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If you picture a rural town nestled high in the mountains of central Japan, certain images might spring to mind: cooking smoke wisping from thatched dwellings, unspoiled forest, and a peaceful ambiance, perhaps? Takayama has a touch of these preserved traditions, but as a practical working city there are plenty of less picturesque modern buildings and amenities too. However, with its majestic setting in the Hida mountains, excellent ryokan stay opportunities, intriguing traditional corners, and beautiful countryside to discover, Takayama is a compelling destination in its own right, not simply a starting point for exploring the Northern Alps.

Three things to do in Takayama

Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...

Sanmachi Suji

Satisfyingly evocative of old Japan, this rare example of an intensely-preserved district is the perfect street to amble down. Browse independent boutiques and sake brewers’ outlets, and pick up a selection of edible treats from yatai stalls along the way. You can even engage in guilt-free tabe aruki (eating whilst walking) which is often frowned upon elsewhere in Japan. Takayama is home to one of the best varieties of wagyu in the land, and this melt-in-the-mouth beef will almost certainly be part of your ryokan kaiseki dinner. If you fancy a preview, the place with the longest queue sells wagyu in sublime sushi form. Alternatively, try some old-school, rice-based snacks to get a taste of Japan that’s never exported. We especially love the mitarashi dango skewers...

Takayama, Japan

Showa Museum

This fascinating museum explores Japan during the Showa period, which extended from 1926 to 1989 and reflects the reign of Emperor Hirohito. This complex period of history obviously includes the Second World War, but one of its most compelling and accessible chapters is the period of rebuilding after the war and the meteoric economic ascent into the ‘80s that followed. An unassuming entrance leads you onto an extraordinary re-created street, and a treasure trove of intriguing artifacts. A visit here is a great way to become better acquainted with a very proud part of Japan’s story, and can help answer some of the questions that may have arisen during your trip about the shaping of modern Japan.


Hida Furukawa

A short train ride brings you to this charming town, which at first glance seems like a quieter, compact version of Takayama. At its picturesque pinnacle, a small canal runs through the town with attractive white walled storehouses on either side and colourful koi carp swimming leisurely in its depths. It’s a strangely surreal sight, reminiscent of something out of a Studio Ghibli animation, and understatedly beautiful. There are three sake breweries in town, all very welcoming and vying for your attention, where free samples are likely to be offered. A great way to see the town in a day is on an e-bike tour with our local guide, or you can stay overnight and wake to the community’s gentle morning bustle.

Hida Furukawa

We think you may like this journey…

Japan tori

Following Ancient Trails

Wander along the ancient trails of Kumano Kodo and its spiritual shrines, enjoying the peaceful, and enchanting surroundings as well as taking in the hospitality of local families along the way.

Price from: £4,990 US$5,790
Ideal length 17 days
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