Explore Central Honshu
West of Takayama Station are a few more worthwhile sights, the best of which is the Hida Folk Village, or Hida Minzoku-mura (飛騨民俗村), twenty minutes’ walk from the station, in a lovely hillside location overlooking the mountains. This outdoor museum of over twenty traditional buildings gathered from the Hida area is fascinating to wander around, especially if you’re not planning on visiting the gasshō-zukuri thatched houses of the Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama districts.
The main entrance is roughly 600m uphill, past the first car park and old houses, opposite a row of giftshops. You’re free to explore inside the houses, many of which have displays of farm implements and folk crafts relating to their former owners. The four old houses next to the ticket gate offer a chance to see real artists working at traditional crafts such as lacquering and woodcarving; those at the bottom of the hill comprise the Hida Folk Museum, but are little different from those in the main village. If you don’t fancy walking or cycling to the museum, take a bus; they run to the village every thirty minutes during the day. The Hida-no-Sato Setto-ken discount ticket includes return bus fare and entrance to the village.
On the road up to the Hida Folk Village, you’ll pass the elegant and modern Hida Takayama Museum of Art (飛騨高山美術館), which contains a wonderful glass collection and Art Nouveau interiors. Near the entrance is a beautiful glass fountain by René Lalique, which once stood in the Paris Lido; further on, the collection includes lustrous objets d’art by Gallè, Tiffany glass lamps and the interior designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Vienna Secessionists. The museum also has a pleasant café.
With its golden roof, topped with what looks like a huge red snooker ball, you can’t miss the enormous Main World Shrine, roughly 1km west of Hida Folk Village. This is the headquarters of the Sūkyō Mahikari sect, which combines elements of Shintō with Buddhism and was founded in 1959 by businessman Okada Kotama, after he claimed to have received “revelations” from God. Inside, check out the shrine’s stupendous architecture, built like a stage set for a cast of thousands and including a bizarre replica of Mexico City’s Quetzalcoatl Fountain and two vaguely Islamic-looking towers.