On our last trip to Japan (just before the pandemic), we rented a car and went driving through the countryside around the mountains in Gifu Prefecture. One of our stops (and there were many stunning stops) was Takayama. I highly recommend spending a few days in this beautiful city. I’ll share a few posts about Takayama over the next few days, but it has a fantastic market, the best sake and it is close to the Ropeway, a double decker gondola that takes you high up into the mountains. Then there are all of the onsen in the region and hiking and …. I think you get it. The old town is beautifully preserved with whole streets of houses dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868). Many visitors flock to Sannomachi Street because it is home to sake breweries that have been in business for centuries.
Takayama is one of the great sake producing areas of Japan. The high quality sake it produced thanks to its cold climate (it is surrounded by 3,000 meter high mountains), the condition of the water and the well balanced flavour of the rice. Most of the breweries allow you to have a taste, either for free or for a small fee. Haranda Sake Brewery, Kawashiri, Hirata, Nike, there are dozens of them. Most have a large brown ball hanging over the entrance. These are made out of ceder and were originally put outside the brewery when new sake was brewed. The green leaves would gradually turn brown, showing the age of the sake on sale.
A few tips for drinking sake. Sake is something you sip and enjoy. Every sake tastes slightly different so if you had one and didn’t like it, don’t stop there, try another one. You can have sake hot or cold. There are some sakes that are best had hot and others best cold. It is customary to pour for one another so don’t serve yourself and be sure to say “Kanpai” (cheers) before drinking. If you have the chance to take a sake brewery tour it is fascinating.
Before we started our day of exploring and sake sipping, we needed to find coffee for Rich and Traveller came up as having one of the best coffees in town. Although the hot chocolate was really nothing special, it was a beautiful little cafe. They do use the local Hida milk (which my 3 year old daughter said was excellent). They have different gorgeous trinkets for sale. The café also acts as a bit of an informal tourism office with lots of maps and tips from other travellers available along the back wall.
Verdict: A very inviting café to start your day at. Travellers Coffee House, 58 Hanakawacho, Takayama, Gifu, Japan