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Thursday 22 December 2022

Get off the beaten track to enjoy a slice of the real Japan

Most visitors to Japan zero in on the major cities: Tokyo, Osaka, perhaps Kyoto and Hiroshima, or ski resorts like Niseko.

To enjoy a real slice of Japanese life, however, it is best to head off the beaten track to somewhere like Hida Takayama, a small mountain town in Gifu Prefecture that offers a delightful rural escape.

Hida Takayama boasts beautiful old homes, morning markets, alpine air, a delightful river; and several affordable restaurants where you can match local sakes with the famous Hida beef.

The usual accommodation choices in this region are the traditional ryokan, or Japanese inns, like Hotakaso Yamano-an, where you sleep on a futon on the floor and can bathe in the open air pools with views of the Japanese Alps.

Dinner here is a traditional Kaiseki meal of multiple courses featuring fresh local ingredients, including fish from local streams and sansai (wild mountain vegetables).

Hida Takayama looks at its prettiest in winter, when snowflakes descend and coat the town in white.

There is a magnificent temple downtown. Hida-Kokubunji Temple is the oldest structure in the town and has a three-level pagoda beside a ginko tree that is over 1,200 years old.

For those looking for a more Western style of accommodation, the Accor group this week opened the new Mercure Hida Takayama.

Inspired by local traditions, the property features indoor and outdoor natural hot spring baths.

Situated in the heart of the city just a four-minute walk from JR Takayama Station, Mercure Hida Takayama offers 161 guestrooms and seven room types.

On the first floor, a lobby with a modern wooden chandelier and shelves featuring local artwork creates a warm ambience.

A Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and bar "Hobar" is named after the Japanese word for magnolia leaves, which are traditionally used to cook the regional dishes of Gifu Prefecture.

The indoor and outdoor onsens are located n the top floor of the hotel, while three private onsens are designed for couples and families who prefer privacy as they unwind.

Visitors are advised to visit the many sake breweries in the region and the city is famous for its biannual Takayama Festival.

"As Japan continues to welcome back international travel, we are excited to be opening a Mercure address in such a unique and somewhat untapped destination as Takayama," says Garth Simmons, regional CEO for Accor.

"Mercure Hida Takayama will undoubtedly be one of our flagship Mercure properties in Japan, showcasing locally-inspired design as well as being a breathtaking base to explore the beautiful city of Takayama."

Accor currently operates 19 hotels across eight destinations in Japan. Mercure Hida Takayama is the eighth Mercure hotel in Japan.

For more information and reservations, visit

Images: Winsor Dobbin and Accor 

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