Happy new year! We are going to continue to provide you with useful information for filming in Japan this year. In this article we introduce you to towns in the south part of Japan that still retain a traditional Japanese appearance. We will mainly present you to the western part of Japan, but there are many other places besides Kyoto and Nara where you can film wonderful scenes.

(1) Gokayama, Toyama Prefecture


Gokayama, along with Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to a cluster of Gassho-zukuri houses, a unique architectural style found only in Japan. Some of the oldest houses in Gokayama are over 400 years old. The beauty of Gokayama is that the houses are still inhabited and surrounded by fields where rice and vegetables are grown, preserving a traditional Japanese rural landscape. The houses have high roofs and are made of dried thatched plants, shaped like a pair of hands facing the sky. The houses are surrounded by steep mountains, and in winter heavy snowfalls of more than 170 cm can accumulate here, so the roofs are steeply sloped to prevent snow from piling up.

Inside, there is an “irori” or a sunken fireplace on the first floor, so the ceiling is smoked by the air coming out of the wood and charcoal burned there, providing insect and antiseptic protection. The second floor, with its high ceiling, was used in the past as a workshop for keeping silkworms to make silk. Of course, some houses allow you to shoot the interior.

To protect the gassho-zukuri buildings, the entire village holds a fire drill once a year before the onset of winter. In the midst of the autumn leaves, 24 water guns discharge more than 25 meters of water at once, and you will be able to film the beautiful scenery of the village with Gassho-zukuri houses.

From Tokyo: 4 hours by train and taxi.
From Toyama Airport: 1 hour.

(Contact Information)
Gokayama Information Center

Takayama, Gifu Prefecture


Takayama is a famous sightseeing spot, and it has many good shooting locations such as the old merchant houses that stretch over two streets, the Edo period government office, which can still be visited today, and the morning market with agricultural products and processed goods unique to this region.

A float of Takayama Festival

However, what we recommend you most is to visit this beautiful town at the time of the Takayama Festival, one of Japan's three Hikiyama festivals (in which large floats are pulled around the town on a wheeled platform) along with Kyoto's Gion Festival and Saitama's Chichibu Night Festival. The Takayama Festival is held twice a year, in spring and fall, and is characterized by "karakuri ningyō" (a wooden doll moved by springs which spin around, performs a traditional Japanese dances, fights as if a japanese warrior, serves tea, etc.) attached to the front of the cart, which parades through the town with its unique movements. At night, many of the floats are lit up with lanterns, and the parade through the streets is a fantastic sight. 

If you are not able to visit during the festival, you can always go to the Yatai Kaikan (floats hall) where four floats are always on display for you to film them.

From Tokyo: 3 hours and 40 minutes by train.
From Toyama Airport: 2 hours by car.
From Chubu Centrair Airport: 3 hours by car.

(Contact Information)
Hida Takayama Tourist Information Center

(3) Tsumago & Magome, Nagano &Gifu Prefecture


Tsumago and Magome are the best places to film old Japanese style travel. More than 400 years ago, the only transportation in Japan was “Kago'' (manpowered transportation using a basket) or horses, which are both expensive, and many people traveled on foot. The Nakasendo, a major route connecting Edo and Kyoto, was 540 km long and had 69 posting stations. Among them, there were 11 posting stations in the Kiso region of Nagano Prefecture, located in the center of Honshu, and the relatively large ones were Tsumago (1 km long) and Magome (600 m long).

The inns are still lined with buildings that retain the atmosphere of the old days, and many of them continue to operate as they did in the olden days. The inns have “Iroris” and serve the same mountain food as in the old days, and visitors sleep on tatami mats with futons spread out on them in the Japanese style.

The Nakasendo near Tsumago and Magome

In this Kiso region, old style routes are still preserved, and visitors can experience travel as it was in the old days, walking on cobblestones and through mountain forests. Many tourists from Japan and abroad travel along these old roads and stay at inns as they did in the past. Here, you can film a trip as if you were back in time more than 400 years ago.

From Tokyo: 3 hours by train and taxi.
From Chubu Centrair Airport: 3 hours by car.

(Contact Information)
Magome Tourist Association
Tsumago Tourist Association

(4) Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture


The old town of Kurashiki is famous for its Edo Period scenery. About 400 years ago, Kurashiki prospered as a distribution center for agricultural products and processed goods such as salt and cotton to Osaka, and merchants accumulated wealth and built luxurious warehouses one after another along the river. Today, the atmosphere is still the same, with willow trees planted on both sides of the Kurashiki River and rows of large, luxurious warehouses with white walls.The warehouses are used as cafes, stores, miso and sake breweries, and offer a Japanese-style scenery to shoot.

Kojima Jeans Street

Kojima, the sacred land of jeans called JAPAN BLUE JEANS, famous worldwide for Momotaro Jeans and other products, is located about 30 minutes by car from Kurashiki. Many manufacturers here do everything from dyeing and spinning to sewing and damage processing in Japan, which is rare even in the world. The vending machines and the cabs are decorated with jeans, and the streets are lined with 40 jeans brand stores. Here, you can shoot a different face of Japan, a manufacturing superpower.
Note that many stores and facilities in the old town of Kurashiki are closed on Mondays, so please be careful when making your schedule.

From Tokyo: 3 hours 40 minutes by train.
From Osaka: 1 hours 15 minutes by train.
From Okayama Airport: 40 minutes by car.

(Contact Information)
Kurashiki Film Commission

(5) Tsuwano, Yamaguchi Prefecture


If you want to film old-fashioned Japan in western Japan, I recommend Tsuwano, which is often called "Little Kyoto" because of its samurai residences. The streets with samurai residences, lined with white walls and 1m-long water channels called "Horiwari," where colorful Nishikigoi carp swim are especially beautiful. In the winter, white and purple irises bloom in profusion there. Tsuwano has long been famous for its spring water so “Horiwaris” were built to provide fire protection and carp began to be kept in them. It is said that the number of carp now outnumber the population of humans. In addition, Tsuwano has been deeply involved with Christianity since the 17th century, and there is the Tsuwano Catholic Church in the city, which was built nearly 100 years ago. The building is of Gothic architecture, but the interior is covered with tatami mats, an unusual blend of Japanese and Western style. 

Another location we would like to introduce is the Taikodani Inari Shrine. The approach to the shrine on top of the mountain is lined with more than 1,000 bright red torii gates, comparable to those at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Because this is a less crowded shrine, you may be able to shoot from your favorite angle.

Taikodani Inari Shrine

From Hiroshima: 2 hours by train.
From Iwami Airport: 40 minutes by car.

(Contact Information)
Tsuwano Tourist Association
http://tsuwano-kanko.net/en/index.html (English page available)

In the previous and this article, we have introduced cities which preserve typical old styled Japanese sceneries. They are all good locations for filming so please contact us if you are interested in and would like to know more about them! We will keep updating you with good locations for filming.

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