Takayama or Kanazawa?

So, as mentioned previously, Kate and I are planning to go to Japan for the World SF Convention, and spend a couple of weeks doing touristy stuff. We're down for about a week in Kyoto, and a week in the Yokohama/Tokyo area (where the con is). Then, there are 3-4 days at the end of the trip that we haven't decided what to do with.

We've pretty much got it narrowed down to one of two options, as you might guess from the post title. We're working on not much more than guidebooks and web sites, though, so input from anybody with actual experience of Japan would be more than welcome. The candidate sites:

Kanazawa. This is a moderate-sized city on the opposite coast from Tokyo, and has a really famous garden and some interesting-sounding historical stuff. One of our guidebooks waxes rhapsodic about the local cuisine.

Takayama. This is a small city up in the mountains, and is a little more rustic. They have a bunch of museums of folk crafts and that sort of thing, and more touristy stuff.

Really, they both sound pretty cool, and relatively low-key. Takayama is kind of attractive in that it's very different from any of the other places we'll be, but Kanazawa sounds pretty cool, too. They're both four-ish hours from the Tokyo area by train, so travel time isn't really a distinguishing factor, but the rail maps we've seen make it look like it wouldn't quite be feasible to do both (particularly at the end of a long vacation, and right after Worldcon...

So, any thoughts?


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Well, I don't know about Kanazawa. I would think that the summer time would be nice there.

I have been to Takayama twice, it's four hours by Shinkansen and five and a half hours by bus. However, Shinkansen is more than twice the cost of the bus.

A short bus trip from Takayama is Shirakawa-go, a rural world heritage site. Shirakawa-go is a great place to go during the winter. Summer would probably be a nice time too.

Takayama is a fun town, that is not too busy. There are Sake tours, a ninja house, and a shogunate museum with English placards. The museums will let you take pictures inside, which is a definite bonus.

If you are looking for some gifts/souvenirs there are nice stores in the old part of town.

There's also a giant peach-energy cult near the outskirts of town.

I was in Kanazawa 18 years ago. It's definitely lower-key than Tokyo, but still urban. The only thing I really remember doing was visiting the ninja temple there, which does have some cool hidden passageways and all, but isn't quite compelling enough to change an itinerary for.

I think after a decent amount of time in Kyoto and Tokyo/Yokohama--and this will be in August, right, when it's 100 degrees and 100% humidity?--going to the mountains would be a nice change of pace. I haven't been to Takayama myself, but having lived in Tokyo, I think I'd rather go to the mountains as an antidote to the city rather than a smaller city.

Takayama. If I had a choice, I would live in Kanazawa but visit Takayama.

Both are great, in the three years I lived in Japan I went to Takayama 3-4 times and Kanazawa once. Takayama was where I took visitors from home, and is quite nice in both summer and winter. Bonus: it's very walkable. You can do a lot without having to get on a bus or a train to get to the next place. It's a good city for strolling about.

And yes, it is quite feasible to do both if you have enough time and prefer breadth to depth. When I visited Kanazawa, I did so by way of Takayama, and the train ride from Takayama to Kanazawa is beautiful.

Once when I spent time at Super-Kamiokande, I had a day off to ride the train and visit places. My supervisor suggested I visit Takayama, "A little Kyoto." He added, "Lots of places in Japan call themselves 'little Kyoto'. . ."

I made the little hop from Mozumi to Inotani on the local branch rail-line, then got on the wrong train at Inotani and found myself in Toyama instead. This turned out to be beneficial a few days later, because I had to catch a plane out of Toyama back to Tokyo, so at least I knew the way. When I got myself pointed in the right direction, I rode the other train back through Inotani and to Takayama, where I had an enjoyable afternoon of sightseeing. It's quite a good city for strolling, as John pointed out.

A couple of quick (belated) responses:
I have been to Takayama twice, it's four hours by Shinkansen and five and a half hours by bus. However, Shinkansen is more than twice the cost of the bus.

We're planning to get a couple of JR passes for traveling around, and those cover most of the shinkansen lines as well.

And yes, it is quite feasible to do both if you have enough time and prefer breadth to depth.

Part of the issue is that this is going to be coming at the tail end of a three-week vacation, and after several days of Worldcon, which was pretty draining when it was in Boston, let alone halfway around the world. We're looking for something relatively low-key, and not a whole lot of additional bustle.

Thanks to all who have commented, and more comments are always welcome.

I lived in Kanazawa for ten weeks :) They have a college, KIT, and I did an exchange there to learn the japanese words for math terms and stuff(it has an emphasis on engineering and physics type students studying japanese, although they allowed other majors with a "science interest"). The garden is very nice. You can see all of Kanazawa laid out beyond the flowers. It is great. Katamachi, the downtown area, is pretty exciting too. There are about ten karaoke places, a movie theatre, and an amazing video game place where you can play unlimited games for an hour for only like, 150 yen(about $1:30~$1.50ish). Over the summer, they have several great festivals, including the hyaku man matsuri, which is great. They have a giant parade in the streets, and you can dance with the japanese people(the dance is pretty easy).

Other people have posted about the humidity, and over the summer it is very hot(any time in the "rainy season"). But the city is still very beautiful...

I live in Osaka, and indeed, feel free to get in touch for a beer with one of your readers on your way past. Anyway, one absolutely extraordinary place near Kyoto that not a lot of people have heard of is the Miho museum. It has rather wierd opening dates though, and it might not fit in with your plans.

Go to Takayama, and plan to take a train to Kanazawa, since you say you have 3 or 4 days. Stay at a Ryokan (Japanese Inn), or a Minshuku (bed and breakfast), or even a homestay. A night in Takayama, and then a train to Kanazawa and a night there would give you a relaxing time spent in this area with less western influence than Tokyo, which has real local flavor.

As for the trains, get a Japan Rail Pass in the USA before your departure, this allows you to use all the JR (Japan Rail) lines, including the Shinkansen, for 7 days. It is about $250.00, but is a bargain if you take even 1 bullet train.