, we walked to Kenrokuen (兼六園), the best tourist attraction in Kanazawa, like a “must see” garden. Kenrokuen is one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens, it was created from 1620s to 1840 in accordance with the standards from the book “Famous Gardens of Luoyang” (洛陽名園記) written by the Chinese poet of Song Dynasty, Li Gefei (李格非 - 北宋山東濟南詩人/詞人). If you are wondering who Li Gefei is, he is the father of a very famous Chinese female poet called Li Qingzhao 李清照. Do you still remember the phrase “人比黃花瘦” (skinnier than a yellow flower)? It was from the poem 醉花陰 (drunk in the shadow of flowers) written by Li Qingzhao.

In “洛陽名園記”, Li Gefei recorded 19 famous gardens in Luoyang, China with one of them described as “洛人云,園圃之勝 不能相兼者六,務宏大者,少幽邃;人力勝者,少蒼古;多水泉者,難眺望。兼此六者,惟‘湖園’而巳。” So the name 兼六園 (Six Attributes Garden) was derived from this book to represent six attributes of a perfect landscape: spaciousness 宏大, seclusion 幽邃, artifice 人力, antiquity 蒼古, abundant waterways 水泉, distant view 眺望.

It was one of the best times to visit Kenrokuen since it was the maple season. YEAH!

                                Overlooking the beautiful city of Kanazawa from Kenrokuen



Did you notice some trees are roped with poles?  They are used to prevent snow accumulation on the trees.


Of course the most representative spot would not be missed! Stone lantern with two legs is the symbol of Kenrokuen.

After Kenrokuen, we walked around Naga-machi Buke Yashiki District(長町武家屋敷跡), where the top and middle class Samurai (members of a powerful military class) who served Kanazawa Castle lived from 1583 to 1868. This is more like a historical site with an old canal, the alleys and mud walls of the old days.

Woo … we found a traditional school (university?). I haven’t seen the word  “塾”for a long time. It made me think of 扑扑齋 … let’ go in and check it out!


It’s a very nice and quiet study area, so peaceful … good place to practice Zen 修禪 … meditation with Zen poem …


and more meditation with more Zen poem …


What a dream!

For lunch, we picked a restaurant that served similar buffet we had in 草楽 in Sakae, Nagoya. I think they are from the same franchise advocating local and natural food. I really enjoyed the meal and dessert there. I wish I could stay there longer but we were in a rush to catch the bus to Shirakawa Village 白川鄉.

Second time to Shirakawa Village 白川鄉! Last time was in spring 2012. What are the same? The picturesque landscape and the ditch with fresh clean water. What are the differences? The autumn feel with many persimmons 柿 and dryer weather.

First time visited Shirakawa Village, I was completely impressed by its clean ditch with fishes in it. I thought the fishes can swim freely through the whole ditch until my boss told me that there may be blocks. So this time I did a thorough investigation to conclude that the spaces are divided with blocks … it’s more like fish in jail L

           But then I was impressed by another scene … the reflection of clouds on the ditch J

We left Shirakawa Village and headed to Takayama 高山市 in the late afternoon. It was dark upon arrival so we had a very nice BBQ dinner with famous Hida beef 飛驒牛 in a very spacious but only half full restaurant. What are these sources 濃口 & 薄口? Any guess? 濃口 means strong taste so it is strong soy source. The opposite is薄口, light soy source.