Osaka Castle in the middle of Japan’s western metropolis, the country’s 3rd largest city after Tokyo and Yokohama. Photo by 663 highland
Lively Osaka in the Kansai region, is a historic merchant city with locals who have a more casual, less stuffy attitude to things than their peers in Tokyo. Osaka is nicknamed the ‘Nation’s Kitchen’ as this is a place where they take food very seriously so it’s a great city for dining.
4. Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle, known as Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle) due to its fine white exterior, in Hyogo Prefecture. Photo by ja
Among more than 100 existing castles in Japan today, Himeji-jo is just west of Osaka and the one to visit. It is the finest and the best example of Japanese castle architecture and listed as a World Heritage Site.
5. Takayama and Shirakawago (Hida Region)
Shirakawago village in winter, near Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. Photo by Jordy Meow
The delightful town of Takayama is in the heart of the Hida area of the ancient, mountainous region in central Honshu Island. It is known for traditional crafts and a historic district lined with old wooden merchant’s houses dating back to the Edo samurai era. The town also holds one of Japan’s most famous festivals.
A 50 minutes bus ride from Takayama City takes you to the remote village of Shirakawago where more than 100 traditional thatched roof houses are shaped like hands in prayer. This allows the houses to cope with heavy snowfalls in the winter. They cluster at the foot of Mt. Haku-san.
Historic Shirakawago, along with the nearby village of Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of the houses offer accommodation to visitors. The place is particularly magnificent in deep snow.
Takayama Matsuri (Spring Festival) is one of the three most colourful and historically interesting events in Japan. Celebrated twice a year in spring April 14 -15 and autumn October 9-10, the festival features parades of tall floats shaped like shrines and heavily decorated in gold and red, some with karakuri ningyo (mechanical puppets) on board.
Takayama is one of the most colourful and varied festivals we’ve seen in Japan, but incredibly crowded of course. It’s located in Gifu Prefecture, a 2 hour and 10 minutes train ride from Nagoya.