Japan is a vibrant country. Besides the hustle and bustle that comes to mind when you think of the capital of Japan, rural Japan is filled with gorgeous, scenic views of mountains and nature. And what better place to start off your rural Japan adventure than Takayama?
Located a 5.5 hours bus ride from Tokyo, Takayama is a gorgeous city in the mountainous Hida region of the Gifu perfecture. The area is known for it's beautifully preserved Japanese traditional houses, and has some of the best festivals in Japan!
1. Visit Hida no Sato/Hida Folk Village![caption id="attachment_9964" align="alignnone" width="900"]
2. Experience the Morning Markets[caption id="attachment_9965" align="alignnone" width="900"]
3. Walk around Takayama[caption id="attachment_9966" align="alignnone" width="900"]
Credit: Yusuke Kawasaki on FlickrWalk around the rows of merchant houses, Sanmachi in the old city and take lots of pictures! After that, be sure to head over to Takayama Jinya, a beautifully preserved (former) government building. Remember to take advantage of the free English tour. All that walking is sure to make you hungry! So have lunch at Thanyaporn restaurant, that serves Thai cuisines with halal beef/chicken. Veggie dishes are available as well.
4. Take a day trip to Shirakawa-go![caption id="attachment_9967" align="alignnone" width="900"]
Credit: Roger Walch on Flickr
Shirakawa-go is a gorgeous World Heritage Site, with houses over 300 years of age. They are known for their thick, steep thatched roofs called gassho-zukuri, which are all very well-preserved. Coming during different seasons would show a different side of it; winter wonderland during winter and beautiful, vibrant colours during the other three seasons!
#HHTW Tip: Align your trips with the Takayama Festival! Considered one of Japan’s best festivals, it is held in spring and autumn.
5. Be one with nature at Kamikochi[caption id="attachment_9968" align="alignnone" width="900"]
Credit: Stefan Rimaila on Flickr
Fresh air, lush mountains, running clear waters… Particularly beautiful draped in autumn foliage, Kamikochi is still amazing during other seasons. You don’t need to be an experienced hiker to go here; in fact, unless you plan to head up to the peaks, the path is quite flat, and the routes are pretty picturesque. A great place for nature lovers.
To get to Kamikochi from Takayama, take a Nohi bus to Hirayu Onsen (Takayama-Tokyo route; 60 minutes) and from Hirayu Onsen, take another bus to Kamikochi (Kamikochi Line; 25 minutes). As of May 2016, you could get a bundle round-trip ticket for 5040 yen. Remember to check the bus schedules so you get back to Takayama safely!
(Alternatively, when you reach Hirayu Onsen, 5 minutes away from the station is Hirayu no Mori , which is a spa resort with 16 open-air hot springs. You could opt to stay the night here instead of traveling back to Takayama. Plus, it will only be 30 minutes away from Kamikochi...and hot springs after a hike? Perfect.)#HHWT Tip: Kamikochi is closed during winter, and usually opened between mid/late April to mid November, so do check before going! [caption id="attachment_9969" align="alignnone" width="900"]
Credit: Stefan Rimaila on FlickrOnce you arrive at Kamikochi, take a pick of your hiking trails! Most hikes start from the Kappabashi bridge, which is nearby (and walkable!) from the Kamikochi bus terminal. The easy hikes are to Myojin Lake (6.5km for a round trip) and to Taisho pond (8km for a round trip), which will take approximately 2 to 3 hours. There are harder hikes, such as to Mount Yake and Mount Oku-hotaka (3rd highest mountain in Japan!), however it can get very steep and dangerous (think snow covered steps and steel ladders!). It’s best for those with decent hiking experience. Do pack some food before heading here! There are some restaurants and a mountain hut serving food, but buy with your own discretion.. Also note that you should be back at the Kamikochi bus terminal at 5pm latest to catch the last bus to Hirayu Onsen, and then to Takayama. With quaint traditional houses and picturesque sceneries, Takayama is the perfect place to discover another side of Japan! P.S. Heading to Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka? Remember to download the HHWT Travel Planner App available on both Google Play for Android and App Store for iOS! It'll make trip planning so much easier! 😉