We started with a slow morning getting up at 11 to try and regain our energy from all our walking and traveling. Still in pyjamas and half-awake we explored our hostels zen garden which is a small,beautiful square garden with views of the mountains. The ambience was slightly ruined by the unbelievably loud snoring of a fellow hostel guest, but we still enjoyed the garden just maybe not the zen.
When we finally got ourselves together and got out of the hostel our first port of call was a money exchange shop. Working there were two elderly women extremely pleased to have some customers. Just before we were about to leave with our money they gave us beautifully delicate, hand-made origami animals and wished us luck for our day. It was a lovely start to a slightly lethargic day.
The area we’re staying in, Takayama, is famous for its huge park. Within the park there are shrines, castle ruins and beautiful views across the villages. After a 300m, near vertical hike to the top of the park to see the castle ruins we were greeted by thousands of insects and bugs. I tried to take photos of the view and Juna tried to paint but the bugs were so insistent on biting us we ended up running back down the hill brushing them off our skin as we ran. So all in all not a hugely successful park visit but we’re planning to go back when we’re more prepared, with long sleeved clothes and insect repellent.
On the way back to the hostel we weaved in and out of the shopping lanes with Juna buying a ‘zen carrot statue’ and me resisting the temptation to buy a key ring of the village mascot; a cool, headband wearing ninja.
As the sun began to set we found our hostel. With complacency kicking in for our newly found navigation skills, reality bit us. Turns out it wasn’t our hostel, just a similar looking temple,it now appeared to onlookers we were breaking in. Luckily we obviously look very British and lost so nobody batted an eye lid.
Intriguingly located in the shrine next to our bedroom is a dark stairway with an ominous message next to it. It tells you the stairs lead to a pitch-black passage under the shrine, which circles under the altar and back out again. It’s meant to teach you the ‘path of enlightenment’. So, we braved the darkness, hit our heads a few times and made it out. Although I’m not sure I’m enlightened yet, might give it another go tomorrow .
The Underground Shrine Stairway
Just before we headed to bed we got chatting to a lovely Belgian couple traveling with their kids. They have been here for a few days and recommended a day trip to a local village which Juna and I are now planning to do tomorrow.