Pivoting to Lesser Known Places - Takayama, Japan

When I checked out of my hostel in Fujikawaguchio, I saw a binder filled with tips on how to get to different places in Japan from that hostel. While flipping through it, I decided that instead of going to Kyoto like I had originally planned, I was going to go to a city I never heard of, just to explore and see what I would find. Takayama caught my eye because getting there would take me across the middle of Japan, down along the west coast of the island, and back towards the central mountainous region. It sounded like an interesting train ride to a brand new place. So I made the pivot on a whim and headed to Takayama.

In Takayama, I learned an important lesson about exploration, travel and to some extent about life: We don’t necessarily need to find anything breathtaking or spectacular for our journeys to be enjoyable and memorable.

I arrived in Takayama at night after a long train ride that took me across to the west coast of Japan and then back towards the central region. The first thing I did was walk across the city to a grocery store to get some food for my stay here. The hostel that I was stay had a very cozy living room/common area and I remember vividly that they were playing American country music. Specifically a song called 'How Does It Sound' by Dylan Schneider. It was strange hearing that quite literally in the middle of Japan

The next day I walked around and explored the city. The streets oddly felt cluttered and organized at the same time.

Went to the historic part of town where the architecture was preserved from the Edo period of Japan.

It was a bit anachronistic to see modern signs, people taking selfies, stores that sold modern goods among the architecture from 500 years ago.

They had pretty manhole covers here as well, although they weren't painted like the ones in Fujikawaguchio.

Another morning I decided to walk around town without using my phone or Google Maps to guide me. I saw a giant temple in the distance so decided to see if I could find my way over there.

Along the way I crossed the train tracks and the stations that I had arrived in.

After walking for about 30 minutes I realized the temple was a lot farther than I had thought. I saw a sign point me towards a preserved old folk village nearby so I pivoted to that instead.

Ducks chilling on a frozen pond in the middle of the village.

Some of the houses were open to walk around in. It felt like an open house that would've taken place 500 years ago.

Rare self portrait of me walking around that little village. There wasn't very many people around. It was a weekday and plus the city is hard to get to and doesn't see nearly as many visitors compared to some of the more well known destination in Japan.

I never made it to that temple I was aiming for. Still have no idea what it is and why it's so huge. I also got a little lost on my way back, since I was just walking around without using Google Maps. I asked a person on the street for directions and we both had a good laugh trying to communicate with hand gestures, neither of us knew more than a handful of words in the other's language. Eventually I made it back to my hostel.

I didn’t do or come across anything super spectacular here in Takayama, but I loved my cozy hostel, I enjoyed my time meandering through the local city, and it was so memorable because it felt like I was actually exploring and finding things I was not looking for. That’s the true reality of exploring, that I feel like Instagram and mainstream travel culture has muddled: We do not need to find something breathtaking or amazing for our trips to be memorable and enjoyable. I was in Takayama, Japan between January 12th - January 14th, 2019