Memory by Wabisavi
This is where my itinerary went a little astray, but on a long trip such things are bound to happen. Being flexible and a bit spontaneous are also fun parts of the journey (if I keep telling myself that, maybe I'll eventually start believing it 🙈). While my original plan saw me head out to Shirakawa, I was unable to secure a bus ticket, so I boarded the train bound for Takayama. It so happened that this train passed through 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝗼𝗸𝗮, which so happens to have a castle listed in the 100 famous Japanese castles. I wasn't expecting much (not after Yamagata), but oh well, it was 8am and I thought, why not. Takaoka was a total ghost town. Apart from a crew of adorable kindergarten students touring the castle and a couple of grandpas, I never met anyone along the way. 🍁🏯 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝗼𝗸𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲 was bigger than I thought, though of course, nothing remains except the moats and a forlorn well. Artwork dots the grounds within a forest of hundreds of maple trees (once the colors peak, the view must be stunning). I wouldn't expressly travel to Takaoka to see this, though. But I give it an extra star because the carps in the pond were the biggest I've ever seen and I couldn't stop looking at them. Falling into the pond = instant death. In one of the corners of the castle there is a little museum (free admission). No English, but apart from the history of the town they have an exhibit of everyday items from the olden days. Including a rotary phone. Which I imagine may be an oddity for kids these days, but made someone like me who used it well into her teen years feel incredibly old 🤣. ⛩️ Takaoka is also home to one of 𝗝𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗻'𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝗶𝗯𝘂𝘁𝘀𝘂 (tr. giant Buddha statues). Honestly, after the humongous Kannon floating in the sky over Sendai, this hardly qualifies as "giant". Beneath the Buddha a circular room holds various religious images and writings. Walk into the alcove at the back to be startled by a giant Buddha head. You can pray by ringing bells corresponding to your Chinese zodiac animal. 𝗙𝘂𝗻 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁. Takaoka's mascotte is 𝗧𝗼𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗴𝗮-𝗸𝘂𝗻, who wears the local traditional helmet - a humongous catfish inspired, over 1m long, 4kg heavy piece of equipment. Because apparently the knights of old faced off in displays of prowess by not succumbing to crippling neck pains. 𝗙𝘂𝗻 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁. As a tourist in Japan, you can tell when you have finally achieved off-the-beaten-path status when you reach a station where the staff have clearly never seen a JR Pass before (as I learned the hard way in Takaoka).
Takaoka, Toyama, Japan