Just before my flight back to Melbourne (*sob*) I planned a couple of days in Takayama, a beautiful old Japanese town in the mountainous Hida region. As it's roughly four hours away from both Kyoto and Tokyo, it's a decent journey by train, but an undeniably spectacular one. As the train winds its way up through the mountains, it follows a vibrant blue/green river framed with red and orange trees. Absolutely gorgeous.
Most of the sights in Takayama are accessible on foot, however there are bikes to rent virtually everywhere.
The old town here is beautifully preserved, and there are several streets by the river that date back to the 1600's when the city thrived as a wealthy town of merchants. As such, there are plenty of sake breweries here, all conveniently a couple of doors away from one another!
I had a couple of snacks while walking around - dumplings (dango) on a stick, and a huge seaweed cracker that was cooked over an open flame. They were both really delicious!
There are also quite a number of temples and shrines dotted around the town. My personal favourite was Sakurayama Hachiman, a gorgeous shrine that dates back to the fourth century. It is surrounded by enormous old trees, and with the light rain at the time it made the experience incredibly surreal and beautiful.
The highlight for me, however, was the Hida Folk Village. About half an hour walk from town (I rode a bike) you'll find the village, which is essentially an open air museum. There are over 30 traditional houses exhibited here, all from the Hida region and built during the Edo period (1603 - 1867). In a village-like atmosphere, the museum features buildings such as the former village head's house, logging huts, storehouses and a number of gassho-zukuri farmhouses. These massive farmhouses are named after their steep thatched roofs which resemble a pair of hands joined in prayer ("gassho").
What was even more impressive is the fact that you can enter every single one of these houses! It was a fantastic experience - I loved that many of the houses at fires in the hearth, the smell of the smoke making it feel cosy and warm despite the cool temperature outside.
The entire village was incredibly picturesque. I felt like I was stopping every 2 minutes to take a photo!
Spending three nights in this beautiful town was absolutely wonderful, and I'd love to return again someday.