After checking in at Spa Hotel Alpina Hida Takayama スパホテルアルピナ飛騨高山, an onsen 温泉 hotel, my plan was to explore the town's wooded surrounds.
Walking through the streets to find my way there, I was stopped by the look of cosy kissaten 喫茶店 (“tea-drinking shop”) and went in to try their classic fare in the form of thick-cut honey toast and cocoa milk made on a gas cooker. Two older ladies, clearly regulars, chatted with the owner in soft tones in the dimly-lit diner as I chowed down, then left with friendly farewells, leaving me as the only customer.
I like the simplicity of the food at such places, which has a distinctive style, a reinterpretation of particular foreign meals in a way that makes them something uniquely Japanese.
As I went to leave the owner motioned me to a map on the wall where she handed me a pin and had me mark my place of origin. It's funny to think that if I visit there again I'll likely place the pin on Taiwan 台灣 instead.
Outside, I continued on, across the river that moors the town, then up between quiet houses to find Shiroyama Park 城山公園 (“castle mountain park”).
Arriving in Takayama 高山 (literally “high mountain”) in the early afternoon, where the train station is positioned neatly in the middle of the town and leads directly on to the main streets.
Even though they don't feature in this pic, I recall dragging my suitcase over an extraordinary number of Tenji Blocks 点字ブロック (tactile tiles) on the way to the hotel to check in. Tactile paving for people with vision impairment was invented in Japan in 1965 and is so widespread that I feel it forms part of the visual identity of many places.
Through the city-flat and out to the mountains, following the path of the Hida River 飛騨川 over two and a half hours, ascending slowly. The curving track, dense forest and jade waters, through rain at times, was a contrast to the pace and the view from the Shinkansen 新幹線.
This pic was taken just past the city of Gero 下呂, known for its onsen 温泉 (hot springs).
Lugging the suitcase on and settling in, first to Gifu Station 岐阜駅, half an hour north of Nagoya 名古屋, where the train reverses directions on to the Takayama Main Line 高山本線.
As it paused for a moment to do so, I looked out and snapped this view before it slid away.
Another view down the lines at Nagoya Station 名古屋駅 as the train approached.
Out of the rain and grey temporarily, arriving at the main station at Nagoya 名古屋, one of the country's largest cities. Off the Shinkansen 新幹線 and across a few tracks to wait for the Hida ひだ limited express and the lazy winding trip to the mountains.
Eating some Pocky ポッキー, probably, while watching the rain over the mountains.
The way the view of the landscape moves at this speed makes me wonder if the early-90s Sega developers that worked on Sonic got the idea for parallax background layers from trips taken on this line.