Things To Do At Linc KL: Murals, Art And All Things Instagrammable

With Kuala Lumpur peppered with malls left, right and centre, do we really need another boxy, air-conditioned space with the same cookie-cutter brands?

The newly opened The Linc KL, however, offers a different experience. Tucked along Jalan Tun Razak, the artsy retail and creative space features a unique design, promising to connect visitors to ‘nature, community and human interaction’. N and I were in town recently, so we dropped by to check the place out.

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The mall’s design is certainly not traditional. Aside from colourful murals and art installations, the space’s centre court features a giant Ficus Benjamina, or Ficus Tree, which can grow up to 30 metres high. The Linc’s specimen is massive, its large, twisting branches spreading to form a dense canopy three-storeys high.

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Large and airy, the mall incorporates plenty of green (both real and aesthetic) into its design. Murals featuring flowers and foliage run the length of the walls, with artsy poetry to go along. There are also lots of spots with seats where people can just chill and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Retail-wise, there are plenty of independent and artisanal brands and cool eateries. Frangipani Bulk, a zero-waste store, is located on the ground floor, just across from Ben’s Independent Grocer. Other stores include Bendang Artisan, which carries handmade tableware and crockery, coffee place Bean Brothers, and Homes by Rahim x Nik, which sells locally-designed rattan furniture.

What most youngsters will enjoy is probably the Instagram-worthy art installations and murals scattered across the mall,

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The Owl by Amarul Abdullah. All of the murals in the mall are done by local artists.

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The piece-de-resistance – “Doves”, comprising 41,600 folded paper doves in 40 colours, hung from the ceiling to form a mesmerising curtain of shades.

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Since the mall is pretty new, there isn’t yet much to do – but we’re looking forward to exploring more of the space once more tenants move in.

THE LINC KL 

360, Jalan Tun Razak, KL.

Open Daily from 10am-10pm

Travelogue Manila: National Museum Of Natural History

This goes to both locals and visitors to Manila: If you haven’t been to the National Museum of Natural History at Rizal Park, then you should.

Why? Well, it’s awesome!

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Originally built in a neoclassical style in the 1940s as the Agriculture and Commerce Building, the structure was destroyed during World War II, and subsequently rebuilt to house the Department of Tourism. They eventually moved out in 2015, as per an agreement to convert some of the heritage buildings in the area to form a museum complex, and so here we are. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend paying a visit to other attractions nearby, namely the National Art Gallery and the National Museum of Anthropology.

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The hype has been massive since the museum opened in May, and lines are still long, even on a weekday. While waiting, admire the beautiful architecture of the entrance hall, with its neoclassical arches and honeycombed ceiling. Large bags and backpacks have to be deposited at the security counter before entry.

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Emerge into the cavernous main hall, with the DNA Tree Of Life at its epicenter. Towering six storeys high, the double helix steel structure houses an elevator and spreads out into a distinctive ‘canopy’ of ‘leaves’ and ‘branches’.

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Alternatively, visitors can walk up each floor via ramps on one side of the hall.

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The hall is also decorated with giant tapestries of animals endemic to the Philippines, such as the Philippine eagle, the tarsier and the Philippine cattle.

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Even if you’re not a history/natural history buff, the architecture alone is worth coming for. Explore the spacious hallways lit with warm, yellow light, and marvel at the exquisitely patterned marble flooring, beautiful wainscoting and steel-wrought windows and railings.

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The Ayala Hall is where visitors will find the skeleton of Lolong, certified by the Guinness World Records as the largest crocodile in captivity. Measuring a behemoth 6.17 metres and weighing over a tonne, the croc was estimated to be about 50 years old when it was captured in 2011. It succumbed to pneumonia and cardiac arrest just two years later.

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A replica of Lolong near the main entrance.

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Divided according to ‘themes’, there are loads of things to see and do in the museum. We explored a hall dedicated to the documentation of botany and entomology, where there were butterfly and insect specimens on display, as well as elaborate scientific drawings hanging from the walls that would not have looked out of place at a fine art gallery!

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Get hands on at this fun section where you can sketch your own tree/plant

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Excuse the sweaty hair/face; the air conditioning wasn’t strong and we just came from commuting lol.

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The Dr Jose Rizal foyer, beautiful in its simplicity.

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More attempts at hipster photo fails.

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There was a section dedicated to the Nilad mangrove; recreating the area around Manila and its rich biodiversity pre-Hispanic rule through taxidermied wildlife exhibits.

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Moving on, another area showcased the rich biodiversity of the Philippine seas, complete with giant replicas of marine life dangling from the ceiling and a mini submarine.

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There are a total of six floors in the building; although during our visit only four were open. I strongly suggest coming on a weekday to avoid the crowds, and allocate at least half a day to really immerse yourself into the exhibits, all of which are nicely done and catalogued.

Entrance as of July 2018 is free.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY MANILA

Teodoro F. Valencia Circle, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Philippines

Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM, closed Mondays

Cityscapes: Bonifacio Global City, Metro Manila

Hey guys!

Work has kept me busy… and uninspired.

I know there’s this idea that ‘the more you write, the better you get’, but it just seems that lately the more I write, the less inspired I am lol. Not just on the articles that I’m writing for work, but also this space, which is supposedly where I can write without inhibition.

Maybe I’m burnt out. I come home from a full 9 – 6 shift writing stories all day, take a quick shower and dinner, then write some more for my part time gig until 10PM. By then I’m too mentally exhausted to even play games or read – two activities I used to enjoy in my spare time. I’m in bed by 11, up by 7, and the whole drudgery repeats itself.

I need more vacations!

In the mean time, enjoy some photos from my recent visit to Bonifacio Global City, an ultra-modern central business district in Metro Manila.

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View from Crossroads, where we had excellent Buffalo Wings at Frankie’s.

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Squeaky clean with well paved roads, BGC’s wide pavements, towering skyscrapers and malls made me feel like I could have been in any metropolitan city in the world – LA, Singapore, Sydney – if not for the occasional Filipino flag fluttering happily from a lamp post. The area’s orderliness is such a stark contrast from the rest of Metro Manila, it’s almost as if one is transported to another country altogether.

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One thing I liked about BGC was the presence of dozens of murals both large and small, peppered throughout the city. Some of these draw themes from local culture and history, such as one featuring local revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio. Visitors will also find numerous sculptures and installations while walking around the streets.

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A large piece called Dating Tagpuan by artist John Paul Antido. 

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Shiny modern buildings

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Taking a brief respite from the heat as we cut through a well maintained park.

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An interesting sign at the crossroads leading to the Mind Museum.

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Shangri-la at the Fort Manila

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A park-cum-roundabout lined with trees and an installation made to look like trees. In the evening you’ll see joggers and people walking their doggos.

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Another art piece called Manpower by Kris Abrigo, spanning several stories high

For the full list of murals and their locations, go to bgc.com.ph. 

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More to come!

PS: Feeling a little more inspired after this short post. Hope I can get back in the groove soon!

 

Perlis Travels: Al Hussain Mosque + Hai Thien Seafood, Kuala Perlis

It ‘s easy to see why Masjid Al Hussain in Kuala Perlis is often called the most beautiful mosque in Malaysia. Like the state of Perlis itself, the mosque may be small in size but is stunning in its beauty and unique architecture.

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The mosque combines traditional Islamic design such as geometric patterns and floral motifs with modern touches. Perched on stilts looking out to sea, it is also called the ‘Floating Mosque’ because during high tide, it looks as it the building is floating on the water’s surface. Unfortunately during our visit, it was low tide – but the sight of it in the sunset was already lovely enough as it is.

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What I found special about the mosque was its colourful stained glass windows, which I’ve only seen in churches before but not a mosque. Instead of painted walls, the walls are embedded with corals, granite, marble, pebbles and quartz. The minarets are lit up at night with different colours to signal a different prayer time and can be seen from miles around.

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After donning robes, we ventured inside. There was a beautiful blue, white and gold dome surrounded by a star pattern; each corner engraved with the five precepts of Islam in different languages. The carpeted floor had a similar colour scheme of blue and gold.

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Stained glass windows with geometric patterns.

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View from the other side of the mosque.

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After our short visit, we made our way to Hai Thien Seafood just down the road. This is one of the most popular spots in Perlis to have fresh, tasty Chinese-style seafood. Since the establishment is halal, you’ll find people of all races dining here! 🙂

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Our hosts did all the ordering. My favourite was the soft shell crab – lightly battered, crispy on the outside, sweet and flavourful on the inside.

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Other dishes that we had: fried rice with chicken, steamed fish, salad shrimp and stir fried mihun (vermicilli noodle). Loved the salad shrimp which was served with fruit and a sweet creamy sauce, only qualm was that there wasn’t enough to go around.

HAI THIEN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

02000 Kuala Perlis, Perlis

The jetty at Kuala Perlis is a good place to enjoy the sunset, take in some beautiful sights and wrap the night up with a scrumptious seafood meal. Definitely a must visit if you’re in Perlis! 🙂

 

Travelogue Manila: Artsy Treasures @ Pinto Art Museum, Antipolo Rizal

Filipinos are an artsy bunch. There’s a lot of pride in the local arts scene, and tremendous effort has been put into preserving the country’s artistic, historical and cultural treasures. The first time I visited the National Art Gallery in Manila, I was blown away by the quality and craftsmanship of Filipino artwork through the ages. I was expecting the same at the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo – a place I had always wanted to visit since I saw pictures of it in a travel blog. And it did not disappoint!

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Tucked in a quiet, leafy corner of the city, Pinto Art Museum is the brainchild of one Dr Joven Cuanang, formerly a director of one of the biggest private hospitals in the Philippines. Its somewhat nondescript facade belies a spacious compound within. Befitting of its name (Pinto means ‘door’ in Filipino), the contemporary art gallery opens up new gateways for visitors to explore – one featuring unique architecture, art pieces and beautiful landscapes at every corner.

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We stepped in to a spacious courtyard/garden, dotted with sculptures, decorative plants and cosy nooks just begging for an Instagram-shot. The museum’s verdant green surroundings were a calming escape after the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle that is Manila. Architecture was a beautiful mix of old and contemporary. Perhaps the most striking would be the Mediterranean-style villa-buildings, with their snowy white exteriors, arches and patterned railings. ‘

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Nude figures seemingly ‘floating’ on a water basin full of lily pads in various poses – some in contemplation, others in action. The bronze sheen of their upper halves glimmered and shone in the sun, casting reflections on the water’s surface.

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Another striking piece  – a metallic sculpture of a pregnant woman cradling her spiral-patterned belly. Upon closer inspection, we were amazed to find that there was a tiny foetus within!

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The ‘Chapel’ was not a religious house of worship, but a space for works of art. The entrance was flanked by two intriguing statues with their legs spread wide open.  Inside, there was a white tree and a figure of an old lady surrounded by mushrooms.

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N commented on how realistic the statue looked like, from the wrinkles on the old lady’s face down to the small details on her toes.

 

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Stopped for a quick refresher at the museum’s coffee house-cum-restaurant, where we had soft drinks and fruit juice. Everything was overpriced. Even so, I liked the intimate interior, which was lit with warm yellow lights in addition to the natural sunlight filtering in from the windows.

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My favourite spot: it resembled an opulent Spanish/Grecian mansion with a patch of green in the centre. The first floor had a gallery with rock samples, a well and several rustic-looking wooden doors that made perfect frames for photos.

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Even the staircases make for beautiful shots!

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We climbed up to the first floor, which had an open-air amphitheater that looked down on a group of robed, crying figures, lined with Tuscan order pillars. There was also a bell tower which we could see from where we were standing, but access to it was blocked.

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View from first floor. Loved the bricks jutting out from the structure and their contrast against the white, as well as the glass windows and creeping ivy. It’s like being transported a few hundred years back to a wealthy European’s mansion.

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A door that was too pretty not to take a picture of.

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Moving on, we made our way to the art galleries on the other side of the museum grounds. All the works displayed are by Filipino artists. N and I spent some time analysing this colourful carnival-esque piece, which we figured had political undertones in the depictions of its characters. We could have been completely wrong, but that’s art though – it’s really open to interpretation.

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The buildings have been designed to mimic the area’s naturally hilly terrain; hence the gentle slopes, ascents and descents that connect the various spaces.

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Another gallery that housed contemporary art pieces.

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We made our way through the halls, which opened up to reveal more at each turn. This is a place that you can get lost in (in a pleasant way, of course) for the entire day.

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There was a hidden corner for explicit pieces with strong language/sexual imagery.

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Even if you’re not an art lover, the Pinto Art Museum is a wonderful, relaxing sanctuary that is worth the 45-minute trip from the city centre. After a few good hours soaking in the  atmosphere, we left feeling refreshed and inspired.

PINTO ART MUSEUM 

1 Sierra Madre St. Grand Heights, Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines

Opening hours: 9AM – 6PM (closed Mondays)

Admission fee: PHP 180 (RM 14)

Travelogue Japan: Nagoya Castle, Nagoya

You know the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun’? I couldn’t have agreed more – our five days in Japan felt like it was coming to an end too soon! Our last overnight stop before flying back to Tokyo was Nagoya, the country’s fourth largest city and a major maritime port.

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We caught a mid-morning train from Takayama, a three-hour ride away. Mariko-san bought us these adorable sarubobo (baby monkey) -shaped lunchboxes for lunch. Every meal in Japan that we’ve had so far was meticulously presented – bentos bought from any regular convenience store were no exception.

I had the stir-fried beef with shredded egg and fried fish cakes on a bed of fluffy white rice, served with half a boiled egg, some pickles, boiled prawn and some kombu (kelp).

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View as our train cut through the countryside. We saw swathes of green paddy fields and vegetable farms, quaint villages and in some parts of the journey, beautiful river gorges running through valleys and hills.

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Takayama/Nagoya

Arrived in Nagoya in the afternoon.

Compared to the small towns and rural cities on our itinerary, Nagoya was massive and very modern. We stayed in the city centre, which was surrounded by tall buildings, malls and offices.

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Had a quick rest and then it was off again to Nagoya Castle! Built in the 16th century, it was the ruling centre of the Owari clan, one of the three branches of the powerful Tokugawa Shogunate, and therefore ranked among the grandest castles in Japan during the Edo era. Unfortunately the original structure was bombed to bits during World War II, so the building we see today is a reconstruction made from concrete, built in 1959.

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We were lucky that we got to visit in the summer,because the Japanese government decided to close it in November this year for a major undertaking – to restore the main keep to its original wooden state. As such, the keep will be closed until 2020.

Fret not though – the castle’s palace (Honmaru Goten), which is in front of the main keep, will be completed in Spring 2018 , and will be open to the public for viewing. The palace, which was also destroyed during World War II, was rebuilt using traditional construction materials and techniques.

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Mythical golden tiger-headed carps called Kinshachi are a symbol of the castle and two of them, one male and one female, top either end of the castle roof. They were believed to be talismans to prevent fires… ironic, seeing that the originals were destroyed in a fire (can’t win against the evil of man) and their gold colouring, a symbol of the wealth and prestige of the Tokugawa empire. The carps we see today are reconstructed models, each weighing over a tonne with 40+kg of gold plating.

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Although we knew it was a reconstruction, we couldn’t help feeling awed at how majestic the castle looked! It must have been even more impressive during its heyday. Sitting atop a high stone wall and surrounded by a moat, it would have made mounting an assault on the keep exceedingly difficult. The main keep towers five storeys-high, with curving green roofs and white walls.

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Interesting tidbit: Building of the castle was not done by the Tokugawa family alone. Instead, they portioned it out to daimyos (lords) under them, each in charge of one section of the castle. The lords would leave carvings of their crests so there would be no dispute over who built what. Pretty ingenious.

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Since it’s a popular tourist attraction, visitors will find costumed-actors roaming around the courtyard, like ninjas…

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And historical figures.

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The inside of the castle has been converted into a museum, where you will find exhibits like the above, which details how the giant slabs of rock were hauled to the site by labourers.

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We climbed to the top which has a small observation deck with 360 degree views of the city! Surrounding the castle are the imperial gardens, a huge green lung in the midst of all the developments.

GETTING THERE 

From Nagoya Station, hop on the Higashiyama Subway Line to Sakae Station. Then, change to the Meijo Subway Line to Shiyakusho Station. The total journey time takes 10 minutes. From the exit, it is a three minute walk to the castle.

By bus, the castle’s main gate is accessible by the Meguru tourist loop bus (25 minutes).

Admission : 500 yen (RM18 – USD4)

Hours: 9AM – 430PM (last entry 4PM)

Travelogue Japan: Takayama Jinya, Last Surviving Government Building From The Edo Era

The Hida region around Takayama was once prized for its valuable timber resources, so it was only natural for the powerful Tokugawa Shogunate to dispatch officials to oversee things at the place. To cater to this, a local government office was built, which is the Takayama Jinya we see today.

As the only building of its kind to be preserved from the Edo era, the Takayama Jinya has been declared a historical asset and national treasure. For over 177 years, Tokugawa samurai have been dispatched from Edo as administrators, tax officers and policemen. During the Meiji Restoration, the building continued to be used by local government officials, right up til 1969. Now home to a museum, visitors can experience life as it was for ruling samurai in the Edo era.

Kanazawa, Japan

The spacious compound is decorated with ripple-like sand patterns, which is an emblem of the Tokugawa family that represents the sea.

Kanazawa, Japan

The main building has numerous tatami-mat rooms and sliding doors, which allowed for plenty of natural light to filter in. ‘Employees’ sat on the floor and worked at low tables. The rooms contrasted starkly to old buildings I have visited in Europe, which were often elaborate and covered in detailing. Here, the aesthetic is simple and Zen-like, the furniture minimal.

Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

It may not look like it from the outside, but the place was massive! Long corridors and passageways opened up into new buildings, interspersed with beautifully landscaped gardens. The living quarters were a bit more cheerful, with more furniture, as well as decorative scrolls and paintings hung up on the walls.

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Kitchen area where meals would be prepared by servants. The servants quarters were also located nearby.

Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

The Takayama Jinya also had an interrogation room where they would keep prisoners (!) accused of various crimes.

Next to the main building is a rice storehouse built in the 1600s, which now houses belongings and documents of past feudal lords, town blueprints as well as old maps of the region.

TAKAYAMA JINYA 

Opening hours: 845AM – 5PM (430PM from November to February, until 6PM in August)

Admission: 430yen

Getting There 

The Jinya is a 10-minute walk from Takayama Station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelogue Japan: Hida-Furukawa – The Small Town Made Famous By An Anime

Even if you’re not an anime fan, you might have heard of the hugely popular Kimi No Na Wa (2016). The movie earned a whopping $355mil at the box office, making it the highest grossing anime film of all time (topping Spirited Away)! It tells the tale of a city boy from Tokyo and a girl in a rural town in Japan who switch bodies, eventually falling in love with each other. Compelling story line aside, the animation is famous for its beautiful art style and references to actual landmarks and gorgeous landscapes in Japan.

One of these places is the small town of Furukawa in the mountainous Hida region, which I had the pleasure of visiting during my recent trip to Japan! 🙂

Kanazawa, Japan

Situated within the mountainous Gifu prefecture, Hida Furukawa is a quaint town with an old touch, since most of its buildings date back to the Edo era. Furukawa, along with sister town Takayama (15 minutes by train) was once famed for their high quality timber and skilled carpenters, so much so that nobles used to hire them to work on buildings in the capital, calling them the ‘Master Builders of Hida’.

Kanazawa, Japan

Today, agriculture is a major source of income for the town’s residents. Streets are quiet on a weekday, so much so that you could probably lie down in the middle of the road and not encounter any traffic! The newer part of town is characterised by small mom-and-pop stores, while the old section boasts typical Edo-era wooden structures.

Kanazawa, Japan

We popped into a local restaurant for a lunch. Since the region is mountainous, there are plenty of ingredients such as roots, shoots and mushrooms in the cuisine. Wasn’t sure what exactly I was eating since the proprietor spoke no English, but I think this was a mix of shoots with plump mushrooms, topped with quail egg and the town’s specialty, miso paste. The savoury miso brought out the earthy flavours of everything else, balanced by the silkiness of the raw egg. Amazingly fresh, amazingly good!

Kanazawa, Japan

Japanese food is always served in such a way that it feasts the eyes before it does the tummy. There was also a soup with noodles, beans, ginger/pickles, miso soup, bamboo shoots and rice.

Kanazawa, Japan

After lunch, we walked to Hida Furukawa Matsuri Hall, a museum dedicated to the town’s history and the Furukawa Festival, an annual event held since ancient times. Participants, dressed in nothing but a loin cloth, pull giant decorated wooden floats that are several stories high through the streets; accompanied by the beat of drums. Atop the floats are various puppets featuring both mythical and historical characters, which are moved to tell stories to eager spectators.

Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

Back to the streets we go! An interesting point for visitors to look out for are the canals, which are stocked with fat and colourful Japanese koi fish. Strolling through the neighbourhood felt extremely relaxing, what with the gentle breeze and the sound of flowing water.

Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

Furukawa is also known for its sake breweries, housed in traditional wooden buildings with the signature sugidama (cedar ball) hanging at the entrance. Was surprised to enter one and find that the ‘master brewer’ there was a white American man (!)

Kanazawa, Japan

And finally, we paid a visit to the very famous scene from the Kimi No Na Wa anime, the train station…

Amazingly detailed!

Getting to Hida Furukawa 

Useful guide here

*Photos not watermarked courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organisation