Today, we will visit Inuyama castle and then go northward to Takayama city.
As for Nagoya, most of the attractions are arranged in the last two days of my journey.
Before going to the JR station, we have the brakfast in the Toyoko INN.
This free breakfast may not be very rich but is quite nice already.
Going to Inuyama Castle, you have to take the Meitetsu train, not JR.
There are three stations around Inuyama: Inuyamaguchi, Inuyama and Inuyamayuen.
I recommend getting off at Inuyama station. The tourist information center may be the first place you need to visit.
Besides, I'm sure that there are coin lockers here. Remenber to exit from the north gateway and the lockers are located inside the gateway.
Inuyama is located in the north of Nagoya city.
The main attractions in Inuyama are the Inuyama Castle and the shop street in front of the castle.
Except for these, Inuyama is just a normal city without any specialty.
Maybe we arrived here too early. The tourists are few in the morning.
Walking for about ten minutes, we reach the shop street.
This street consists of shops and restaurants that the houses are Japanese old-style architectures.
However, most of the shops open after 9:30 and restaurants even open after 11:30.
Therefore we just head to the castle directly.
Among these shops, I find little swallow under the roof. This is the first time that I could take photos of birds in such a short distance.
There are two Shinto shrines in front of the entrance of the Inuyama castle: Harizuna shrine and Sanko Inari Shrine.
Harizuna shrine is the shrine where people pray for their crops and aquatic products, avoiding the bad things and the safty of the expectant monthers.
A pair of Komainu (狛犬) were contributed by Oda Nobuyasu in 1537 for the purpose of blessing for the extecptant mothers.
In the early April, the Inuyama Matsuri festival is held at Harizuna shrine that should be the most popular moment of Inuyama city.
With the parade floats that are all lavishly-decorated and dating from the 17th century, people will play the bamboo flutes and Taikos.
Sanko Inari Shrine is the shrine to worship the good Inari.
Inari shirnes are numerous and located throughout most of Japan.
Besides, the entrance is usually marked by one or more vermilion torii and some statues of kitsune (Fox in Japanese word).
The fox diety, Inari Ōkami, is the goddess associated with fertility, rice, tea and sake, agriculture and industry, general prosperity and worldly success.
Besides, Komainu (狛犬) is also the symbolic statue for Inari Ōkami but not very common.
In the Japanese cartoon "ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (GeGeGe no Kitarō)", there is also a section of the story related to this fox goddess.
By the way, Inari sushi, the sushi roll of rice-packed fried tofu, is another popular offering. That's also why this sushi is called Inari sushi. It's believed that the fried tofu is a favorite food of Japanese foxes.
Passing the vermilion torii of Sanko Inari Shrine, the entrance of Inuyama castle is close.
Though Inuyama castle is not so big while compared with other castles in Japan, it is one of the 12 Japanese castles still in existence which were built before the Edo period.
In addtion, it was a privately owned castle and the Tenshu (donjon) is designated as the national treasure.
By the way, Inuyama castle is also called Baidicheng (白帝城) which is related to the ancient temple, Baidicheng, on a hill on the northern shore of the Yangtze River in China (Mount Baidi was once the capital city of the White Emperor in the past).
It's said that this alternative name was derived from the poem "早發白帝城 (Departing from Baidi in the Morning)" written by Li Bai, the famous chinese poet.
The Baidicheng is on the shore of Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) and the Inuyama castle is close to Kiso river. These two are quite similar in geography.
We take off the shoes and visit the inner of castle.
In one of the floors, there are the pictures of the main castles in Japan.
A list is recorded with the names of these castles with the numbers of Kokudaka (koku of rice) that were the incomes of the territorial lords of these castle in the Edo period.
Somtimes, the powerful lord had the income more than 1 million koku. However, Inuyama Domain only had 35 thousands koku.
P.S 1 koku is approximately 278.3 litres.
On the top of the Tenshu, you could walk around the outer corridor watching the view of Kiso river and Inuyama city.
It's the nice part of the visiting that you should never miss.
Kiso river is one of Japan's 100 best water sources (名水百選, meisui hyakusen).
Parts of the Kiso River are sometimes referred to as the Japan Rhine because of its similarities to the Rhine in Europe.
In the summer, there is also an activity that the fishman goes fishing with the trained Cormorants.
If you are interested in this kind of activity, "ぎふ長良川鵜飼" held in Gifu city would be a nice choice.
While I'm taking pictures around the corridor, I find a special butterfly staying on the wood.
No matter how you take pictures of it, the butterfly never runs away.
I took the photos with my HTC smart phone and the camera with macro lens.
Besides, I also take a picture of other tourist taking photos.
After the visit, the time is still early that the restaurants don't open yet.
We stroll slowly toward the Inuyama station and buy some breads in a small bakery.
Sometimes, you have to know some Japanese words if you want to buy something.
For example, "パン屋" means bakery in Japanese.
Otherwises, it's recommended that you look carefully at each buildings you pass.
Around the noon, we finally could have the lunch in a sushi restaurant. This sushi set is only 1100 Yen and the taste is good.
After the lunch, we take the Meitetsu train to the Shin Unuma station where we could change the JR train to Takayama.
The train we take at the Unuma JR station is the slowest local car.
It takes about three hours to arrive at Takayama city.
I'm listening to the music, watching the scenery and don't think anything.
This feeling of taking local train in Japan mountainous countryside is quite nice.
Takayama city is a city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu.
On Feb 1, 2005, nine towns and villages were merged into the region of Takayama that made Takayama the biggest city in Japan.
However, due to the mountainous landform, the inhabitable area is still limited.
Takayama is also referred as the small kyoto in Hida (飛騨の小京都) for part of the old takayama still remains the streets with old houses since the Edo period, and lots of tourists visit Takayama every year.
Additionally, Takayama is a nice transport center for going to Hirayu, Kamigochi, Norikura, Shirakawa-go and other attractions in the north.
My accommodation in Takayama is the hostel-style temple, Zenkoji.
In Japan, most of the hostels are far from the city center but Zenkoji is only ten-minute walking from the JR station.
Exceprt for Zenkoji, there are also two hostels you may choose.
Because of the temple housing and the nice location, Zenkoji is my first choice and many foreign tourists also choose this temple hostel as their accommodation in Takayama.
There is a living room with the old irori (囲炉裏) where you could gossip with other tourists.
The TV displays the video in which the Japanese survived from the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 thank to the help by other countries.
Some English guidebooks are available and the English tourism information is on the table.
Behind the guest rooms is the Japanese garden with Koi pond.
If you don't need the air conditioning, the room where you could overlook the scene of the garden is quite nice.
Although the door of the Japanese room is not lockable, the security in Japan is reliable.
They also provide free small lockers for tourists to store their personal belongings.
However, the lockers are not so big for any luggage case.
The main hall (Hondo) is a feature of any temple in Japan.
In front of the Buddhist altar, you could feel silence and find your inner peace inside your heart.
This place is occasionally used as the guest room for the big group.
It sounds special to sleep in the main hall but I prefer the room with fresh air.
The temperature is hot in the daytime but becomes cool in the night.
Even without any air conditioning and fan, it's still comfortable to have a nice sleep.
By the way, there is a special area called Kaidan Meguri (お戒壇めぐり) in the main hall.
The staircase leads to a dark passage and you have to find a key in the darkness.
You must use your own faith to guide the steps.
When you find the key, the key to paradise, you could say prayer to wash your sin and lay the path to the paradise.
As the hostel accommodation, the kitchen is also available and it seems that the staff will not cook and dine in the guest kitchen.
Someone who know a little about Buddhism might wonder whether the meat is allowed here.
However, some articles say that this tradition is only followed by the Chinese Buddhism.
Due to the geography, the monks and nuns in some region of some countries may not gain vegetable easily, such as Tibet, and therefore, meat is sometimes the necessary choice of their food. However, they still obey some rules to choose the eat they could eat.
Someone perspective is said that the Buddhist should not insist on the food they like. If the situation is diffcult, you should accept any food that is available.
No matter how you think about this issue, this guest kitchen is not prohibited to eat the meat dish.
However, the vegetarian tourists may have to notice it.
As for the specialty of Takayama, my favorite one is the Hida beef (飛驒牛) which is one of the finest beef in Japan.
Therefore, we look for a restaurant for enjoying the wonderful taste of Hida beef.
On the brochure you could get from the train station or the hostel, there are lots of restaurants offering Hida beef.
Basically, the higher price means higher quality of your dish. So, you could choose the restaurant depending on your budget.
Moreover, if the quality of the Hida beef is mentioned, such as "5A" grade (the best grade), this restaurant is recommended.
飛驒琢磨 (Hidakuma) is the restaurant we choose today.
I order the 150g Hida Beef steak. Though the price of 6400 Yen is quite expensive, it's really tasty.
In Taiwan, I've never eaten such a great beef. So, it's worth a try, even you have to spend lots of money.
If you don't llike the enpensive restaurant but want to try Hida beef, there is also beef shop that I will introduce later.