Takayama 2: in which we appreciate electric lighting and insulation

Our second day out of Tokyo, we wandered down to Hida no Sato, a historic village on the outskirts of Takayama with a few dozen old houses moved in from all over the region. Most of them are from the mid-1700s and while they look fantastic for their age, the thought of living in one of them (as people were still doing by the mid1900s) is chilling. Literally. I’m convinced that it’s not physically possible to sit close enough to an open flame to make up for cotton robes and paper windows (even with sliding wood “snow guards”).

If the hobbits were filmed in Japan, they’d live here.

This one is from 1751 and isn’t looking half bad for its age. This kind of thatching apparently took the whole village 4 days but lasted 40 years.

Wakayama thatched house with sliding wood doors for snow defense…

Part of the reason the thatch lasted so long are the slatted floors on the upper levels. The smoke from the fires on the first floor reach right up into the ropes holding down the thatch, tightening them up and repelling bugs and mold. Most of the historic houses still keep fires burning to keep this going.

This one comes from a village that made a specialty out of using trees from really steep slopes to capture their natural curve for the support beams.  

The leaves were still only just beginning to turn when we were in Takayama, but the weather was fantastic.

Leaves slowly turning

Wheel-shaped rice patty and Nishioka’s house in the back

Up the hill at the top of the village was a small shrine, moved in presumably for a village-like feel.

Takumi shrine keeping an eye on the other houses

The temple has the gorgeous ceiling tiles painted by regional artists. It’s not open very often, so we were lucky to get a peek. It’s a little tricky to make out but Tara’s favorite was the red and black number in the very middle. I was sadly partial to the orange and black one right by the shrine, but from here it looks invisible.

Down at the bottom of the hill was this little house and nondescript wooden frame on the right in the shot below. This unsuspecting little thing was a frame used to hold village oxen still to treat their hooves and burn their jaws… which apparently improved their appetites…. I think something was lost in translation on that one.

Several of the houses had “night work” exhibits, something to keep everyone busy for the hours and hours they were trapped in these giant, dark, smoky houses. Most of the this appeared to involve beating straw into submission so that it could be woven into one-use mats to stand between you and the snow, frost, or rain… Hands up if you’re really glad to have Thinsulate and cable instead.

Straw rain- and snow-coat…. brrr

Next up: more thatched roofs, but these ones we slept under


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