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Itineraries Hida Takayama to Kyoto in 5 Days Walk ancient pathways through unspoiled villages to experience Japan’s traditions and heritage

Follow well-worn routes through the mountains, slowing down to absorb the beauty of Japan's traditional villages and daily life, from Hida Takayama through to Kyoto.

While Japan is at the forefront of technology, the country's respect for ancient traditions and heritage draws us to explore further. Walk in the footsteps of samurai, pilgrims, and nobles, through breathtaking valleys and mountain towns. Renew your spirits and discover another side of Japan as you take in the verdant farmlands, castles, simple houses and grand shrines along the way.

Highlights

    Shopping at Jinya Asaichi Morning Market, largely unchanged since the Edo period
    Sweeping views over the traditional thatched roofs of magical Shirakawa-go
    Old and new in Kanazawa, from samurai streets to modern art
    Strolling on the Tetsugaku-no-michi or Philosophers Path in Kyoto, making side trips to traditional temples

How To Get There

From Tokyo: 4 hours 25 minutes

Take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagoya Station (1 hour 45 minutes). Then take the JR Hida Express to Takayama Station (2 hours 30 minutes). The old town district is 10 minutes on foot from Takayama Station.

Hida no Sato Folk Village
Hida Takayama
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Hida Folk Village
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Festa Forest
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Jinya Asaichi Morning Market
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Shirakawa-Go
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Kanazawa
kenrokuen garden
Kenrokuen Garden
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
21st Century Museum Of Contemporary Art
kanazawa castle
Kanazawa Castle
Nagamachi Buke Yashiki District
Nagamachi Samurai District
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Nagamachi Yuzen Kan
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Higashi Chaya District
gion & higashiyama
Kyoto
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Museum Of Kyoto
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Kyoto Gion Yasaka Hall
Yasaka Jinjya
Yasaka-Jinja Shrine
Kodai-ji
Kodaiji Temple
Kiyomizu
Kiyomizudera Temple
Ginkaku-ji
Ginkakuji Temple
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Philosopher’S Path
Nanzen-ji
Nanzenji Temple
around kyoto station
Heian-Jingu Shrine
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Shijo Kawaramachi
Fushimi Inari-taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Day 1
Hida Takayama Timeless traditions in the Japanese Alps

This historic mountain town in the Japan Alps is easily accessible from Nagoya Station by limited express train. Strolling around the well-preserved Edo and Meiji period buildings makes you feel like you’ve slipped back in time. The area is famous for its traditional crafts, and you can see demonstrations of carving, weaving, dyeing and quilting.

30 minutes or 10 minutes

You can take a 10-minute bus ride from Takayama Station to Hida Folk Village or walk about 30 minutes.

Hida Folk Village Unique architecture in Takayama’s environs

Around 30 preserved houses with steep thatched roofs known as gassho-zukuri are dotted around a pond, like a scene from a fairytale. Many are open to the public.

17 minutes

Festa Forest A tunnel that takes you on a journey to Takayama's float festivals

A loop bus that takes visitors around the town stops off at this fascinating museum that's actually inside a mountain. Inside, you’ll find the famous carved floats and marionettes used in the Takayama Festivals.

Day 2

30 minutes

Jinya Asaichi Morning Market Merchants sell everything from vegetables and pickles to artisanal craftwork and local sake

This traditional open-air morning market has been a mainstay of local life since the Edo period (1603-1867). Open every morning from 6 a.m. to noon, you can browse fresh produce, flowers and crafts.

50 minutes

Take the express bus Shirakawa-go Line from Takayama Station Nohi Bus terminal to Shirakawago bus terminal.

Shirakawa-go Life inside a fairytale village

This beautiful World Heritage village is hidden within remote mountains, far from modern life. Designed to protect dwellers from heavy snows, the houses are built in the area’s signature gassho-zukkuri style, with steep thatched roofs. Many are over 250 years old. On winter nights, when the houses are blanketed in snow, the village is illuminated, creating a magical atmosphere. Don’t miss the panoramic view of houses from the observation deck of Hagimachi Town. Some houses are also available for stays.

Day 3

1 hour 15 minutes

Take reserved the Hokuriku Highway Bus from Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa Station.

Kanazawa Traditional crafts, modern museums, and samurai heritage

This historic town on the coast in Ishikawa prefecture rivals Kyoto for beauty and heritage. Once the home of the wealthy and powerful Maeda clan, its culture and crafts are highly refined. Stroll traditional samurai districts, discover gold crafts and lacquerware and stroll one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens.

15 minutes

Kenrokuen Garden The centerpiece of Kanazawa, designed by feudal lords over centuries

As one of Japan’s “top three” gardens, many consider Kenrokuen the pinnacle. Stroll meandering pathways through the classical Japanese gardens that have been cultivated since the 17th century. Designed to charm in all seasons, there’s always something to see.

7 minutes

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa's "town square"

Not far from Kenrokuen Garden, this modern art museum is designed to surprise and inspire, with bold architecture, interactive spaces and striking works on display from all over the world. Permanent collections free to the public include James Turrell's "Blue Planet Sky" and Leandro Erlich's "Swimming Pool."

10 minutes

Kanazawa Castle Visit the carefully restored turrets and warehouse of the castle

Next to Kenrokuen Garden , the castle is a reconstruction of the original that was built in the latter half of the 16th century, and work is ongoing. With its vast structure and elegant gardens, you can easily imagine the wealth of the Maeda clan who dominated the area.

15 minutes

Nagamachi Samurai District Step into the world of samurai in the Edo period

You might feel like you’re walking through an Akira Kurosawa movie as you explore the narrow lanes, lined by walled compounds. Visit Nomura-ke, a restored home that reveals the daily life of a samurai family.

3 minutes

Nagamachi Yuzen Kan The art of dyeing kimono

Kanazawa is famed for its delicate yuzen dyeing technique, which was used to create lavish kimono designs. Visit the studio near the samurai district to watch the artisans and even participate in coloring the designs. You can also rent a kimono to wear around the area.

25 minutes

Higashi Chaya District Stroll the cobbled streets, pop in for tea, and browse crafts made with gold leaf

Before you leave Kanazawa, be sure to visit this district of traditional tea houses, which was the center of Kanazawa’s geisha culture. The streets are lined with wooden machiya houses, many offering traditional crafts and souvenirs.

Day 4

2 hours 20 minutes

Take JR Thunderbird Express train from Kanazawa Station to Kyoto Station.

Kyoto A jewel of Japanese history and culture

Having escaped the destruction of World War II, Kyoto retains much of its historic charm. Japan’s capital in the Heian period from 794 to 1185, Kyoto represented the epitome of Japanese art, culture and courtly life. Synonymous with tea ceremony and geisha, it is a must-visit.

8 minutes

Museum of Kyoto Learn about Kyoto's history before setting out

Before exploring the city, a visit to this centrally located museum on fashionable Sanjo Street will give you a good overview of the area’s history and culture. The building itself, a former bank built in 1894, is worth a visit for its grand wooden interiors and distinctive red and white brickwork.

19 minutes

Kyoto Gion Yasaka Hall See a cultural show at Gion Corner

Often known as Gion Corner, this performance and exhibition space is the venue for the famous seasonal dances, when Kyoto’s maiko and geisha perform their refined movements. You can also see tea ceremony, flower arrangement, koto, gagaku court music, bunraku puppet plays and kyogen drama.

7 minutes

Yasaka-jinja Shrine One of Kyoto's most revered religious spots

The dramatic vermilion gates welcome you to “Gion-san,” the shrine that serves the Gion geisha district. Said to have been built in 656, the shrine is the focus of activity during the summer Gion Festival .

8 minutes

Kodaiji Temple A temple of teahouses designed by Sen no Rikyu, the father of the tea ceremony

Designed by the great tea master Sen-no Rikyu, this Zen temple established in 1606 captures the seasons in its wonderful gardens. Visitors in spring, summer and autumn can enjoy the illuminated gardens at night.

15 minutes

Kiyomizudera Temple Float above the city and drink from a waterfall

This grand temple in the mountains above Gion is a must-visit, and consequently tends to be crowded. Walk up the narrow atmospheric streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka to the temple on a hill in Higashiyama. The wooden hondo, or main hall, juts out over a cliff.

Day 5

36 minutes

Take bus no.100 from Kiyomizu-michi Bus Stop to Ginkakuji-mae Bus Stop.

Ginkakuji Temple Find Zen among moss gardens

This is the Silver Pavilion , not to be confused with Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. A prime example of zen design, this elegant villa was converted into a temple in 1490. The moss gardens and minimalist gravel garden are a welcome respite from the crowded shopping streets nearby.

5 minutes

Philosopher’s Path Meditate along the path of a renowned philosopher

Following a small canal, this beautiful tree-lined path meanders from Ginkakuji Temple , back towards the city. It’s unmissable in spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom overhead and the petals turn the water pink. But it is lovely in all seasons, dotted with quiet shrines including Otoyo-jinja Shrine, which is unusual for its guardian figure mice.

10 minutes

Nanzenji Temple Climb up to the top of Sanmon Gate to get a bird's eye view of Kyoto

A grand Zen temple with an imposing wooden gate, Nanzenji is known for its beautiful paintings and its fall colors. In the grounds, you’ll also find an unusual structure: a brick aqueduct built in 1890, called a sosui, which brought water from nearby Lake Biwa.

15 minutes

Heian-jingu Shrine A shrine commemorating Kyoto's reign as the capital of Japan

Though it was only built in 1895, the grand red pavilions of Heian-jingu are immediately impressive, designed in the style of the original Heian Imperial Palace. Behind the shrine is a traditional garden which is famed for its weeping cherry blossom trees. The area around the shrine is home to the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.

30 minutes

Shijo Kawaramachi Shop and stay in style

This central entertainment and shopping district is also a convenient transport hub, with trains and buses connecting to Kyoto’s key sights. The city’s major department stores, restaurants and several hotels are also located here.

Running parallel to the main street, Nishiki Koji Street is a covered food market known as "Kyoto's kitchen." Most of the shops, which sell local specialties from dried fish to traditional sweets, have been in the same family for generations. Nearby Shinkyogoku Street is a good spot to pick up authentic souvenirs before your onward journey.

More to Explore
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine A thousand vermillion gates

South of Kyoto Station in an area known for its sake breweries, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine draws visitors to its peaceful grounds guarded by fox gods, called Inari. Red torii gates form tunnels leading to a forest behind the main buildings. For a little stretch of the legs, continue up the wooded path to Mt. Inari at 233 meters.

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