I arrived from South Korea to Tokyo by plane and stayed in Sakura for one night.

Sakura is situated 40 km from Tokyo and has a few attractions, including museums, parks, samurai houses and a Dutch windmill. The city has a really nice holiday vibe and is full of culture and history. I spent one day walking around the city, didn’t take a single photo, packed my things and went to Takayama, leaving Tokyo for later.

Takayama is a small city with narrow streets and wooden houses, a river runs through the town and it is surrounded by scenic mountains. Historically, during the feudal era it was renowned for its high quality timber and highly skilled carpenters. Getting here from Tokyo was rather difficult; it took three trains and five hours.

Round white Japanese rice paper lantern.

I arrived quite late, left my bag in the hotel, went for a prepare-your-own-meal type dinner, had some rice wine and stayed for the rest of the evening.

Located in the heart of the Japanese Alps the name ‘Takayama’ means ‘tall mountain’. The city’s main attraction is a charming open-air museum, assembled from real buildings that effectively recreate an entire traditional mountain village, this place called Hida-no-Sato.

Before going to the village, I stopped by the look out point where I was rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of the city, set amongst the mountain scenery. From above, Takayama looks like a pretty small, densely built-up city, enveloped by the mountains and permeated by the river.

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Panorama of Takayama.

Many of the buildings were brought to this location from their original sites for preservation. The village is built on a hillside overlooking Takayama and surrounds a large pond which makes it visually quite striking.

The structures in the village date up to 500 years in age. Many are open for viewing and are filled with artifacts from their original era. The most important parts of the houses are the roofs.

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As these thatched-roof houses were so flammable, the original villagers had to take turns doing rounds of the village and to remind residents to be mindful of their irori fire places. These roofs are integral to the structure of the buildings and cost millions of yen to build. They say that it required as many as 200 people to take part in replacing a single roof, which might sound bizarre as there wouldn’t be enough space for that many people. All this made the roofs of these traditional houses extremely valuable.

Thatched-roof sprinkled with snow.
View over the village from the forest.
One of the houses.

Although my visit to Takayama was brief, I was able to enjoy the mountain air and natural scenic beauty, see wonderfully preserved historical buildings, and try the famed local beef, making the Gifu region a definite highlight on my trip to Japan.