5 Japanese Villages to Visit 日本の美しい村
Traditional houses in Gokayama.
Sanmachi-Suji district, Takayama
The funaya houses in Ine
Tsumago an old postal town.
The villages of Taketomi island with their stone walls and tiled roofs are havens of peace.
Japanese rural getaways
The image of Japan for many is often futuristic, crowded Tokyo city. But Japan also has its small ancient villages, a more rural and quiet Japan, which is very close to the hearts of the Japanese.
Many charming Japanese villages lie in the Japanese Alps area, isolated in forgotten valleys free of urbanization. These villages have been abandoned by most of their inhabitants and have become tourist attractions instead, monuments to the memory of rural Japan. The complete list numbers nearly 50 villages, listed on this website.
Shirakawa-go (Gifu Prefecture)
This is the most famous and most beautiful, with traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses scattered around the valley. Shirakawago and its neighbor, Gokayama, are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, and can be visited as a day trip from Nagoya or Kanazawa. Nearly 70 gassho-zukuri (houses with steep thatched roofs) are kept authentic, some have been converted into museums or hostels for a night's stay. The village is very popular: more than 1.5 million tourists a year visit, especially in winter when a thick blanket of snow gives the place an unreal beauty.
Takayama (Gifu Prefecture)
Not far from Shirakawa-go, the ancient village of Takayama is now a small town, but has kept its old center, consisting of small traditional houses, intact. There are also some rural houses with thatched roofs in the district of Hida. Takayama has been dubbed "Little Kyoto" for its similar old-fashioned charm. The city also has temples, the ruins of a castle and a morning market.
Ine (Kyoto Prefecture)
Far from the mountain villages, Ine is an ancient fishing village famous for its funaya houses. These houses, at the water's edge, were also used as sheds for fishing boats. The village lies on a narrow strip of land nearly 20 meters wide.
The funaya are now houses and restaurants overlooking the bay waters. This is one of the last fishing villages in Japan.
Tsumago (Nagano Prefecture)
Tsumago is in the Kiso Valley, a place renowned for hiking. This is one of the last postal towns that lined the Nakasendo road. This road linked Kyoto to Edo by an inland route (the Tokaido, most famous, followed the shoreline). Officials or simple travelers stopped in the many hostels and rest stops along the way. Tsumago was one of those villages born to accommodate travelers. The place is lovingly preserved - cars are banned and modern electric cables are hidden to maintain the atmosphere of the Edo period.
Taketomi (Okinawa Prefecture)
This village is much more isolated than many others, on a small island south of the Okinawa island chain, but its landscape is familiar to all Japanese. The small paths in Taketomi are lined with dry stone walls and low houses covered with tiles. A typical landscape of the villages of Okinawa, where you can only travel on foot or by buffalo-led cart. A small tropical island paradise near Iriomote.
Taketomi Island, Okinawa
Credit: Jay Bergesen
Credit: Banzai Hiroaki
One of the Taketomi beaches.
Credit: Shig ISO
Comments Read comments from our travellers
I've been fortunate enough to visit Shirakawa-Go, Takayama (during festival time) and Tsumago (we hiked the Nakasendo Road), and I'm looking forward to my return to Japan to visit Ine and Taketomi.
We would love to tour all of these villages. Can you provide details of the tour?
Hello Thank you for very important information. I'd love to visit all these villages. Questions\ Is it possible to visit all these five villages in a week's time? And in what order? Is there any organized tours to all these places? Thanks so much. Toy