Fall foliage at Hida Region

By on November 10, 2017

As autumn approaches, many city dwellers pack up and head for the mountainous Hida region to soak up the spectacle of Japan’s stunning fall foliage.

But just outside the area’s gateway town of Takayama, it’s worth taking a break from leaf-peeping to visit the living- history village of Hida-no-Sato.

Hida-no-Sato (Hida Folk Village) operates as an open-air museum, showcasing over thirty traditional-style farmhouses from the Hida region and surrounding prefectures. With their signature steep-sided thatched roofs, these old-fashioned buildings are commonly known as gassho-zukuri, meaning “hands in prayer.”

While parents can soak up the intriguing architecture and old-time ambience, the real attraction here for visitors of all ages are the hands-on activities and daily demonstrations of crafts and techniques from previous centuries. Catch the weaver at her loom as she tackles a new project or help out the sandal maker as he whips up a set of footwear from straw. Outside, give rice pounding a go or check out the mechanics of the village waterwheel. If there’s a chill in the air, grab a seat inside any of the houses by the irori pit, an old-fashioned hearth that is still used today in many of the prefecture’s homes, and chat up the craftsmen as they go about their work.

Want to try your hand at something you can take home? Short classes and workshops are offered in the village and for a nominal fee you can craft your own souvenir. Participants may find themselves painting their own “beckoning cat”, dipping candles, or piecing together an Edo-period wooden toy.

If you’re feeling energetic, hiking trails fan out from the park, the best one leading trekkers on a half-hour climb to the Matsukura Castle ruins on the crest of a nearby ridge. For gentler pursuits, pack a picnic lunch and relax by the lake, where snowy swans will keep you company as you munch your meal. Before you head out, be sure to pause for a picture – the stunning views of the colorful Japanese Alps from the village make the perfect autumn family portrait.

 

INFO

The Hida region (in Gifu prefecture)  is located several hours northwest of Tokyo. Most of the area encompasses the Japan Alps, so roads are small and winding and subject to closure in heavy snows. Takayama, the region’s main town, can be reached by train – from Tokyo, take the Shinkansen to Nagoya and change to a limited express bound for Takayama. Alternately, take a limited express train from Shinjuku to Matsumoto (in Nagano prefecture) and enjoy a beautiful bus ride over the Alps, a must-do experience when the mountains are ablaze with fall color.

Hida no Sato is located just outside the town of Takayama. The folk village is open year-round from 8:30am-5pm. Admission is ¥700 for adults, ¥200 for children. A bus runs from Takayama station (stop 6) to the park’s entrance.

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