Goodbye big city, but one last experience when I woke at 5 so that Mem and I could tag-team a visit to the Meiji Jingu (shrine) in the huge forested park just a 20 minute walk south. I got there as they opened the gates for sunrise and walked down the huge tree avenue to the shrine, where I did the respectful observance they suggest even for gaijin – a coin, two bows, two claps and a bow. Cleansed my hands and mouth at the fount (also OK for gaijin), left hand, right hand, cup water to mouth with left hand, rinse left, rinse dipper. The shrine was beautiful – you can see it in the distance in one picture, but no photos in the shrine area itself please. I went back and Mem did her turn, while the young ladies slept in preparation for travel day.
And travel we did, after breakfast we hit the N’EX train to Shinagawa, then the Hikari Shinkansen to Nagoya (fast indeed) and then the train into the mountains to Takayama, incredibly lush forests and craggy mountains with lots of typhoon-dragged cloud, and a river gorge that was just jaw dropping in places – mixed with the usual light industrial, concrete’n’rust look of the Japanese towns and hydroelectric dams. Got to Takayama 5 and a half hours after leaving Tokyo, decamped to our, ah, budget ryokan which is a mix of fun, novelty and a bit of a cheap b’n’b feel. Very nice people and it’s comfortable if a bit chatty. I’m writing this from the futon on the tatami matting as we prepare for sleep on a fairly warm night. Room has its own ensuite toilet, don’t forget to put on the slippers while you squat! Also – bathing is in the family onsen downstairs – a big soak in the family bathtub after a wash in the changeroom …
Autumn festival was both lovely and a bit anticlimactic – lots of street stalls and throngs of kids etc. Mem and I had some takoyaki (octopus balls) and a taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry thing with red bean paste) – both very tasty. Saw a magnificent mobile shrine in the street with Shinto music played by schoolkids in the top of it – and then expected it would be taken through the streets, but in fact they turned it a right angle and took it back to the storage house. Coming back to the ryokan we discovered the festival had been cancelled! The typhoon coming through had caused rain and especially winds which would damage the incredibly intricate floats. So we were pretty lucky to see the one we did.
And then a dramatic end to the evening when we got to bedtime and Cal realised her beloved Hello Kitty had dropped from her bag on the train – looks like a trip to Takayama Station Lost Property tomorrow, with a fairly substantial language barrier ahead …

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