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October 29, 2020

Takayama, Shirakawago Village and More| 3 Week Japan Road Trip

Annie Miller exploring Takayama Japan

Takayama Japan has a village, mountain town vibe to it. When you google “Takayama Japan” you see images of Shirakawago and Tsumago more than the ACTUAL town of Takayama.

That’s because one comes to Takayama to see Tsumago, Shirakawago and other surrounding areas. We chose to split up Takayama and Tsumago. So we stayed in both towns separately in order to break up the adventuring and to prevent excess driving.

Let’s cover Takayama logistics, then the photo diaries:

Takayama Accommodation: Stay at Tabina Hotel. The staff here were amazing. They had public onsen baths, one for men and one for women, and the rooms were fine. Nothing to blow you away, but plenty nice for a three night stay.


  • Shirakawa-go (mountain town with straw roofs) 45 minutes from Takayama.
  • Kanazawa (one of three “perfect gardens” in Japan + the castle. An hour from Shirakawago).

Time of year: We visited in late March, early April, and lucked out big time with a fresh layer of snow. We saw on the forecast that Takayama would get snow on one of the days during our stay. The plan was to visit Shirakawago on whichever day there was snow. That made the straw village even more magical and picturesque.

Duration: We were in Takayama for two full days. One was used to recoup from our drive from Nikko. The second was used for adventuring to Shirakawago and Kanazawa. We could have also driven out to a coastal town, but didn’t have the time or energy to do so. That’s simply to say that you could spend 3-4 days in Takayama easily. It truly depends on what you plan do FROM Takayama as your home base. There’s a lot to do and see within a 2.5 hour drive from here.

Time of day: We got an early start for a few reasons – fresh snow, lack of other tourists, and needing to get to Kanazawa as well. Upon arriving at our hotel, we asked the front desk what time Shirakawago opened, and planned to be there right when it opened. That, we were. Which is why you see me, walking across the bridge with no other humans in sight. To be fair, we did have to wait for one other party to cross, and also had another party behind us.

Annie Miller walking across the bridge to  Shirakawago
A light layer of snow at Shirakawago
Visiting Shirakawago with Annie Miller
The streets of Shirakawago by Annie Miller
Straw roof in Shirakawago
Straw roof in Shirakawago outside Takayama by Annie Miller
small shops in Shirakawago outside Takayama by Annie Miller
beautiful architecture outside Takayama by Annie Miller
Birds eye view of Shirakawago by Annie Miller

Notes from Shirakawago:

  • Most shops were closed due to time of day, and the pandemic. The village was still open to visitors, but most shops weren’t open, or you couldn’t go inside. Which was not an inconvenience to us at all.
  • People live here. These are their homes. Be respectful.
  • Be sure to drive up the road a bit to the viewing deck where you get a bird’s eye-view of the village. Especially beautiful with the snow.

The snow was already beginning to melt as we were leaving the village. In 60 minutes we were in Kanazawa – one of the most “perfect” gardens in Japan, with partly cloudy skies and no snow in sight.

Kanazawa – Garden and Castle

Hello, prepare for more walking. What’s new? Japan = walking.

If I am being frank, we were unimpressed with the gardens of Kanazawa. But that is largely due to the time of year we went. Most trees and flowers were dead, between blooming seasons. So that made for some…uninspiring views. If gardens are your thing, just research the best times of year to visit. Three to four weeks later would have been amazing.

Visiting the Kanazawa Garden with Annie Miller
Exploring the Kanazawa Garden with Annie Miller
beautiful structures in the Kanazawa Garden with Annie Miller

Japanese gardens are lovely no matter what. They are well manicured and constructed. So even without blooms, it’s a pleasant experience.

Across the main road from the garden is the castle. If the gardens weren’t worth the trip, the castle WAS. The craftsmanship, design, motes, shrines, and maintenance are truly something else. These structures look brand new, yet are hundreds or even a thousand years old.

Exploring the castle outside Takayama with Annie Miller
small shops outside Takayama by Annie Miller
gorgeous plates and bowls outside Takayama
View from outside the castle in Kanazawa
Annie Miller outside the castle in Takayama
Entering the castle in Kanazawa
Moat around the castle in Kanazawa outside Takayama
Annie Miller exploring the Castle in Kanazawa
Architectural details in the castle outside Takayama
beautiful castle in Kanazawa outside Takayama

After a full day of galavanting around villages, gardens, and castles, it was time to head back and pack up for our short trip from Takayama to Tsumago. In Tsumago, we stay in a traditional Japanese style hotel, and do the famous 11km hike from Nagiso to Tsumago to Magome.

If you want to explore Japan then pin this post for later!

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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