Often described as one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan, we left early on Friday afternoon to make the three hour trek to Takeyama. We straight to the festival route and witnessed the floats pulling onto the route. It was nice to get a glimpse of them before darkness fell. They were intricate and beautiful. When darkness fell, the floats became magical, lit with dozens of lanterns. There was music, drumming, lots of flutes.
We woke up to the best breakfasts we’ve had yet. Little dumpling sandwiches, pork, and veggies. It was divine.
We enjoyed the large coy in the river. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them wild before. Then we watched a great lion dance. I loved the guy dressed in black that was some how providing the dancers direction. He was totally bald except for two tufts of hair that he had groomed into points.
We learned that the buildings with big brown dried balls over the door were sake breweries. When they are put up, they are green. When they turn brown, the sake is ready to drink!
We did a hike that took us through many temples (apparently there are about 40 on the route, we saw maybe 15) and grave yards. The little orange building is a library! Then we did a loop that took us up to the old castle ruins.
We went to a small village of traditional thatched houses. Some were brush thatched and others had wooden shingles with rocks on top. Inside the houses there were exhibits on local craftsmanship. The area was known for it’s silk and weaving, and there were fine examples of their set ups.
That evening we went to a burger joint that served local beef and I had a beer made from sweet potato.
The next day we paid a vending machine for permission to hike up a cascade of waterfalls.
Then there were some excellent caves, and a surprise traditional art museum we were forced to go through. It was probably the most impressive collection we’d seen so far.
On our way home there was a sign for a waterfall so we stopped to hike. The road was covered with snow, so we couldn’t drive to the lot but I asked some fellow hikers who were parking at the same time and we decided to take the short walk through ankle deep snow. It was a delightful waterfall!
Lastly, there was a huge dragon head at a rest stop.