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Winter Japan Day 2 - Takayama

Updated: May 2, 2019

Old Town & Takayama Jinya

There was a choice of Japanese or western breakfast at Ryokan Asunaro. We went with Japanese for the first morning. The shiitake and rice were really, really good.

The dining hall in Ryokan Asunaro. A beautiful setting with low furniture and tatami floor. Tables were set up and reserved specifically for each guest room which had requested for breakfast. The long table was set up for a group of tourists in an adjacent dining room.

After a warm and hearty breakfast, we took on the streets that were blanketed in snow over a night of flurry. The familiar street outside the ryokan had changed completely overnight.

Trees and shrubs were almost completely covered in white along the streets.

There were many ice cream shops opened for business and surprisingly, many people were enjoying their ice creams in the snow.

A real snow wash.

A morning stroll to Old Town offers many beautiful views of the Miyagawa river along the way.

The Miyagawa Morning Market along, yes, the Miyagawa river. What usually is a bustling morning market would be a deserted street during winter.

Takayama Old Town is a charming place. Rows of beautifully conserved traditional houses dating back to the Edo period flank the alleyways, some still kept as homes and some converted to souvenir shops, cafes, and most importantly, sake breweries.

Bicycle along the streets of Old Town.

Keeping warm for both.

A symbol and landmark of Takayama - the Nakabashi red bridge spanning across the Miyagawa river.

Take a break and enjoy the beautiful views from the Nakabashi bridge.

Other than the Miyagawa Morning Market, the other is located in front of the Takayama Jinya, known as Jinya-mae Market. Fortunately, some stalls were still open for business despite the cold winter.

Visiting Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋) - a local government office in the 17th century and continued to be used as an official government building till 1969. It is now conserved and converted into a museum.

Takayama Jinya is a substantial complex of several buildings all connected by corridors and courtyards. It comprises rooms of various sizes once used as offices, meeting rooms, guest rooms and residential spaces. Most rooms are immaculately laid with tatami mats and defined with elegant shoji partitions. It is the perfect place to experience, study and learn about traditional Japanese houses.

Attached to the main complex is a large storehouse built in the 1600s believed to be the biggest traditional rice storehouse in Japan. No, there is no vintage rice inside but an exhibition of old official documents, old maps and historic town plans. Photography is not allowed inside this storehouse.

Look closely and you will find these rabbits on the wooden beams. They are ornamental to hide nails in the joinery. Rabbits were believed to be a charm for fertility and a guardian against fire.

Beautiful trimming along the edge of tatami mats.

A bird's eye view of Takayama Jinya. No, I didn't bring a drone with me nor did I have a very long selfie stick. This is a photo taken of a photo on display in the visitor centre.

Walking back onto the Nakabashi red bridge towards Old Town.

The weather was a bit erratic that day. While it had a clear and beautiful sky few minutes ago, there was a sudden heavy snowfall while strolling down Old Town. It was a nice feeling walking through these soft fluffy snow though.

Across the town of Takayama, you will not miss signs and banners promoting grilled skewers of the famous Hida-gyu (Hida beef). A must-try for everyone.

Some tasty and juicy skewers of Hida-gyu, accompanied by a bottle of hot Takayama sake. A great way to start your lunch.

Oily and tasty noodles with dumplings for lunch.

Icicles everywhere.

The three-storey pagoda of Hida Kokubun-ji temple. The original temple structures were built in the 8th century. The current 22-metre tall pagoda was rebuilt in 1821.

The snow-covered temple ground of Hida Kokubun-ji at night when I was out for a walk. The huge tree on the left in the background was a 1,200 years old ginko tree.

Walking down the streets of Takayama in the evening, with almost everything seemingly in black and white.

The walkways were covered in thick snow, with a temperature of minus 3 degrees Celsius. My glove was removed just to be able to swipe the phone to unlock and take this photo.

More icicles.

The streets were covered in snow, reflecting the street lights like a self-illuminated road. There was no boundary between the carriageway and the pedestrian walkway. Rest assured that the Japanese are disciplined and responsible drivers. Everyone drives with care and patience there.

All covered in white.

The Miyagawa river at night with an added drama from the heavy snowfall.



  • The weather could feel colder than the numbers suggest due to wind and flurry. It's better to be over than under-prepared. Do bring along REAL winter jackets from reliable makers.

  • Jackets with hoods are absolute essentials. Scarfs, neck and face warmers are very effective as well. Some locals were even wearing ear muffs.

  • Bring a good pair of gloves that are thick enough but also fit well. Better if it's a pair of touchscreen-enabled gloves since we use our smartphones so often. It can be annoying if you are planning to use your smartphone as your camera and need to remove your gloves every now and then.

  • Consider bringing heat packs as well to add some warmth in your pockets.

  • Cold weather is dry weather. Bring some REALLY good moisturiser with you. Those little travel-size tubes will not be enough as it's easy to underestimate the amount of moisturiser needed everyday. Bring different types if you are particular about application on different areas like body and face (remember to check-in if it exceeds 100ml).

  • Get a pair of snow boots or equivalent. Sinking your feet into thick snow (intentionally, inevitably or accidentally) means water seepage into your shoes. Having water in your shoes and wetting your socks in winter do not seem like a good idea.

  • Walking on icy surfaces is extremely slippery too. I've seen many people in their usual sneakers, running or cross-trainer shoes slipped and fell. Otherwise, you may buy an ice-spike sole attachment (around 1,500¥ a pair) to enhance your foot grip. They are available in most souvenir shops.

  • A pair of shades/sunglasses would be useful as the snowy landscape can be rather glaring.


  • Was using Nikon D5100, Nikon AFS DX 10-24mm f3.5-4.5, Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 DC, Nikon AFS 50mm f1.4, Nikon AFS VR 70-200mm f2.8, Sony HX50V, Sony Action Cam AS30V, Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy Edge.

  • Other than keeping your hands warm and functionable, gloves should be of perfect fit to handle and operate your camera easily. Best if they are designed for winter photography. Get touchscreen-enabled gloves if you're using cameras with touchscreen feature.

  • Consider bringing cameras with bigger buttons and controls if you don't mind the bulk. I find it hard to use those tiny buttons on the D5100 with my gloves on.

  • Make sure your equipment can be used in sub-zero environment. Perhaps, do a test in your home fridge before your trip. This includes your lens as many lenses have complex electronic components these days.

  • Use a lens hood. It can be useful to prevent snow from hitting the glass directly, which can be annoying and hard to wipe dry.

  • Extra batteries are critical as they deplete fast in cold weather.

  • A waterproof outermost jacket with a hood could potentially eliminate the need to carry an umbrella during light snow. Imagine carrying an umbrella while trying to shoot.

  • Most indoor areas are well heated during winter, which is great for us but not our lenses. If you have stayed in the warm indoors for long enough (e.g. for a meal), condensation will occur. Hence, try to keep your camera cold in the bag if you want to be able to shoot immediately.

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