Takayama is famous for its well-preserved quarter with Edo-style streets. Sometimes called "Little Kyoto of Hida" (飛騨の小京都), the traditional townscape is a major attraction to visitors, only rivalled by that of Kanazawa among cities in the Chubu region.
Much of the city had been established when it had been a castle town surrounding the Takayama Catsle (高山城) since the 15th century until the 18th century. The central Tokugawa shogunate then took over the control and demolished the castle. Over the period of some 200 years since then, the city saw development of the forestry industry and boasted the crafts made by its artisans. The art of woodcraft and other works of craftsmanship has then been passed over through the Meiji era to the present day.
Having a humid continental climate, there is a large variation in temperature in the city in summer, sometimes from 0 to 35 degrees in a day. With much of the area close to or midst of mountains, winter brings constant snowfalls to the city, with temperatures sometimes falling below -10 degrees.
Takayama is the major transport hub of the Hida region.
Hida-Takayama's train station, Takayama, is located on the JR Takayama Line.
From Tokyo Station, you can reach Takayama by taking a Tokaido Shinkansen train (Nozomi or Hikari) to Nagoya and then transfer to the Wide View Hida (ワイドビューひだ) Limited Express train for the run to Takayama. The ride takes just over 4 hours via Nozomi with a good connection, and costs ¥14800. By Hikari it takes 4 1/2 hours, but the ride is fully included in the Japan Rail Pass. From Kyoto or Osaka, you can take the Shinkansen to Nagoya, then the Wide View Hida, but there is also a morning Wide View direct from Osaka and Kyoto, slightly slower but more convenient.
Another option is to travel from Shinjuku in Tokyo to Matsumoto on the Azusa/Super Azusa limited express train, then walk to Nohi Bus at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal and travel by express bus to Takayama. Holders of the JR East Rail Pass can use the Azusa at no charge and are eligible to purchase a round trip bus ticket between Matsumoto and Takayama at the discounted charge of ¥2500 (normally ¥5500). The trip takes approximately 5 1/2 hours each way depending on connections in Matsumoto. The downside is that you can only buy these tickets at the JR East Travel Service Centers at Narita or Haneda Airports, or in Takayama at the Nohi Bus Center. Those with a JR East Pass that are already in Tokyo will need to take the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport (free with the pass) and visit the JR East counter during business hours to purchase this bus ticket.
From Chubu Centrair International Airport, Nohi Bus provides a direct bus service for ¥4000. The 3.5 hour trip without transfer is convenient if you have large luggage. It can be reserved online at the Nohi Bus's site.
Buses operated by Nohi Bus jointly with Keio Kosoku Bus from Shinjuku in Tokyo go straight to Takayama (5.5h, ¥6690). Great views along the way!
Buses to and from the Oku-Hida Onsen Villages leave from the bus station adjacent to JR Takayama station.
Takayama is small enough to cover on foot, but bicycle rental (¥600 per day from the youth hostel) is also a good option.
- 1 Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村 'Hida Minzokumura' also known as Hida-no-Sato (飛騨の里)). An attractive open-air museum assembled from real buildings that effectively recreates an entire traditional mountain village. Not only can you tour the village, but artisans continue to work in many buildings; you can buy their crafts and even try your own hand at a number of activities. The architectural highlights are the traditional thatched-roof gasshō-zukuri houses, built with roofs like hands in prayer to withstand the heavy snowfalls in this region. More whimsically, there is a giant maneki-neko cat outside, standing over 4m tall. Entry is ¥700, or ¥930 for a combination ticket including bus transfers from and to JR Takayama station (recommended, as this will save you a 30-minute uphill walk).
- 2 Sanmachi (さんまち). It is a very pretty section of Takayama's old city. Consisting of three narrow lanes packed with wooden buildings housing sake breweries and little boutiques, some of the larger merchant houses are now open as museums. The area, though it is definitely worth a visit, is quite touristy now and you will find many "Gaijin" along with Japanese tourists around browsing the lanes flanked by tourist-oriented shops. The area is a 10-minute walk to the east of the station.
- 3 Takayama Yatai Kaikan (高山祭屋台会館), 178 Sakura-Machi, Takayama City, ☏ . 9AM-4:30PM. Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall. This is the hall where the festival floats are stored. Takayama hosts a famous yearly festival and the floats are quite ornate. The floats on display are rotated.
- 4 Kusakabe Mingei-kan (Kusakabe Heritage House, 日下部民芸館), 1-52 Ojin-machi Takayama-shi, Gifu 506-0851, ☏ . The Kusakabe house is a restored old merchant's home built in 1879. The home is filled with artifacts and crafts from that time period.
- 5 Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋). It is a large, beautifully preserved government building from the time of the shogun and still used as local government building until 1969. Many rooms at the beginning of the visit are basically empty (but this is not a strange thing in Japan where rooms are usually scarcely populated by furniture) tatami rooms with the indication of what was done in the room or who would work or live there. The visit becomes increasingly interesting the further you proceed, since in the rice storage area there are interesting displays and information (unfortunately mostly in Japanese, but there are some panels in English) about the way the local government of Japan worked in the Edo era. The (two) storage buildings alone, the biggest such original buildings still present in Japan, are worth the visit. adults 420 ¥.
- Tomenosuke (留之助). For something completely different (and slightly out-of-place), is a science-fiction movie gallery-store hidden a few blocks north of the Train Station. Inside the store you will find some very cool original movie props (a beast mask from Star Wars, the original robot suit from Spaceballs, and a 1/4 model of the Alien queen for example) in addition to replicas and American designer art figurines. There is an admission fee, but it is well worth it. admission fee of 500 ¥.
Takayama is famous for its two festivals:
- Sannō Matsuri (山王祭り), April 14-15
- Yahata Matsuri (八幡祭り), October 9-10
Even though the festivals' origin is unknown, it is said that they were first celebrated between 1586 and 1692 when the Kanamori family governed the Hida Takayama area. The spring festival is associated with Hie Shrine (日枝神社) and the autumn with Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine (桜山八幡宮). Both are much alike and feature a parade of large floats (屋台 yatai) decorated with thick curtains, lacquer ware, and mechanical dolls (karakuri). Twelve floats appear in the spring festival and eleven in autumn. The procession carrying the portable shrine (mikoshi) is unique to the autumn. During both festivals, this usually quiet town is lively and filled with visitors, so it is best to book accommodation (particularly on the night of the parade) and tickets early.
- Sarubobo (lit. "baby monkey") amulets, shaped like faceless humans and available in a variety of sizes, are the most popular souvenir from Takayama.
- Shunkei lacquerware, beautiful wooden boxes, trays and utensils, with a lustrous transparent lacquer that lets the grain of the wood show through.
- Wood Block Prints, Takayama is known for it's wood block prints, with many well known artists spending time each year in Takayama. Many shops sell original modern works at reasonable prices.
- Hida Sashiko, All hand-made, beautiful stitching goods are displayed as if gallery. All of the arts and goods are purchasable. Media often report Hida-Sashiko as Japanese traditional art with the beauty of goods and its skills. (http://hidasashiko.com/english/index.html)
Takayama is famous for its ramen noodles, cooked in miso stock with thin noodles. As elsewhere in Gifu, you are also likely to encounter hōba miso (ほうば味噌), a version of the ubiquitous Japanese bean paste grilled on a hōba leaf and served as a dip or for eating with rice as is. Sounds pretty simple, but the taste is exquisite. Takayama is also famous for its steak (飛騨牛 hidagyu）. You can find it at many restaurants throughout the city.
- 1 Sakaguchiya (坂口屋), 90 Kami-sannomachi, ☏ . Traditional Japanese restaurant located on the main sannomachi street. The menu has local soba and miso dishes. They have excellent hōba miso steak. You get a large piece of beef which is of high quality. Good value for money. This place is popular among Japanese tourists.
- 2 Agura (あ蔵), 4-7 Shinmeicho (On the road that runs to the south of Takayama City Memorial Hall, on the right side (look for the green sign with the yellow seated Buddha; 12 min.)), ☏ . Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight. An excellent restaurant in Takayama built out of an old warehouse, Agura serves Western-style pizza and a variety of other Japanese and vegetarian friendly fare. A good place to go if you need "something for everyone". Hours are a little odd, dinner only. Prices are moderate, ranging from ¥800-¥1,500. They do accept credit cards.
- Yakisoba. A restaurant specializing in Yakisoba, a dish made from fried soba noodles. English menu available. Can be found by crossing the street North of the station, walking West, and taking the first right. GPS coordinates: Lat. 36.142761 Lon. 137.252197
Takayama is pretty quiet at night. Some of the few bars which are open include:
- Tulips (Snack Bar), 11-3 Asahimachi (朝日町), ☏ . The owner is Emiko Maruta. There is no English menu and she doesn't speak much English, but she is receptive to sign language. Drinks are cheap and the place is cozy. There is a pink sign out front with a drawing of a tulip and the word "snack". It is located on the 2nd floor above a place named "Passion."
- Doya. No phone number. No menu. No actual name (locals simply know it as 'Doya'. About 50m due south of Red Hill Bar, also on the ground floor on the east side of the street, the fifth shop in from the corner that has a restaurant called ワン ポンド ('Wan Pondo' or 'One Pound'). Cool urban jazz and a very earthy, hip atmosphere. The proprietor speaks decent English. Despite the lack of menu, drinks are varied and priced reasonably up to ¥700. Light food is also available. Room for only about 12 at the bar only, but worth coming back later if it's full. No sign out front, just a blue and white curtain with two big circles on it. The bottled Bintang Beer from Indonesia served here is a rare find in Japan.
- Rum Dance Hall. a lot of different shochu and rum. Owner speaks English; good place to finish after Doya. Best to ask your way from Doya; the Rum dance hall is very close.
- Red Hill Bar, 1-4 Sowa-cho 0577-33-8139 Open 7-12. Closed Mondays. Approximately two blocks east and one block south of city hall on the ground floor, on the west side of the street. Stocks imported beer as well as serving the usual cocktails and liqueurs. Light food such as pasta, salads, snacks, etc available. The proprietress, Hisayo, speaks fairly good English. Expect to pay ¥600-¥800 for drinks. Popular with local foreigners.
- J-Hoppers Hida Takayama Guesthouse (Backpackers Hostel), 5-52, Nada-machi (3 min walk from JR Takayama Sta. Just in front of Takayama Post Office), ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. The first independent hostel in the Hida region. Roomy bunk beds in dormitories and some Japanese style private rooms. The place itself is nice but they advertise themselves to Japanese as a place to learn and practice English, so expect constant pestering for free lessons. Self catering kitchen, hot shower, Free Wi-Fi, Guest PC, Rental bikes, Free tea/coffee. Credit cards accepted (Visa/MasterCard) Dorm from 2500 yen, twin/double 3000 yen/pp.
- 1 Hida-Takayama Tenshōji Youth Hostel (ひだ高山天照寺ＹＨ), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM-9PM, check-out: 6AM-10AM. A temple-affiliated youth hostel on the eastern outskirts of the city, a 20-minute walk from the station. A bed for the night is ¥3000/night for HI members and ¥3300/night for non HI members
- 2 Hida Takayama Temple Inn Zenkoji (飛騨高山善光寺), 4-3 Tenmancho (Exit station, turn right, walk until 2nd light. Turn left, walk until 3rd light.), ☏ , email@example.com. Clean, spacious rooms, no meals but has kitchen and owner speaks very good English. Private room ¥3000, Dorm ¥2500, cash only.
- Ohayohsun hotel&cottage, 892-11 shinhuchi shokawa-cho Takayama city, ☏ , Ohayosun@sweet.ocn.ne.jp. from HidaTakayama a 30min-drive, close to Shirakawago world heritage site, Miboro dam and ski areas. Consult them about special dietary requirements/preferences. Private room ¥5,500(with breakfast) to ¥11,490(with 2meals),.
- Minshuku Oyado Iguchi, 3-15 Oojin-machi Takayama-city, Gifu 506-0851 (15 mins walk from Takayama station.). A Japanese style Inn (Minshuku). Japanese style accommodation. Tatami rooms, Yukata. Japanese meals. Also provide vegetarian food. Located besides river, peaceful environment. Can walk to most major sight seeing spots. Very friendly owner who can speak some English. Single room: 5000 yen.
- Best Western Takayama, 6-6 Hanasatocho, ☏ .
- Hida Hotel Plaza Takayama, 2-60 Hanaoka-cho, ☏ . US$96 and up.
- 3 Hida Tourist Information OfficeHida Hotel Plaza Takayama, 1-1 Showa-machi (Right in front of JR Takayama Station), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The staff speak English and are a mine of information for the area. Open daily from 8.30 AM to 5 PM.
- The remote and beautiful Oku-Hida Onsen Villages are less than an hour away by bus.
- Shirakawa-go, with its beautifully preserved villages and open-air museum, is memorable. Stay in one of the old-time farmhouses. Reached by a 2-hour scenic bus ride (a new road has been built and the bus ride takes one hour only now, but no longer scenic) from Takayama.
- Gero Onsen, one of Japan's three famous hot-springs, is just a short ride away down the JR Takayama line.
|Routes through Takayama|
|← Toyama ←||N S||→ Gero → Gifu|
|Toyama ← Shirakawa-go ←||N S||→ Mino → Gifu|