Caught an early bus to Shirakawa-go, a historic village located a little over an hour southeast of Kanazawa. Fell asleep on the way and woke up to a small town covered in more than two feet of snow. The roofs are constructed with thatched bamboo stems that form a steep angle to prevent heavy snow from piling up. We walked around the peaceful village, grabbed a quick bite, headed up to a scenic viewpoint, then got back on another bus headed to Hida-Takayama.
After checking into our hotel, we headed straight for Center4Hamburgers, a charming eatery located in the back of an antique shop. Filled with random kitsch, the restaurant seats no more than 15 people. We both ordered Hida beef burgers and dry ginger ales. The burgers were really, really good. The beef was juicy, the bun was buttery and slightly chewy, and the mayo and tomato salsa were a perfect complement. Well worth the $25 a piece, and proof that the Japanese can cook up a solid burger.
Though it was quite cold out, we walked through the historic streets of Takayama for a bit. We popped into shops here and there and checked out their traditional lacquerware, ceramics, snacks, paper crafts and toys.
Even the manhole covers are beautiful here.
Owned by a friendly butcher who raises his own cattle just outside the city, Yamatake Shoten is part butchery, part restaurant. We started by selecting our beef from a large refrigerated case. Though the owner informed us that a Japanese person usually eats a 200g portion, Jon was hungry and thought that 730g would be more suitable for the two of us.
While the owner chopped up and seasoned the beef, we helped ourselves to platefuls of vegetables and brought them to our table which had a small grill. We had three dipping options for our grilled veggies and steak: a sweet-ish vinaigrette, wasabi with soy sauce, and ground black pepper.
The highly marbleized Hida beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It was the beef equivalent of toro — mostly fat, but absolutely delicious. We really liked eating the steak with the ground black pepper, which was much milder than any black pepper I’ve had before. We signed their guestbook with the message, “Better than Luger’s!” Definitely one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.