Early in the morning, we were able to enjoy the lively city market in Takayama before heading to the World Heritage site in the rural area of Shirakawa-go. Before that, we made it a habit to take a dip in the hot springs early morning around 5 AM. That way, we could get our soak in and feel relaxed and ready to start the day. This particular onsen had an outdoor infinity pool which overlooked the entire cityscape of Takayama. I wish they would allow cameras so that I could take pictures!
I've never been to Shirakawa-go, but looking at the tour booklets, I was very excited to check this place out. In this very photogenic village, we explored thatched roof farm houses and cultivated fields and admired the unspoiled Edo period wooden buildings.
They gave us a map to explore the entire area, but the best place to walk to was the Shiroyama Viewpoint, which allowed us to have a scenic view of Shirakawa-go from higher grounds. It was freezing cold out here and raining at times, and because the terrain was so uneven, we were taking the path with the most hills to get to the higher vantage points. If you can see from the pictures, we managed to cover a lot of ground for the 45 minutes we were allowed to explore.
From Shirakawa-go, we departed to Kanazawa to visit Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. The name "Kenrokuen" literally means a garden combining the 6 attributes of a perfect landscape: spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, water features, and panoramas.
In this garden is where the oldest fountain in Japan resides, as well as Kotoji-toro, the two-legged stone lantern that is iconic of Kenrokuen and Kanazawa. The statue that I took a picture of is the legendary prince, Yamato Takeru. He was the son of the 12th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Keiko. There's a rich background story that I can't really go too much into detail about, but it was truly fascinating to see a garden like this constructed in his honor.
Once we were finished exploring the garden, we boarded a Shinkansen bullet train from Maibara to Kyoto. I have to say that being back on the bullet train always brings back old memories of previous visits. We don't see any type of bullet train transportation in the states, but I hear that the Japanese are helping the Americans construct a magnetic train that will take you from Dallas to Houston. If that's the case, I look forward to exploring Texas very soon!
It's been a long day of traveling today, but one more thing before I sign off... Kyoto has changed a lot since I've last been here! The area around Kyoto Station has been given an extreme makeover and I can see that it's only going to get better from this point. I've always loved Kyoto, and thanks to the tour, I'll have an extra day to explore here.