You might have missed this year’s Sakura season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, there’s still plenty of time to plan for the ultimate wintery getaway to Japan this year! Read on for our best tips and tricks to getting the most out of your Japan road trip to Takayama.
When one considers the possible places to visit in Japan, it’s likely that Tokyo, Osaka and even Hokkaido come to mind. However, when my friends and I planned our trip to Japan back in 2020, we were looking to go somewhere off the beaten track — enter Takayama, a historic town, removed from the usual hustle and bustle of the city, in the heart of the Japanese Alps. Best explored by car, Takayama’s vast landscapes, architecture, culture, and rich history (not to mention local cuisine) truly blew us away! If you, too, would like to see a different side of Japan, I hope that this Japan road trip guide to Takayama will give you the insights you need to plan for a similar experience in 2022 and beyond!
But First! Here’s How To Make Full Use Of The Falling Yen
Before we begin the guide, let’s address the golden opportunity in the room: the lowest SGD to Yen exchange rate we’ve seen in the past 20 years! At this moment, the exchange rate between the Yen and the Singapore dollar hovers just shy of the ¥100 (~S$1) mark. Coupled with the reopening of Japan’s tourism market, this is the perfect time for travellers to Japan (i.e. you) to stock up on the Yen (or at least lock down the best rates on your YouTrip app now for future use).
Okay, now that you’ve got your pocket money sorted — let’s get on with our Japan Road Trip Guide To Takayama.
Japan Road Trip Guide To Takayama: Planning & Pre-departure Preparations
1. Timing Is Everything
With the right vehicle, you’ll be able to drive to sights like these in no time
Unlike our perpetually-sunny homeland, Japan enjoys four distinct seasons each year which transforms the land into starkly different environments that will greatly impact your experience there. For instance, would you rather enjoy the sunset colours of fall, bask in the summer sunshine, marvel at the cherry blossoms, or play in the snow?
🌞 Summer: From June to August
👉🏻 Summers in Takayama tend to be hot, but evenings are cool. It also tends to rain more during mid-June to late July
🍁 Autumn: From September to November
👉🏻 September’s a great time to hike in the Japan Alps, and the end of October is when Takayama’s fall foliage starts
❄️ Winter: From December to February
👉🏻 We chose this because we were enticed by the snow-capped views that awaited us — and the chance to escape from Singapore’s humid heat!
🌸 Spring: From March to May
👉🏻 Plum blossoms come out in mid-March, and cherry blossoms arrive end-March
2. Transport & Vehicle Logistics
Away from the city, free parking is more common — a silver lining for our wallets!
Once you’ve decided when to go, you should think about transport options and logistics to prepare for the trip.
(A) Get A Rental From The Airport
For all purposes of road-tripping, we strongly recommend renting a car from the airport — this way, you’ll be able to set off immediately upon arrival and make the most of your time in the country. If you’re going in the winter like us, make sure you rent a car with snow tires as per regulations.
(B) Parking At Accommodations
You should also take note of parking options when choosing your accommodations as parking in Japan doesn’t come cheap. Be prepared to pay about S$30 for an hour’s parking in the city, and upwards of S$60 for overnight parking. Ideally, you should look for accommodation options that come with free or fixed-rate overnight parking to save on these hidden costs.
3. COVID-19 Travel Regulations
You can run, but you can’t hide — Covid-19 travel restrictions are here to stay for the foreseeable future, despite our small optimistic steps towards global recovery. At the moment, Singaporeans entering Japan are able to skip quarantine with a negative PCR test result. However, you are still required to travel as part of an organised tour group. Stay tuned for more updates!
|Entering Japan From Singapore|
|Entry Requirements||✅ Be part of a packaged tour|
✅ Take PCR test 72 hours before departure (ARTs are not permitted), to include:
👉🏻 Testing date and time
👉🏻 Name of the clinic that conducted the test
👉🏻 Negative result
👉🏻 Name of the lab that reported results
👉🏻 Date of when the result was notified
👉🏻 Name of doctor who conducted the test
👉🏻 MCR no. of said doctor
👉🏻 QR codes for verification
🚨 Bring a printed copy of the digital PDT certificate, provided by clinics approved by MOH
✅ Be fully vaccinated with one booster dose. Your COVID-19 vaccination cert must include:
👉🏻 Name of traveller
👉🏻 Passport document number
👉🏻 Nationality/ Citizenship
👉🏻 Date of Birth
👉🏻 Clear indication that you have received your third dose
🎉 Since 1 June, Singaporean arrivals have not been required to take an on-arrival test or isolate at their place of residence!
Japan Road Trip Guide To Takayama: Highlights & Must-sees
Now that the planning is done, here’s a brief overview of our itinerary which you can tweak according to your group’s likes and dislikes.
First Stop: Takayama
A cute snowman greeted us in Takayama
We started off right in the heart of the region, in Takayama. Once a hub for merchants and craftsmen during the Edo period, the city still maintains its old-world charm with traditional buildings and streets in the Sanmachi District. The Takayama Crafts Experience Center was a delightful find that we stumbled upon, and we greatly enjoyed the many folk craft activities offered — no reservations required.
We had multiple servings of this throughout our stay in Takayama
When you’re there, don’t forget to try Hida beef, a local delicacy sourced from a special breed of black wagyu bred only in the Gifu prefecture. We recommend snacking on the beef sushi (you’ll be able to find these stalls peppered around the streets) and scheduling a visit to a Hida beef speciality restaurant for the full gastronomical experience.
Second Stop: Shirakawa-go & Gokayama
These farmhouses were constructed without any nails and are over 200 years old!
We then ventured further up north towards the UNESCO world heritage sites of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. Architecture is the main highlight here as the towns are famous for their gassho-zukuri farmhouses that dot the idyllic countryside landscape. Thus, we highly recommend booking a ryokan stay for this leg of the trip to fully immerse yourselves in the unique sights and atmosphere.
A classic ryokan goes above and beyond your typical bed and breakfast (or Airbnb), complete with kimonos and tatami mats for the full traditional Japanese experience. Food-wise, you won’t find any measly bento boxes here — each meal served was nothing short of a feast, with multiple courses and seasonal ingredients carefully prepared by the ryokan’s kitchen.
Often, ryokans are built around onsen pools which are free for guests to use — perfect for winding down on snowy winter evenings.
Third Stop: Kanazawa
One of the scenes from Kenrokuen
Once we had our fill of the slow, rustic lifestyle in the Shirakawa-go area, we headed to Kanazawa. By comparison, this city was bustling yet it still had a little of everything. Here, you’ll be able to find something for nature lovers, foodies, and history buffs alike — a testament to the rich culture of the city.
Touted as one of Japan’s most beautiful landscape gardens, Kenrokuen is not one to be missed when you’re in the area. Thanks to its spacious and harmonious design, the large park offers visitors a peaceful space for contemplation and rest.
Foodies will adore Omicho market, Kanazawa’s largest fresh food bazaar, stocked with a large variety of Japanese delicacies and produce.
If you’ve some time left, we also recommend checking out the Higashi Chaya District, home to geisha teahouses and gold leaf speciality stores.
BONUS: Japan Road Trip To Noto Peninsula
The Tojinbo Cliffs, jutting out into the Sea of Japan
There are also plenty of scenic spots in Takayama that make for great short day trips. During our stay, we drove out along the coast of the Noto Peninsula — a popular route for Japan road trip goers in the region.
The Chirihama Nagisa Beach Driveway was particularly special as vehicles were allowed to drive onto the sand, bringing us right next to the waves lapping onto the shore! On the day we went, a recent bout of rain had cleared the beach of any fellow visitors. Thus we were able to truly soak in the serene quietness of the seaside on our drive. It was an otherworldly experience.
Geography students will also enjoy the Tojinbo Cliffs with their distinct hexagonal shape that can only be seen in this part of Japan. The chime of the crashing waves and fresh sea air made the cliffs a refreshing pit stop before we headed back along the coast.
Have The Best Japan Road Trip Guide To Takayama With YouTrip!
We hope this guide will come in handy for when Japan opens up for individual travellers in the future — hopefully in time for 2022’s winter season! Now that you know how to plan the ultimate Japan road trip guide to Takayama, it’s time to plot your next visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.
As always, whenever you make your bookings or spend overseas, be sure to use your YouTrip card to skip out on those pesky bank fees. If you don’t have a YouTrip card yet, use <BLOG5> during your sign-up to enjoy a free S$5 in your account!
Stay safe, and happy travels!