Good day, everybody! It’s a beautiful day here in Gifu, though the sun is pounding down hard on all of us and the humidity really brings home the fact that “summer in Japan” has arrived. Now then, this series detailing a trip to Takayama is directly related to the feature in this month (July)’s edition of the Gifu Prefecture Tourism and Event Newsletter, so if you have been directed here from the Newsletter, then you’re in the right place! As much as possible, I will aim to give guidance and advice to help independent travelers who are making their way to Gifu, and so at some points there will be a focus on some more mundane points such as buying tickets, etc., that are not particularly interesting, per se, but are hopefully helpful to some. This reflection on Takayama is the first in a monthly series in which we will visit a different area of Gifu Prefecture each month, so please continue to look out for these articles, which will be more developed and detailed than the Newsletter articles.
Now then, on to Hida Takayama! …..or…not. Since this is the first entry in the year-long series, I felt that it would be instructional to go over how exactly to go about getting places here in Gifu, so this particular post will be mostly about the proccess of setting out on one’s journey. So for those of you itching to get a closer look at Takayama itself…I’m sorry to disappoint, but you’ll have to come back for Part II next week! :)
Obviously, people could be making their way to Takayama from anywhere. For the purposes of this trip, I assumed that they were coming from JR Gifu Station here in Gifu City, but the specific instructions and general notes that I give here with relation to that particular station are widely applicable and will still be of use to travelers who are coming from other locations. Above are photos of the outside of JR Gifu Station, with the most distinguishing element being the golden statue of Oda Nobunaga, perhaps Japan’s most famous historical “hero” (one of the three great unifiers of Japan) who chose Gifu for hist stronghold. And the statue is not just painted with a layer of gold or anything like that; the entire statue itself is gold, which has some people amazed that it hasn’t been stolen yet! You can also see a throng of people lining up for a bus…a bus which I was thankful NOT to be on!
Entering the station, if you just head straight and look left (assuming you are on the 2nd floor), you will see the Tourist Information center, where you can ask questions about the area, obtain pamphlets, and receive advice with regard to transportation. If you are totally at a loss of what to do or where to go, head here! You will also see the below-pictured “Shinkansen and JR Line Tickets” center, where you can buy tickets from a fellow human being, if you would like! A quick note: shinkansen is the Japanese for “bullet train,” so be sure to remember that when you travel to Japan. If you want a reserved seat on a bullet train or, in this case, a Wide View Hida Limited Express train which will take you to Takayama, this is the place to go for that.
Otherwise, if you are looking for a more local ticket or are interested in a non-reserved seat (which are normally slightly less expensive), it will likely be quicker and easier just to use the ticket machines below. For local destinations, consult the map hanging above the machines to determine the exact fare. In this case, though, Takayama does not count as a local destination, and in fact it isn’t even on this route map! But no worries…you need not know the ticket fare ahead of time to buy your tickets at these terminals.
I’ll now go over step-by-step how to use the ticket vending terminals to buy non-reserved Wide View Hida Limited Express tickets to JR Takayama Station, so please read through this and then consult the next gallery of images for a photographic account of the process (and by the way, I do apologize for the blurry photos! It would seem that my camera still has much to learn :) )
On the main screen, press “English” in the top-righthand corner
On the lefthand menu, press “Express Tickets (Non-reserved)”
Press “For Mino-ota/Gero/Takayama”
Press “Fare Tickets and Express Tickets”
Insert bills into the “Notes” slot (Note: If you want to use coins, be sure to insert them before you insert bills totaling more than the required amount, because if you do not, the machine may complete the transaction with the bills before you have a chance to put in coins…a general piece of advice for Japanese ticket booths! For example, if the total is ¥4,300 as it is here and you want to use your ¥300 in change, insert that before a ¥5,000 or ¥10,000 note.)
Press “Receipt” if you would like one
Take the money and tickets that are dispensed
Tickets to Takayama GETTO! (Note: This is not “ghetto,” but rather a Japanese word, taken from “get” in English, that you say after obtaining something :) )
Before you go through the gates, you may want to pick up something to eat on the train at the convenient store, which is oh-so conveniently located on the 2nd floor of the station! Pretty standard fare when it comes to convenient stores…which means that it has pretty much everything you might need! I should note that it is not generall accepted behavior to eat on trains in Japan; long-distance express trains like this and bullet trains are the exceptions to that rule.
With food in hand, it’s time to make your way to the platform. As you approach the turnstiles, make sure that you are heading towards one with a slot where you can insert your tickets (Note: for those with Japan Rail Passes, do not attempt to pass through the turnstiles; show the station employees at the window to the left of the turnstiles your pass and then will let you through.) You will need to insert both tickets, at the same time, into the turnstile, and then ontinue moving forward. Make sure to take your tickets as they come out at the other end of the turnstile, however! Neglecting to do this and continuing on to Takayama will likely result in you having to pay for the tickets all over again (although, Japanese station employees are usually super helpful and will call your station of origin to inquire as to if any tickets were left there. If they are found, you’re off the hook! …But don’t do that. :p )
Right after going through, above you will be the general electric board which displays the next trains, their times, destinations, and tracks. Wait for the English to appear, find “Takayama,” and head to the designated track. It will almost certainly be track 4, as in the photo below.
After you have made it up to the platform, you can wait in the waiting room if you have some time before the train. Otherwise, hold off getting in line until the sign displays your train, meaning that it is the next one that will be arriving on that track. At that point, line-up where “non-reserved” is indicated (or, worst comes to worst, line-up anywhere and simply make your way to the non-reserved car from within the train). Be aware that in Japan, two lines are formed around each door: one on each side. Those getting off the train are let off first, after which both lines begin to file into the train. Etiquette is an important part of the train experience in Japan, so do try your best to just copy what everyone else is doing!
Now then, all that remains is to wait for the train…here’s hoping that it comes before I have to write Part II!!
Until next time~