japanJoel & Robin Japan 2001

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Day 4: To Takayama

This was largely a travel day. The countryside we went through on the train was lovely (if hard to photograph because of the speed of the bullet train). The green bushes are tea plants.

View from the bullet train of the countryside.

Since we didn't do much on this day except travel and have a quick orientation tour of Takayama, I'll take this opportunity to digress on some of the clever technology and gadgetry of Japan. This vertical garage in Tokyo lets you get eight cars into three spots.

Fancy elevator technology in a Japanese garage.

Everywhere in Japan there are vending machines that in addition soda and odd concoctions like Pocari Sweat (a sports drink) and Calpis (a yogurt-based drink) offer hot and cold cans of tea and coffee.

A vending machine in a train station.

Outside every building, when it's raining, they wheel out umbrella check racks. No carrying around a wet umbrella - just stick the umbrella in and pull out the key.

umbrella rack outside a building in Kyoto.

Finally, the pièce de resistance of Japanese useful technology: the toilet so complicated it needs a control panel. It automatically heats when you sit on it. It creates a waterfall sound effect to block any indiscreet noises. It has a bidet for women and men (with adjustable water pressure). And you can end up with a drying blast of warm air. These marvels of technology are widely available in hotel rooms and public facilities, alongside the hole-in-the-ground type of toilet.

The Japanese high-tech toilet.

But to get back to the travelogue, we arrived in Takayama, a fairly sleepy town in the Japanese Alps. It has one of the best preserved merchant quarters in Japan, called sanmachi. Most of these shops now sell souvenirs. The rickshaws are an innovation solely for the tourists.

Merchant street in Takayama.

We also saw the Hida Kokobunji temple, where a 1200-year-old Gingko tree stands in the courtyard, with sacred spirits enshrined in a knothole.

The oldest temple in Japan, with one of the oldest trees

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© 2001 Joel Abrams. All rights to images reserved.