Since the 17th century, Takayama hasn't changed much. Every morning, the deshi (disciples) of ‘temple town’ sweep, rake stones and open shoji (sliding doors), letting sunlight in; artisans and grocers greet shoppers at the asa-ichi (morning markets),
giggling school children scamper across age-old bridges over the lazy Miya-gawa. Takayama Matsuri – one of Japan’s greatest festivals, held in spring and autumn – is as colourful and captivating as the seasons themselves.
But Takayama is changing: its charmingly rickety station has been replaced with a shiny grey box. Ancient alleyways echo a din of voices from faraway lands. Eternally gracious, an inn-keeper fumbles with a Spanish phrasebook. Another anime pilgrim snaps selfies at a street-food stand. The time to treasure Takayama is now.