Guide to North Western Japan
From the seaside city of Kanazawa to the Meiji-era downtown of Takayama to the Gasshô-zukuri architecture behind the thatched roofed village of Shirakawa-go to historic onsens and James Turrell sleepovers. We travel across snow-drenched mountains to visit an almost mythological old-world Japan.
If Tokyo is known for its bustling neon haze, Kyoto for its imperial palaces and temples and Kyushu for its volcanic sub-tropical landscapes, then we can say that the North Western region of Japan (we visit the Chubu and Kanto regions) is like stepping back into time to a snow-covered old world Japan with dark-wood, thatch-roofed houses and an abundance of hot springs.
With an architectural history of building in wood, most of the country's ancient buildings need much restoration and even habitual reconstruction on the same site, especially those which find themselves under feet of snow each winter. This is what makes architecture hunting in this region all the more special. We cross mountains to visit UNESCO World Heritage villages boasting a living architectural marvel and testament to local indigenous technology, sleepover in an immersive installation of James Turrell's, soak in a Meiji-era onsen once frequented by Japan's royal family and visit centuries-old mountaintop merchant cities and the Contemporary Art hotspot of seaside Kanazawa.