Takayama Bear and Folk Village
Today we were planning on taking a small train journey to the local village the couple recommend last night. But we woke up to thunderstorms and rain so decided to wait it out at our hostel/temple and give it a go another day in the dry.
When the rain died down we headed for Hida Folk Village, a 45 minute walk away.
Despite the walk looking very hill-less on the map it was far from it. I think the locals who designed the map only deem a mountain as a slight-incline.
So half way up the hill we stopped off at a tea house. It was a cosy, quiet tea house with views across the mountains and a zen garden. Although you had to walk through the zen garden to get to the toilets. Once again all the staff were extremely friendly, but when we entered they did have a slightly fearful look about them. We assumed this might be because they didn’t speak English, but it turns out we were just a bit too big. Juna hit her head twice on the same light, I nearly broke the small chair just by sitting on it and the counter came up to below my waist so I had to bend down to pay. They were extremely polite but as shocked as us that we didn’t break anything by the time we left.
Before we got to the folk village we made a mandatory stop, the Teddy Bear Eco Village. I’ve had this place on my radar since we arrived in Takayama. The village like museum is made up of hundreds of bears in all sorts of bizarre scenarios. But the most bizarre of them all, was found in a chapel like shed with two human size teddy bears getting married. Not only that, when you open the chapel doors Celine Dion’s ‘My heart will go on’, blares out at full volume. Both Juna and I couldn’t contain our laughter. Then to round off your trip round the ‘village’ you get a free picture of you wearing bear ears. Not sure it’s one for the family album!
After the excitement of the teddy bear village and a small walk we reached the Hida Folk Village. It’s made up of a lake and around 20 different houses which have been preserved from hundreds of years ago. As you go round each house gives you a piece of information on Japanese history including how they traditionally built houses, lived in the mountains, made supplies and survived the snowy winters. Although this was the most amount of tourists I’ve seen for days it wasn’t overcrowded and big enough for everyone to take their time and enjoy. I would definitely recommend it for anyone visiting the Takayama region.
During the walk back we got distracted by a huge gold,shrine-like building in the distance. With a bit of energy to spare we headed for it. As we got closer it didn’t get any clearer what it was. There were hundreds of stairs leading up to the extravagant building with barely anyone around. Planning on taking pictures of the view we climbed to the top of the stairs.
As we got to the top we saw a line of glass doors and were ushered through by a man on the other side. His English was extremely good and he explained that we were at the headquarters for a new religion. He explained the basis and meaning of the religion and showed us into the main hall. It was absolutely stunning with everything possible gold-plated and thousands of seats for you to rest and pray. The main altar at the front was at least 15m high and depicted a forest scene. He was very kind and allowed us to look around and have a rest.
As beautiful as the building was and as kind the people were it still had a cult-like element to it and neither of us were sure how to feel about it. It was all a bit odd.
Tomorrow we are going to set our alarms and visit the morning markets then hopefully take the short trip to the recommended village nearby.