Hida Takayama is a former castle town and one of Japan’s best preserved old towns. It is beautifully set amid the northern Japan Alps in Gifu Prefecture an area known as the roof of Japan. The Hida region of Gifu Prefecture is characterised by majestic natural scenery and hot springs. Takayama is often called “little Kyoto” and is just as beautiful and spectacular as its bigger brother.
Takayama is famous for its Edo period merchant houses, temples, traditional sake breweries and crafts. I would recommend a stay overnight in a ryokan (traditional style inn) and at least two full days to explore this amazing place. Takayama can be tackled on foot or bicycle and is very easy get around and navigate. Most of the main sights are located around the center of the town and are within easy walking distance from the station.
Takayama was established in the 16th century as a castle town, and has a unique culture that takes influences from both Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) along with its own unique customs and traditions. The Hida Takayama area has long been a center of carpentry and it is believed that carpenters from Hida Takayama worked on the famous palaces, gates and temples in Kyoto and Nara.
The Must See Places in Takayama
Sanmachi is the old part of town and is lined with traditional shops, restaurants and museums. Many of the buildings and houses date from the Edo Period (1600-1868) and are beautifully preserved. There are several sake breweries here where you can sample the famous sake of the region.
Takayama Jinya was originally built in 1615 as the administration center for the Hida area. It contains the remains of several government offices from the Edo Period as well as the only remaining office building of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Takayama Yatai Kaikan
The Takayama Yatai Kaikan houses some of the yatai (floats) which are used in the famous Takayama Matsuri. The floats are spectacular with elaborate carvings, metalwork and lacquerwork. Some of the floats date from the 17th century.
Takayama Morning Markets
Takayama is famous for its two morning markets selling all sorts of local farm vegetables, snacks, wood crafts and local souvenirs. The Jinya-mae Morning Market is in front of Takayama Jinya, while the Miya-gawa Morning Market, the larger of the two is in the old part of town. The markets are open all year round and from 6:00am to 12:00pm April – October and 7:00am to 12:00pm November to March.
Hida no Sato (Hida Folk Village)
Hida no Sato is an open air museum with more than 30 traditional houses from the Hida region of Japan. The houses have been dismantled at their original sites and rebuilt here. I would allow 2-3 hours to fully enjoy this place.
Takayama Matsuri is one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. The first part of the festival called Sanno Matsuri, is held in spring on April 14-15. The second part called Hachiman Matsuri, is held in autumn on October 9-10. Gorgeous floats are a highlight of both events. The 12 floats for the spring festival and the 11 for the autumn festival are all carefully preserved with some dating from the 17th century.
Must Try Food in Takayama
• Hida-gyu a local beef is a must and is considered to be the best wagyu beef in Japan
• Hoba-miso is sweet miso paste mixed with vegetables and roasted on a magnolia leaf
• Takayama Ramen is thin ramen noodles in a miso stock
Popular Souvenirs include “sarubobo”, a red hooded baby monkey, which is considered to bring good luck, and the traditional wooden crafts which can be found around the town such as Hida Shunkei Lacquerware.
How to Get There
You can easily get to Takayama from Nagoya on the JR Hida Limited Express. The journey takes around 140 minutes and costs 5870 yen (the trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass).