Any visitor to Takayama in Gifu prefecture will know that the mountainous area is famous for two delicious things: Sake and Hida Beef. While many people get the chance to taste some of the former in the sake breweries of Old Town its much harder to find somewhere to try this fabulous meaty delicacy on a budget.
Hida beef or 'Hida-Gyu' in Japanese, comes from black haired cows raised in the area to have highly 'marbled' flesh. Marbled beef is where the meat is streaked with many thin veins of fat, that melt easily once the meat is cooked making it extremely tender to eat and imparting a huge amount of flavour. Outside of Japan this type of beef is sometimes known as Wagyu or Kobe Beef and has developed a sort of cult mythology which tell how the cows are fed nothing but the finest grains, drink nothing but beer or sake, are given regular massages or even kept in air conditioned barns that sound more like 5 star hotels! Whatever the truth behind this farming urban legend it is amazingly tasty!
Takayama is also famous for its "Chuuka Soba" or "Chinese Style" ramen; here the broth is a thinner soy based with yellow wheat noodles and topped with spring onions.
Chuuka Soba Kajibashi (中華そば 鍛冶橋) does what its says on the tin; it's a Chuuka Soba place right at the Kajibashi Bridge! It doesn't have an English sign but it is easily recognised by its black exterior with red noren curtains and the large painted Dragon motif.
Inside the black wood and dragon theme continues where there are a number of counters and tables overlooked by another fearsomely decorated wall. I loved the music here; a great mix of upbeat songs played on traditional Japanese instruments given modern twist.
There is a menu that is both in English and has large pictures to help you decide. They have a few variations of ramen including Hida beef, char sui pork and leek as well as miso simmered beef rice bowl (gyuu-don) and even rare beef sushi!
The staff are friendly, well acquainted with tourists and are quick to get you slurping! They were happy to help us fumble through the language barrier to discover the name of the CD they had playing, and even wrote it down for us in both languages so we could get it ourselves.
While perhaps not Takayama's finest dining, Chuuka Soba Kajibashi is certainly one of the most popular and makes a great place to stop for a quick, tasty lunch or warm back up on a cold evening.