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Takayama Spring Festival (2 day trip)

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This entry was posted on 8/1/2006 10:41 PM and is filed under Touring.

Date: April 14.-15. 2006

Distance by my Honda tachometer
- Departure: 61654 km
- Arrival: 62310 km
- Distance covered: 656 km

Start: Friday night 9:00 pm from my home in HiyoshiReturn: Saturday evening 10:00 pmCost: 8,000JPY for highway tolls (Chofu to Matsumoto)

The weekend was close and I thought about a nice place to go touring to. Usually I turn to the homepage of the Japan Tourist Association, which has given me numerous tips on great place to take my Honda to.
I didn’t want to go too far, so I thought of Nagano or Gifu Prefecture. The homepage mentioned the famous spring festival in Takayama - one of the 3 most important festivals in Japan. Last day would be Saturday, so I decided to leave Friday night, stay at a small hotel in Matsumoto and drive over to Takayama on Saturday morning.

As I didn’t want to go alone I called my friend Shin, the free-lance photographer. Luckily he was available. Friday after work I went home and got ready to meet him on Ishikawa Parking area along the Chuo Highway.
The road was empty and shortly after midnight we reached Matsumoto. I knew a nice hotel from a previous visit and we were lucky to find a room there.

The next morning after breakfast Shin and me left for Takayama using road 158. The road goes through the Norikura Heights and the mountains there were still deeply covered in snow. Fortunately the road was clean and dry.
It’s only about 85 kilometers from Matsumoto to Takayama and shortly before lunchtime we arrived. Just in time to see one of the large floats being dragged though the streets in a long procession. Drum and gongs accompanied the float and everybody was dressed in historic costumes. Together with the old houses and atmosphere in Takayama we felt like going back in time to the Edo Period. For more information on the festival and its history, please check the following links.


Picking up some food from the man stands we later sat down for a proper lunch at a restaurant with an open patio overlooking the river. The cherry trees hadn’t flowered yet and it might be nice to come back in about 2 weeks to see the river being lined in pink flowers.
After lunch we explored the city a little more. Some of the storage houses for the floats were open and we found that certain floats were made hundreds of years ago and designated as national treasure.
The most famous float is one, which has a small puppet in front that can be moved with strings. Hundreds of people had gathered in front to see the dance. Shin and I had to wait maybe 20 minutes, but than saw the dance. There is a surprise at the end, but I won’t tell you – go and see for yourself.

After a nice cup of coffee we started to get ready to ride home. First we wanted to use another route through the mountains, but found that the street turned after a few kilometers in a single lane covered with pebbles. So we decided to go back the way we came.

By about 7 we reached the highway entrance at Matsumoto and filled up our bikes. The whole day we wanted to soak in an onzen, but couldn’t find one or passed by. Shin remembered that there is an onzen at the parking area of Suwako. Sounded the right place to soak in some hot water. It’s only a 45 minute ride. For about 500 JPY we enjoyed the warmth and a nice view over Lake Suwa. Recovered and warm we were ready to go home.

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