Takayama (officially known as Hida Takayama; 飛騨高山) boasts one of Japan’s most atmospheric townscapes and best-loved festivals, and a trip here should be high on the list for anyone travelling in central Honshū. The town’s present layout dates from the late 17th century and incorporates a wealth of museums, galleries and temples for a place of its compact size. Meiji-era inns, hillside shrines, and a pretty riverside setting beckon. Excellent infrastructure and friendly, welcoming locals seal the deal. Although its recent rise in popularity can sometimes take the sparkle off what was a little-known hamlet just a decade ago, there’s still plenty worth visiting for – a stay during the shoulder seasons will afford a little more tranquility. Takayama is easily explored on foot and is the perfect start or end point for sojourns into the Hida Region and the Northern Japan Alps.