I recently returned from a trip to Japan. This week I present to you a sneak peek of my time there, from exploring the picturesque, historic post towns of Magome and Tsumago and visiting the famous mountain town of Takayama, to wandering through beautiful Japanese gardens, driving along the famous snow corridor of the Tateyama Kyrobe Alpine Route and bedding down for the night in a traditional Japanese inn.
Discover the sights of Japan for yourself on a festival tour or private holiday!
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1. Magome Town
The beautiful old post town of Magome offers a fantastic glimpse of a traditional Japanese town. I would recommend beginning your exploration of the town from the upper entrance and following the paved footpath that meanders downhill past quaint shops and houses.
2. Tsumago Town
From Magome you can take a leisurely three hour walk on the Nakasendo trail through picturesque mountains to the next old post town of Tsumago, landscaped impeccably to reflect the Edo period and representing the heart of Japan.
3. Takayama Hall
If you are unable to visit Takayama during the spring or autumn festival then I would recommend visiting the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall where you can still have the opportunity to take a glimpse of - and be in awe, of these magnificent designed floats and imagine all the pomp of the festivities.
4. Takayama Jinya complex
These labourers work high up in the trees of the beautifully well-maintained Takayama Jinya complex (Historical Government House) the only existing building of its kind in Japan, ensuring every leaf is in its place and neatly in shape.
5. Shiroyama observation deck
The breathtaking scenic views from the Shiroyama observation deck pverlook the beautiful Shirakawago village displaying the World Heritage listed Gassho-zukuri with the spectacular Japanese Alps in the background.
6. Kenrokuen Gardens
This quaint garden is located in the castle town of Kanazawa and was originally the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle. Now it is the perfect place to take a stroll and one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan!
7. The Higashi Chaya district
The Higashi Chaya district has retained its feudal Edo-period atmosphere and is still bustling with life, with lots of cute little shops, traditional buildings and restored tea houses. Head here in the evenings for your chance to perhaps spot a Geisha girl.
8. Kanazawa Station
Rated as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, Kanazawa Station has been nicknamed ‘Motenashi Dome’, meaning ‘welcoming/entertainment’; it is a word that indicates good treatment of guests and is said to express the hospitality of the locals of Kanazawa. Just a few minutes walk down the road, why not indulge in a two hour all you can eat and drink buffet dinner at the lavish Nikko Hotel.
9. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
This route and its famous snow corridor can get a snow wall up to 20 metres high! Here you can see and experience four seasons in one day as you journey up the mountains using all different forms of transport. You can view the unique landscapes and stunning vistas by heading up on the cable car, then by coach, tunnel trolley bus and rope-way.
10. Zenkoji Temple
Located in Nagano, the Zenkoji Temple is full of outstanding history and architecture, and enshrines the unseen statue of Ikko Sanzon Amida Nyorai (said to be the first golden Buddhist statue to be brought to Japan) in the holy altar underground in the innermost temple. Being taken on a guided tour by an English speaking Buddhist monk really completes the experience.
11. Staying in a Ryokan
No visit to Japan is complete without staying in a traditional Japanese Inn, known locally as a Ryokan, and if you are wondering where to add this night to your itinerary, why not try the Yunoshimakan at Gero Onsen. It is not only well designed in keeping with its natural surroundings, it has friendly staff, spacious rooms, amazing views to enjoy the serenity and a world class Onsen experience!