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The third leg of our trip took us to a small village of Shirakawa-Go. Here, the city noises fade away replace by sounds of nature. There are odd tour groups and day trip visitors coming into the village but after the last bus leaves at around 5-6 pm, the village is back to the normal tranquil state again. The village is famous for its gassho roof farmhouse. The word Gassho is translated as palm together signify the shape of the steep roof that helps to prevent snow build up as it tends to snow heavily in this valley.

 

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Rice drying process after harvesting. In other countries, I know that rice drying must only be done indoor with relatively low humidity to prevent rotting. Here there seems to be less concern about the damp and the only protection is at the stem.

Sunphol Photography Japan trip (76)   Stream of water coming down from the mountain is fresh and cold. Villagers just kept carps and salmon in this stream by inserting cages on both side of the channel. Sunphol Photography Japan trip (75)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (74)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (73)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (72)

Hachiman Shrine. Below is the close up of the Torii with straw rope called shimenawa with white zigzag paper strips to mark the entry to the sacred world.

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I have just realised that I have developed this new profound love of milk since moving to China. Sounds odd? In China, the milk you can get is typically has been pasturised (either that or it has added toxic chemicals) and is very bland, flat taste. While fresh milk is rich, sweet and taste generally complex. You don’t really notice this until you miss out for a year or so. Then, drinking it again is just wonderful. So my quest is to go out and try as much different type of milk as possible while abroad – and it’s cheaper than wine tasting. Here is a bottle of Hida milk, nice and thick as you would expect from a quality cow.

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Below was the farmhouse where we stayed. Lovely place. The old lady who owns it can not speak english but she does her best to explain where things are and when is the dinner time with one or two english words ever now and then. She was really polite and kind and we instantly felt at home.

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The first thing that greet us when entering the house was the hearth, a sunken open fire for cooking and keeping warm which is typical in Japanese farm house. The smell of wood fire, the warmth was just filling the whole living room and it create amazingly cosy atmosphere. This is also where we will have our dinner, we can’t wait. We were told dinner will be ready at 6pm so we can take a bath and get ready for that. While they are preparing the dinner and set up table, you are expected to wait in your room until you are called as if they don’t want to show you anything until it is ready to be presented.
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Smoke goes up on to the ceiling’s opening and basically smoke the roof to help getting rid of the dampness and hence prolong its life.

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Here’s our room. The back door opens to a creek which we can hear the sound of water and a view of suspension bridge.
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The set was prepared and we came in sitting around the fire dressed in our Yukatas. You might expected this kind of set from the traditional Ryokan. However, here the food is beautifully presented where the cold dishes are served first and the meat dishes slowly comes out straight from the kitchen while it is hot. Each dish is small but loaded with taste and the alternation between texture from soft to crunchy I would say is not far from the Michelin starred restaurant we have tried. Everything was very fresh and delicious. The highlight of this dinner is 2 pieces of Hida beef grade A. I cannot described how good it was. Basically, it so tender that melt in your mouth and leave you with the overwhelming sense of satisfying (yes, of fat)
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My unsung hero actually went to this salted fire-grilled sweet fish.  Although not as succulent knee buckling good as the Hida beef  and was very basic but nevertheless it was very dense and delicious.
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Just when you think you have finished the food, the miso arrives, then the tempura, the miso tofu followed by fresh melon as pudding.
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When we finished the meal and went back to the room, the bed is already put up for us by an old grandpa. He must be over 80-ish but still strong enough to carry the heavy futon and lay them out for every guests. After dinner, we decided to go out for night time exploration. The village was alive with drum and flute noise. It turned out that the whole village were preparing for the Doburoku Matsuri festival (白川郷どぶろく祭り) which happen on 14-19tht October, in two weeks time.
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Group of girls practicing the dance for the festival. Basically, the festival celebrate the good harvest and some amount of Doburoku sake would be made for the festival. We tasted a small cup of this sake and it was quite strong. Unfortunately we didn’t stay for the festival but it would have been very hard to find a available place to stay during this time. I would say the girls did a good job on the rehearsal. They are very dedicated to get the movement.
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The next morning we had another set of large breakfast. Again, I was intrigue with the quality of cooking there. Even without Hida beef, the food was still very high standard. Generally, we cook breakfast during the weekend but this food by far has topped anything we have ever done. Sunphol Photography Japan trip (51)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (49)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (47)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (46)

 

Waterlily pond. Sunphol Photography Japan trip (45)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (44)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (43)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (42)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (41)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (40)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (39)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (38)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (37)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (36)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (35)   Sunphol Photography Japan trip (34)

 

Some of the roofs are being repaired, basically once the straws are wet and rotten the whole thing need to be taken off completely and replaced. The period after harvest where there are plenty of fresh straws is probably the best time to replace.
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We strolled around the village around 3-4 times as it was a very small place. It was a nice change to be in a such quiet and natural place after being in cities after cities. In the afternoon, we took off to the next destination in Takayama. The city is famous for the old shophouses called Sanmachi Suji and the Matsuri (festival) where many elaborated floats are taken out to display. We again would leave a few days before the festival to avoid the crowd.
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Sunphol Photography Japan trip Takayama

 

Sunphol Photography Japan trip Takayama

  Cedar leaves ball hung outside sake distillery. When it turns brown it signifies that the new sake batch is ready.

Sunphol Photography Japan trip cedar ball outside sake brewery, takayama

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We walked past a shop and saw this old gentleman painting a picture. He was really concentrated and seemed to enjoy what he does. So I decided to asked him whether I could take his picture. He slowly looked up and gave me a sincere smile and gesture that I could. I know the rule that it is easier to apologise than to ask for a permission but sometimes if you can engage with them as a person in a friendly manner and still have a good photos – then why not?
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Another Hida beef but this is probably a C grade which is no different to the normal beef.
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Then we travelled to the next city of our trip Gero (下呂). This is an Onsen town where the ryokan The sole purpose of the visit is to go to the hot spring which would be a nice way to end our trip.

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The city has free hot springs everywhere. Most of them are very shallow and small for dipping your feet in and they are located everywhere in the public places, by the bus stop and next to the car park, really everywhere. This one is a little special as it is located on the river bank and is big enough to dip the whole body in. You have a good view of Hida river while enjoying it (and everyone have a good view of you enjoying the Onsen).

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One of the foot Onsens, this one has river stones at the bottom together with the hot and cold water. You suppose to walk around, first ,on the hot Onsen to let the stones massage your feet. Then suddenly when switching to the other side, the water was freezing cold making the pores and vessels contract. Sure enough, there were a lot of yelps and cries as we circulated around the pools.

Sunphol Photography Japan trip Foot Onsen, spa

Sunphol Photography Japan trip Foot Onsen

The city is small but there is a nice hip feeling to it. Unlike Takayama where we felt it was a bit like retirement city, Gero is young and trendy. The name ‘Gero’ is similar to the sound that a frog make. With this, they make a playful reference to use frog as the town mascot.  The whole town is plastered with images of frog.  There is even a Frog shrine (かえる神社) Kaeru jinja

Sunphol Photography Japan trip Kaeru Jinja

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Onsenji Temple on the hill of Gero, Here you have a vantage view point of the whole city.

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Sunphol Photography Japan trip Gero view from Onsenji temple,

Sunphol Photography Japan trip Onsenji temple, Gero

Sunphol Photography Japan trip  Onsenji temple, Gero

Jizo.

Sunphol Photography Japan trip  Onsenji temple, Gero

Sunphol Photography Japan trip  Onsenji temple, Gero

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Another Jizo by the road side

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We stayed at Gero Onsen Fugaku. The hotel only have one english speaking staff Ben Ng. He is from Hong Kong but also there to help explain everything to the non-japanese speaker like us. He even emailed us before we arrived to make sure we know our way to the hotel. The hotel itself is very big and does have the feel of typical japanese traditional ryokan. The hotel have many onsen bath located on the roof top and in the basement. They also have private onsen for those who wants more privacy. You can book it for 45 minutes per stay. I would say there is no need if you wake up early, there is almost noone of the public Onsen on the roof top.

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Our private Onsen

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Then comes the meal and my other chance to eat the Hida beef. The food here is like an art pieces. It’s a shame it also tasted so good because in half an hour we didn’t leave any trace of its existence at all.

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For Pao we chose the more difficult but beautiful yellow Yukata with equally beautiful bright coloured Obi. Of course, the beauty comes with price. This looks more like a delicate operation than those Yukata we wore before.

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That’s what I meant when I said hip town. How many place in the world you can think of that the governor would agree to have the road construction arrange the aggregate in a shape of a cartoon figure.

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… And the manhole cover.

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Storm drainage that can be used as a public park.

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Back to Nagoya Metetsu station.

Osu Shopping Arcade

Osu Shopping arcade

 Manga shop Osu shopping arcade

Osu Kannon Temple

Osu Kannon Temple

This is where it ends. Thanks you Japan for a wonderful memories. We wish to thank you everyone that helped us along the trip whether telling us direction,