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- 09 Dec 2019, 3 nights
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Tradition reigns supreme in Hida Takayama. This Japanese destination in the mountains has a perfectly preserved Old Town with buildings dating back to the 17th to 19th century Edo period. Craftsmen and artisans often leave their sturdy wooden doors open so travellers can come in and see their intricately made work. This atmospheric town nestled in Central Honshū also makes an excellent base for trips onwards to the northern Japanese Alps.
Travellers can have a classic Japanese experience by sleeping on tatami mats at some Hida Takayama hostels. You can also choose a spot with curtain-lined pod beds if you want a bit of privacy while still staying in a dorm. There are western-style hostels in Hida Takayama with well-equipped kitchens, as well as rooftop terraces with city views. One Hida Takayama hostel looks out across to the peaks of the Alps. To relax after sightseeing days, pick a space with a zen-style common lounge.
You'll arrive in Hida Takayama at the bus or train station, an area filled with large hotels and restaurants. Central Takayama is sandwiched between this district and the Miyagawa River, which is where you'll find local restaurants, craft shops and ryokan (guesthouses). The Sanmachi Suji area is where travellers usually gravitate as it's the most ancient part of the town. Many temples line the Higashiyama Walkway Course here, while the main Shinto shrine and festival float exhibition hall can be found in Sakurayama Hachimangu.
Head to Hida Folk Village, an outdoor museum with 30 preserved homes, to see what life was like in the region during the Edo period. If you're making a trip to Japan in spring or autumn, try to time your visit for the biannual Takayama Festival, one of the most popular events in Japan, when mystical floats are paraded down the streets in a long-honoured procession ceremony. For shopping, there are two morning markets in the city every day where you can buy locally made crafts and farm produce.
Hida Takayama is easy to walk or cycle around, though you can also take a horse-drawn rickshaw through the quaint streets. If you're going to Hida Folk Village, catch the once-hourly Sarubobo Bus from Takayama Station. From the town of Shirakawa-go it takes around an hour to reach the city by bus, while Kamikochi is a 2-hour journey and Shinhodaka Onsen is approximately 90 minutes away with one change in the middle. Taxis are available outside Takayama Station once you arrive.