Takayama casuallyThursday, May 29th, 2008
Early this morning we returned to the onsen: this time it was quick, really just time enough to be able to boast that we'd gotten our money's worth and had used the hot spring baths three times. Breakfast was being served in the large dining hall for one hour only, adding an additional incentive not to linger in the baths.
The rain had stopped but the cloud cover remained, and the threat of more rain was part of our deliberations about how to plan the day. I wanted to catch the bus up to the Norikura Skyline for a day-trip to take in the high altitude landscape. I packed for cold and rain, and separated everything that I wouldn't need, preparing to stow the extra stuff in a locker until we returned.
All of this planning came to a sudden halt when we checked out. The front desk clerk informed us that the Skyline remained closed for a second day (and probably another couple of days as well) due to an avalanche across the road yesterday. My hopes for taking pictures of blooming alpine flowers were crushed. On top of that, it looked like we were going to be trapped in this transit village for awhile as my bus schedule indicated that the morning bus back to Takayama had just departed. Hiro strove to cheer me with a pep-talk, and within minutes she found an alternate bus back to town that was expected to leave soon.
We pulled out of Okuhida after a stay of less than eighteen hours, leaving behind an unvisited area that may just draw me back some future day.
Once back in Takayama we had nearly a full day of unstructured time ahead of us with no immediate plans. We made casual use of the day by returning to the morning market to look for those over-sized juicy umeboshi I spotted two days ago, but not finding them; by visiting the shops in Sanmachi, looking for souvenirs and finding usagi-shaped (bunny rabbit shaped) paper weights; and finally by going to one of the best “Hida-beef” restaurants in town. Walking aimlessly just to use up time is tiring!
We returned to the train station—our designated pickup point for the ryokan bus—where we grabbed a variety of snack foods at the Timely Market for use as a light dinner.
Back at the ryokan we found plenty of daylight remaining, no dinner waiting, an already familiar ofuro failing to beckon, and nothing interesting to watch on the television. I was bored.
Under the guise of “going for a walk” I slipped out for some time alone, walked to the nearby temple, sat in a grassy corner of the temple grounds to drink a beer, and monitored the movements of the children and mothers and cars who—like me—were going nowhere and doing nothing in particular.
My walk didn't take me very far before I discovered the city's home improvement center. Here was a type of mega-store that I had never seen before in Japan. At first I couldn't figure out what the store was all about: the aisles of tropical fish, aquariums, dog and cat food, led me to believe I was in a pet store. Two aisles away the shelves held automotive parts and supplies. A few more aisles and I was in home furnishings. It was when I reached the hardware and tools, the outdoor building materials, and then the gardening supplies, that I really sized up the place: it was PetMart, Home Depot, and Target rolled into one. I couldn't resist buying a 210mm machete-like garden knife, much to Hiro's surprise and wonder, since she thought I was simply going out for a walk.
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Chogoro ryokan 長五郎 about ¥5000 per person with breakfast, no dinner.