Ever thought of a holiday to Japan where the majority of your time is spent outside of the big cities?  Find the rural beauty of this country where the culture is so different to ours.  You can hire a car and drive the Three Star Road – its not as hard as you might think.  They drive on the same side of the road as we do in the UK and many road signs are in English as well as Japanese.  A holiday with cultural activities will leave you refreshed.

This itinerary will take you several days to complete, although you can take as long as you want.  Start by driving to Kanazawa or take the bullet train from Tokyo, which takes a couple of hours and then pick up a car.  The town itself is a hub of history, culture and cuisine.  It has a fish market, famous across Japan – Omicho Market.  https://www.japan.travel/en/spot/1398/ The area is also good for learning more about Samurai and Geisha cultures.  Japan is a country that man people visit for the cherry blossom in the spring, however it can be visited throughout the year.  The Kenrokuen gardens show this with the changing colours each season.  https://www.japan.travel/en/spot/1399/

Moving on to the next stop on the itinerary – Gokayama is off the beaten track.  As a UNESCO-recognised area, it is full of Gassho houses.  These buildings are over 100 years old, some up to 400 years old.  Think of houses you’ve seen in the European Alps with the steep roofs to protect the houses from snow damage – these are very similar.  There are other houses like these in Shirakama – you can stay in one of these houses to fully experience the culture.  The houses are built without nails, and the structures are so sound that they are almost earthquake proof.

Next along the route is Takayama, this area is more built up, but it is still a traditional old town, with merchants’ houses and local shops.  Visit a sake brewery and learn more about how it is made, along with tastings.  Here you could stay in a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn.  Futons are rolled out for you to sleep on while you enjoy a multi-course dinner and cleared while you have a tasty traditional breakfast.  Alternatively, you could stay in a Buddhist monastery, for a peaceful escape from 21st century busy lives.  The area also has a spring and autumn festival where the floats are spectacular.  Even if the festival doesn’t take place this autumn, you can still see the floats in the museum.

Matsumoto is located on the edge of the Japanese Alps.  It is a small but cosmopolitan city.  The city castle is a medieval fortress with a moat, with dark walls – also known as Crow Castle because of the colour.  Here you could visit a wasabi farm, an essential ingredient in Japanese cookery.  Nearby is the Kamikochi – a popular nature trail with outstanding mountain scenery.  https://www.japan.travel/en/spot/1357/

You can do the Three Star Road itinerary as part of a longer trip to Japan, with some time in Tokyo for the complete opposite view of the country.

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