Staying in this quiet mountain town and at the wonderful little Ryokan was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The fact that we decided to visit Takayama at all was of course, all due to Paul and his indispensable travel blog. Ryori Ryokan Hanaoka was just the icing on the cake. Takayama is in Central Japan, in the Gifu Prefecture. It boasts a well-preserved old district, with beautiful machiya (merchant townhomes) as well as numerous centuries-old temples and shrines, many of which are accessible via a 3.5km loop north of the main town. The Ryokan is truly a short little trot from the JR Takayama Station - all told, some 5-6 blocks away by foot. Note that the proprietors adhere to checkin time, which is at 3pm sharp, though they will gladly hold your luggage for you prior to checkin.
Hassun course at Kikunoi Roan: skewer of miso-marinated avocado, smoked salmon and Tai liver; grilled squid with nori seaweed and egg yolk; fava beans, mountain yam "butterfly;" poached egg-bearing octopus; Tai sushi with Kinome pepper leaf; Yurime lily root petals; Udo stalk petals; ikura.
Indeed, what about the food? The trip was planned after all, in CCDD fashion, around food. It's been absolutely glorious - from the high-end to the low, from street food or market stands to Michelin-starred establishments and smoky izkayas, train station ekiben or small ramen-yas filled with salarymen... we've been eating very, very well.
In Osaka, I think I quite had my fill of takoyaki; DD kept wanting to sample these wherever we went, and we ended up tasting some from 4 different vendors. We also loved sushi fresh from Kuromon market and Endo Sushi in Osaka's Central Wholesale Fish Market, similar to, but not as big as Tsukiji.
We'd read that the best times to visit Japan were either in the Spring or Autumn. DD, reluctant to miss porcini season in the Bay Area, made the decision easier and we selected springtime for hanami, or flower-viewing - when most of the country goes crazy for the beautiful pale pink cherry blossoms that are spread so widely across the entire nation. We arrived in Osaka to find it a bit chilly and indeed, a bit too early for sakura; buds were still green and tight among the trees we saw...
After a few days in Osaka, we traveled by shinkansen to Takayama, a mountain town in Central Japan known for their well-preserved old town of machiya, or merchant's houses.