In a country as comprehensively modernized as Japan, it’s a rare pleasure to stroll along streets whose shopfronts, coffee shops and old sake bars look almost exactly as they would have done a century or more ago. Formerly a wealthy merchants’ quarter, Takayama’s old town holds a bumper crop of Edo-period buildings, many of them dating from the early 18th century.
Several have been converted into museums where you can admire painstakingly recreated interiors, and galleries showcasing lion masks, mechanical puppets and other crafts featured in the town’s biannual Shinto festivals when huge, ornately decorated floats are hauled through the streets.
Takayama’s plentiful supply of pure spring water has also made it an important centre for sake production, and visits to its eight antique breweries are a popular pastime in January and February.
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