In the week of our April trip, we arrived as winter culminated and spring awakened. The weather was still cold, unlike the insufferable Manila heat, and to our luck, caught sight of sakuras in full bloom, exuding colors of white and pastel pink.
For six days we sojourned in Central Japan. Since Tokyo is a much more familiar destination we only spent two days there and decided to allot four days of our trip for Gifu prefecture.
The streets of metropolitan Tokyo were filled with tourists alike, partaking in the temple and tower visit, snapping a couple of photographs, and purchasing souvenir items at the shopping districts.
View from the Tokyo Tower
Gifu prefecture proved to be a little less crowded, its ethereal and cultural gems as alluring as the city’s promises and bright lights. It was there that we saw a hirajiro (castle built upon a plain) surrounded by a moat and copse of cherry trees, passed by a vermillion bridge, rode a rope way that showed a spectacular view of snow capped mountains and pine trees, crossed a hanging bridge to get to a traditional gassho zukuri farmhouse village, understood the significance of a UNESCO heritage site title, ate a traditional Japanese breakfast, slept in a tatami bedroom, wore yukatas, and took a hot bath in an onsen!
Matsumoto Castle: an animated cardboard cut-out greets the visitors.
A 16th century practice: Japanese castles were mounted upon stone walls and provided with moat defenses.
TWIrista group lounging under a cherry tree
Takayama As we were on the way to the Nakabashi bridge, a couple was having their wedding pictorial.
Mr. Jaison Yang, Travel Warehouse Inc. President, loving the spring season at Takayama
The Japanese Alps: View from the Shin Hotaka Ropeway
Our TWIrista group
(standing, left to right) Atty. Art Bernales, Atty. Kat Legarda, Manuel Llana, Pong Evarista, Atty. Susan Villanueva, Atty. Iris Bonifacio, Atty. Joey Ochave,
(kneeling, left to right) Mr. Weny Cua, Mrs. Tess Cua, Atty. Mona Dimalanta, (middle) Becca Dimalanta, Pita Ochave, Atty. Loys Sicam, and Mr. Jaison Yang.
Hotel façade: A modern touch with traditional interiors
Inside the hotel: Tatami Bedroom
Traditional Japanese breakfast served in the hotel.
Mr. Weny and Mrs. Tess Cua wearing yukatas.
From the hotel: Overlooking the Hotakasa mountains
Atty. Legarda’s R&R in the onsen.
What we found most interesting in Gifu was the Ogimachi village in Shirakawago region. Each house in the village was called a “gassho zukuri” house which meant “constructed like hands in prayer” because of the shape of its roof. Some houses were also converted into minshukus, a bed and breakfast that welcomed tourists for an overnight stay, and museums. We are ultimately grateful to see this other side of Japan!
Referential map of the Ogimachi Village
Hanging bridge going to the Ogimachi Village
Gassho Zukuri farmhouse
Koinobori (carp streamer)
Despite the cold, we didn’t want to miss out on the soft served whilst taking in this ineffable view.
Comparatively, traveling through the prefectures of Japan, Tokyo embraced technological advancement in its establishments where places of heritage are interspersed amidst modernized architecture and bustling citizens. Gifu, on the other hand, preserved tradition passed on from generations, continuously reminding the Japanese people of their roots and making use of modernization as a mechanism for tourism.
Perhaps, these places are a reflection of the Japanese’s respect for tradition and change, conserving old infrastructure and at the same time encouraging innovation. Because of the initiative of Travel Warehouse Inc. (www.twi.com.ph) in organizing our itinerary, we were able to experience the best of both worlds, even for six days, one that opened our hearts to the capital of Japan and the other, to the wonders of a countryside.
We would love to take another Japan tour soon! Maybe Kyoto-Osaka next?