Takayama

A quiet mountain town, Takayama descends into raucous revelry twice a year when tens of thousands of visitors flock from all over Japan for its legendary spring and autumn festivals. Each April and October, large, elaborate yatai floats are paraded through the streets by locals in traditional dress, and the Takayama festival is generally thought to be one of the most spectacular in Japan.

The rest of the year, visitors can enjoy one of Japan’s most traditional towns. Famous for timber and carpentry, Takayama boasts a beautifully preserved old town, with a number of museums dedicated to the area’s crafts.

Nearby, the UNESCO protected Shirakawago provides the chance to see traditional mountain villages, with steep “praying hands” thatched roofs and rice paddies backing on to lush mountains.