Escape! Malaysia - - Contents -

Go on ad­ven­ture across the Toyama, Na­gao and Gifu Pre­fec­tures to ex­pe­ri­ence the heart of Ja­pan


Eat­ing is al­ways a de­light but it’s best to watch where food will go if one is vis­it­ing the Food Replica Work­shop of Gujo Hachi­man town. While look­ing de­li­cious and in­tensely en­tic­ing, none of the food cre­ated in the work­shop is ac­tu­ally ed­i­ble as it is made from wax, plas­tic resin and other acrylic ma­te­ri­als. The method was com­mer­cialised by Tak­izo Iwasaki in 1932, a painter who is said to cur­rently hold 70% of the mar­ket share in the fake foods replica busi­ness. The first of Iwasaki’s cre­ations was said to be an omelette dubbed “The Com­mem­o­ra­tive Ome.” Vis­i­tors are free to try to cre­ate their very own shrimp tem­pura pieces for a small fee.


Up the wind­ing road of Route 360 is the Shi­rakawa-go Ob­ser­va­tion point which of­fers a tremen­dous view of the UNESCO World Her­itage site the “Shi­rakawa-go Vil­lage” which houses some 114 tra­di­tional “Gassho style” buidlings. The tra­di­tional gassho houses are char­ac­terised by their large steeped thatched roofs, which re­sem­ble the hands of monks folded in prayer, hence its name “gassho” which means to pray. Some may at­tribute the survival of the gassho houses to the grace of heaven but it is ac­tu­ally the un­seen ef­forts of the 600 vil­lagers that has sus­tained these relics against the vi­cis­si­tudes of di­lap­i­da­tion, fire and snow. Us­ing a com­mu­nal labour-shar­ing sys­tem called “Yui”, vil­lagers band to­gether in har­mony to pre­serve the houses and also as­sist in the shar­ing of re­sources. The process of main­tain­ing and chang­ing the roof of a gassho style house gen­er­ally takes three days to re­move and about one day to re­build. One may ob­serve the roofs of the houses face both the east and the west and this ac­tu­ally serves to main­tain the dura­bil­ity of the houses against sun­light.


Men­tion ‘wasabi’ and those who are fa­mil­iar with this nasal-clear­ing plant will be up in clam­our. Those who truly know their stuff know that pure wasabi isn’t found in a tube paste form and is ac­tu­ally ground from a horse­rad­ish of the Bras­si­cac­ceae fam­ily. Shige­toshi Hama, for­mer writer turned Wasabi Master at Daio Wasabi Farm, in­forms that to truly savour the true flavours of wasabi one has to in­gest it within 3 min­utes of grind­ing. Wasabi boasts a myr­iad of health ben­e­fits rang­ing from low­er­ing blood pres­sure to pre­vent­ing the risk of stroke. The wasabi plants are closely mon­i­tored to en­sure that wa­ter tem­per­a­tures are kept at a com­fort­able 10-15 de­grees Cel­sius with neu­tral ph and clean and clear qual­ity. The Daio wasabi farm mea­sures some 15 hectares and has ex­isted since 1917.


Vis­it­ing the Habiro Mirahashi Farm is a jour­ney back to the days of agri­cul­ture and ev­ery­day farm liv­ing. With 1,500 blue­berry trees, the work­ers at the farm would tell you that the way to truly en­joy blue­ber­ries is not to eat them one by one but by a hand­ful at a go. The nearby Tomato No Ki restau­rant of­fers a de­li­cious in­ter­na­tional buf­fet but those who are handy in the kitchen can at­tempt the del­i­cate and fun task of mak­ing their own buck­wheat or “Soba” noo­dles with the guid­ance of soba noo­dle master, Ken Kara­sawa. A be­spec­ta­cled se­nior cit­i­zen of mod­est ap­peal, Kara­sawa-sama would hand down the meth­ods to help one cre­ate the per­fect soba noo­dle. Shar­ing his wis­dom with us, Kara­sawa-sama would say, “Life should be like soba noo­dles – it doesn’t mat­ter if its thick or thin, what mat­ters is that it should be long and fruit­ful.”


The beauty of tulips is fre­quently equated to that of Keuken­hof Gar­dens lo­cated in the Nether­lands. While it is true that few could com­pete with the world’s largest flower gar­den, Ton­ami Tulip Gallery cer­tainly comes close as vis­i­tors can en­joy the beauty of tulips all year long in its mag­i­cal gar­dens. Over 1,500 species of tulips are grown in the gallery us­ing spe­cial cul­tures to keep the plants alive. In ad­di­tion to the cul­tures, the gallery also houses spe­cial­ity freez­ers and sun­rooms to main­tain the sur­viv­abil­ity of the plants. The high­light of the gallery is the an­nual tulip fair held in late April to early May which show­cases 3 mil­lion bloom­ing tulips with over 700 va­ri­eties.


Mea­sur­ing over 2,450m, Murodo Heights on the Tateyama-kurobe Alpine route is the high­est point ac­ces­si­ble by ve­hi­cle and of­fers a mag­nif­i­cent pic­turesque view of Mt. Tateyama which mea­sures 3,015 me­tres. An im­pres­sive sight to be­hold, the heights are rem­i­nis­cent of the “Misty Moun­tains” shown in the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy. The beautiful scene is ac­com­pa­nied by slabs of pris­tine snow and tiny alpine flow­ers lit­tered across green fields. Or­nithol­ogy en­thu­si­asts can try spot­ting Ptarmi­gans, or “Rai­cho” in Ja­panese, down at the Tateyama Na­ture Con­ser­va­tion Cen­tre. There also ex­ists a nearby spring which of­fers fresh wa­ter for a cool drink and an amaz­ing-look­ing pond by the name of “Mukuri­gaike Pond”. In June, one can see the stun­ning views of Mt Tateyama re­flected on the sur­face of the cobalt blue hues of the vol­canic crater pond.

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