Takayama is one of Japan’s most beautifully preserved cities, a throwback to a bygone era of stout tradition laden with history and culture. It’s also one of our Japan Travel Specialist Tuck’s favorite places to visit and she recently took a weekend break there. We asked her to recount her mini break for our blog readers:
On this trip, I was traveling by Shinkansen (‘Bullet Train’) from Kyoto to Nagoya and then two hours to Takayama. On this visit I decided to also take a day trip to Shirakawa-go by bus.
The route for the bus (which leaves from the Nohi bus center next to Takayama Station) takes a beautiful winding road through lots of tunnels in the stunning mountains. If you are ever lucky enough to take this trip, try your best to get a window seat to fully appreciate the view!
Shirakawa-go is a very traditional style village that feels like it’s been swallowed up by the mountains. Encircled by the dramatic, tall peaks, I feel like it is cut off from the rest of Japan and there’s such a strong feeling of being connected with nature.
Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved landmarks, especially the Edo Period Minka homes. These houses are strikingly designed with a distinctive structure and inverted thatched ‘U’ style roof. The houses have turned the area into a kind of living, open-air museum.
In summer the landscape is pure, vibrant green at every turn and the soundtrack is a chorus of singing birds. In winter, the village feels like a magical fairytale with a thick covering of snow on all the Gassho Zukuri House roofs and surrounding mountains.
Back in Takayama, I never get bored of walking around the streets of this city. I advise anyone who goes to visit to check out the area of old private houses – it feels like you’re on the set of an old Japanese drama movie, it’s the closest we can come to seeing how ancient times were.
Throughout history the Takayama region has been renowned for producing some of Japan’s most skilled carpenters, many of whom worked on Kyoto’s Imperial Palace and many of the intricate temples of Nara.
You can feel and touch the love those skilled carpenters used to build Takayama and each time I visit I fall more in love with this version of old Japan.
Takayama is a region of supreme natural beauty and is a popular escape for Japanese city-dwellers who seek clean air and the chance to connect with nature. If you’d like to spend time in this isolated, historical city, be sure to make an inquiry with Tuck – she’ll be delighted to tailor a special tour for you to visit to her favorite Japanese region.