The mountain city of Takayama is a complete contrast to the metropolitan melting pot of Tokyo. Its Old Town gives an authentic flavour of the Japan of yesteryear, with its beautifully preserved wooden merchant houses. Some of the shops here have been trading for centuries, and there’s no finer place to sample fiery sake (rice wine). You can even tour these ancient streets in a rickshaw, if you want to save your shoe leather.
Takayama is also justly famous for its twice-yearly Festival (in April and October) when tall, highly-decorated floats are carried through the streets. Some of the floats feature karakuri, or giant mechanical dolls, and there is also a mikoshi or portable shrine that is paraded through the Old Town. Combined with the mountain setting and the timeless atmosphere, the Festivals make this town in Gifu Prefecture a fixture on many tourist itineraries.
You should also visit the Hida Folk Village on the outskirts of the town – a fascinating collection of authentic period houses that have been brought together to show how life in Japan used to be.