So far our holiday has been exciting, interesting and fun. However, all true adventures must have an element of disappointment and despair. Today, I will share it with you.
Takayama is famous for a number of things – apples, beef, ramen, sake (DO try the peach sake if you get the chance) and a bi-annual festival of floats. The festival was a primary reason for Takayama being on our itinerary; we planned to be in town for the Spring festival and everything was looking promising. Having visited the float exhibition hall on our first day in Takayama, we were very excited to be seeing the floats on our last day in town. The weather had been perfect and our ryokan hosts had been more than happy to discuss the impending celebration with us.
Takayama Festival Floats
Sadly, the weather turned on us on the morning of our final day in Takayama and so the floats were left in their stalls instead of being brought out and paraded through the streets of the town. It was an unfortunate occurrence, however we were still able to make the most of it by wandering through the streets to the various storehouses to view the floats – complete with energetic patrons of each float who were gathered around, either playing traditional musical instruments or singing songs in the lightly falling rain.
The weather could not dampen their spirits, and so we took heart in their laughter and friendly waves as we took in the masterfully crafted pieces of history that drew hundreds of thousands of people each year (factually speaking, Takayama’s population actually quadruples during these two festivals. Their reasonable population of 60,000 balloons to around 250,000 during these two festival periods!) as we prepared to leave the town. While it was sad to have missed the evening display and the street parade, my heart was heavy for another reason altogether.
For those of you who don’t already know this about me – I love fantasy and science-fiction. What’s more, I am a fan of manga, anime and film memorabilia such as prop replicas. Another slightly less famous piece of Takayama is a store that is, for people who are fans of all the things I have mentioned just now, something akin to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (if chocolate is your thing) or perhaps Disneyland. I could list more, but I think you get the point here.
A wonderland for sci-fi, fantasy and action figure nerds like me!
When we passed this store front on our first day of exploration, I almost resembled a Justine Bieber fan who had just heard that he was coming to town. I kid you not. I ran up to the window and pushed my face up against the glass as though I’d just found the secret to eternal life. Grabbing the door handle impatiently, I figured that my over-excitedness had caused some kind of motor-control breakdown when the door didn’t open. As I regained my composure, however, something far more upsetting became obvious. The lights were out. There were no shoppers inside. There was a sign on the door that said “CLOSED”.
Initially, I was struck with a sharp pain in my heart however I quickly regained my composure. Indy wouldn’t have crumbled like this. (Although technically, when he thought Marion had died in Raiders…) I re-read the sign and even though I couldn’t read all the characters, it indicated opening hours between 9:00am and 3:00pm. I would be back.
Sadly, returning the next day proved no more fruitful. The store remained closed (due to an exhibition in another part of town – or another city, I couldn’t decipher the language) and our time in Takayama slipped away with the morning rain. We boarded our train and headed to the last stop on our map. With a week in Kyoto to look forward to, I also set myself another task – return to Takayama and visit Tomenosuke’s wonderful store!