If you are planning on making the pilgrimage to Shirakawago to see the town that Higurashi’s Hinamizawa is based on, don’t forget to take a moment to walk around Takayama.
Takayama or Hida-Takayama as the guidebooks call it, is one of the best towns in Japan to see the old style buildings. There is a street near the Takayama train station where you can see all of these old Edo style buildings and unlike in Kyoto you don’t have to worry about telephone lines killing the “step back in time” feeling.
When you finally do get off the train at Takayama station (via the Hida Wide View train for Takayama from Nagoya station). You will not know that such streets exists. Takayama looks like a normal small Japanese city unless you walk straight out of the train station for a few blocks. Don’t miss this gem like I almost did.
There is a scenic river near these old buildings. That’s how you know your near the “old castle town streets”.
Takayama has been known since old times to be a city of carpenters. Many of these skilled carpenters are believed to have worked on the castle in Kyoto and well as many of the shrines in Kyoto/Nara area. Needless to say, wood crafts are the most popular souvenir to buy in Takayama. Personally I bought some wooden katana sized swords with lots of designs in the handles. Manage to get back on base with them. ^^;
Some Samurai armor was displayed in one of the windows. Might have been a museum.
A place to get some good sake. ^_^
Shirakawa-go and Takayama are best visited in the same day because you have to board the bus to Shirakawa-go from Takayama station. In the case of my visit, there was a 2 hour wait for the next train back to Nagoya. I’d go get some dinner and walk around a bit while you wait.
For directions to Takayama, please refer to my Shirakawa-go article linked at the top of this article.