Takayama (高山), sometimes called Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山) to distinguish it from other towns of the same name, is a city near the northern Japan Alps of Gifu prefecture, in the Chubu region of Japan.
Much of the city had been established when it had been a castle town surrounding the Takayama Castle (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 °C 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 °C.
address: Hanasato-machi 5-51The staff speak English and are a mine of information for the area.
Takayama is the major transport hub of the Hida region.
By train(高山駅) is on the JR Takayama Line, which has spectacular views of the valley and the Hida River below. The Wide View Hida (ワイドビューひだ) limited express from Nagoya takes about 2-2½ hours (¥6,030). If you're coming from the Sea of Japan side, from Toyama there are 4 daily runs, which take 1½ hours (¥3,360); local trains between Toyama and Takayama take about 2 hours, with a transfer at Inotani.
From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya and then the Wide View Hida. The ride takes 4-4½ hours via Nozomi, and costs ¥14,920; by Hikari it takes a little over 4½ hours, but is free with the Japan Rail Pass. Alternately, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen (all-reserved Kagayaki or just slightly slower Hakutaka) to Toyama, then catch the Wide View Hida (about 4 hours, ¥15,380, both included in the JR Pass) or local trains (about 5 hours).
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 5½ 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 the Kansai region, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya (Nozomi or Hikari), then the Wide View Hida. From Kyoto it's 3 hours (¥10,170); from Osaka it's 3½ hours (¥10,600). There is also a daily round-trip of the Wide View Hida leaving Kansai in the morning (#25 at 07:58 from Osaka Station) and returning in the evening (#36 at 15:38 from Takayama) using conventional lines. While it's slightly more convenient, this service is slower, taking close to 4 hours from Kyoto (¥7,650) and 4¼ hours from Osaka (¥8,300), and there are no food and drink sales.
By busFrom Chubu Centrair International Airport, Nohi Bus provides a bus service for ¥4000. The 3½-hour trip requires a transfer in Meitetsu bus center in the Nagoya train station.
Nohi Bus runs highway buses from Tokyo (5½ hr, ¥6690, jointly with Keio Kosoku Bus, great views along the way), Nagoya, Gifu, Kyoto, Osaka, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Toyama, Matsumoto and mount Fuji.
Buses to and from the Oku-Hida Onsen Villages leave from the bus station adjacent to JR Takayama station.
If you go the mountain route, there is a bus from Matsumoto (with some mountain village like Kamikochi on the way).
Hida Folk VillageAn attractive open-air museum assembled from real buildings that effectively recreates an entire traditional mountain village. 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 4 m tall.
address: Sakura-machi 53-1Museum displays mechanical dolls which get mounted onto the Takayama festival floats. The museum also shows over 200 lion dance masks from around Japan.
phone: +81 577 32-0072address: 1-52 Ojin-machiThe Kusakabe house is a restored old merchant's home built in 1879. The home is filled with artifacts and crafts from that time period.
phone: +81 577 32-5100address: 5-1 Tenman-machiLiterally "Festival Forest," Matsuri no Mori displays floats and other key items from the Takayama Festival. Similar to the Takayama Float Museum but larger. Also contains large taiko drums and hosts performances. Museum is roughly a 15-minute bus ride south of the city center.
Sakurayama NikkokanAdmission is included in the ticket to the Takayama Festival Float Museum. The hall displays one-tenth-scale replicas of 28 buildings from Nikko's Toshogu shrine, created by craftsmen in intricate detail.
SanmachiIt 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.
Takayama JinyaIt 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.
Hida Takayama Museum of History and ArtThe museum is in 17th-century warehouses once owned by the Yajima family who ran a timber business and the Nagata family who owned the best sake breweries in Takayama. There are 14 exhibition rooms dedicated to individual themes ranging from the Takayama Festival and traditional houses to the city’s history and local artists.
phone: +81 577 32-5100address: 178 Sakura-machiTakayama 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.
Hikaru Museumphone: +81 577 34-6411address: 175 Nakayama-machiA beautiful, sprawling building completed in 1999 inspired by the Nayan complex at Tikal in Guatemala. The collection is good, but sparse. There is a good exhibition of Japanese art, a small collection of European art (a Renoir, a Van Gogh, a Monet, etc.), and a smattering of artefacts from the world's ancient cultures.
address: 1-124-1 Kami-Okamoto-machiExhibits of Art Nouveau & Art Deco decorative glass art & furniture. Cafe & gift shop.
- 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). They 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.
Higashiyama Walking CourseA 3.5-km-long hiking trail through Takayama's temples and shrines, past some some of its more rural neighborhoods, and through Shiroyama Park, the former site of Takayama Castle. The course starts and ends at the Hida Takayama Museum of History and Art.
Miyagawa Morning MarketLocal vendors set up stands along the Miyagawa River each morning to sell their wares, ranging from crafts and handmade items to produce, flowers, and snacks.
Miyagawa Ryokuchi ParkA long, simple park along the Miyagawa River which peaceful views of the water. A great spot for cherry blossom viewing in the spring as the park is lined with over 100 cherry trees.
- Sarubobo amulets (lit. "baby monkey") – 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 its wood block prints, with many well known artists spending time each year in Takayama. Many shops sell original modern works at reasonable prices.
Hida SashikoAll 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.
Aguraaddress: 4-7 Shinmei-choAn 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.
phone: +81 577 62-8811address: 35 Kami-NinomachiA great stop for lunch or a quick snack, this small shop in the middle of Sannomachi is most well known for its beef buns. They also serve small lunch type food, such as sakura pudding, tea, and beer.
Chitoseaddress: 6-19 Hanasato-machiA casual restaurant specializing in yakisoba, a dish made from fried soba noodles. English menu available.
phone: +81 577 37-7817address: 1-95 Hachiken-machiOne of the best desert shops in Takayama, this tiny crepe and wine store has amazing treats and the owners are super friendly! It's still open later in the evening when many of the surrounding shops are closed.
phone: +81 577 32-0255address: 3-110 Oshin-machiTraditional Japanese restaurant specializing in Hida beef. They are especially known for their sukiyaki, which is hot pot cooked beef dipped into raw egg and eaten. A pricey splurge but totally worth it! Group plans available.
address: 6-8 Tenman-machiTraditional Japanese restaurant with reasonably priced Hida beef. English menu available, friendly staff, grill and hot pot options.
phone: +81 577 32-0244address: 90 Kami-SannomachiTraditional 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.
address: 30 Asahi-machiCozy cellar whiskey bar with plenty of vinyl records from the 1960s through the 1990s. Owner knows a lot about music.
"Doya"address: Sōwa-machi 1-23-1No phone number. No menu. No actual name. Locals simply know it as "Doya". No sign out front, just a blue and white curtain with two big circles on it. 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. The bottled Bintang Beer from Indonesia served here is a rare find in Japan.
address: 1-3-1 Hatsuda-machiYuichi Sano, the owner, is very friendly and welcoming. Great cocktails, even better conversation!
phone: +81 577 33-8139address: 2-4-2 Sowa-machiStocks imported beer and serves 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.
address: 29 Asahi-machiA 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.
phone: +81 577 32-6345address: 83 Tenshoji-machiA temple-affiliated youth hostel on the eastern outskirts of the city, a 20-minute walk from the station.
phone: +81 577 32-3278address: 5-52 Nada-machiThe first independent hostel in the Hida region. Roomy bunk beds in dormitories and some Japanese style private rooms. The place 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. Visa/MasterCard accepted.
phone: +81 577 32-8470address: 4-3 Tenman-choClean, spacious rooms, no meals but has kitchen and owner speaks very good English.
phone: +81 577 506-0026address: 6-6 Hanasato-choWestern-style hotel with free Wi-Fi, business center, room service, restaurant, and spa. Close to Takayama Station.
phone: +81 577 33-4600address: 2-180 Nishi-noisshiki-machiJapanese and western style rooms and breakfast buffet. Amenities include onsen, fitness center, karaoke room, free parking and Wi-Fi. About a 10-minute walk to downtown, with bicycles available to rent.
phone: +81 577 33-5500address: Hanaoka-cho 2-60Western and Japanese style rooms available with meal plans in this modern hotel which is a 15-minute walk from most tourist locations. Free Wi-Fi connection available in public spaces as well as six dining options, hot spring facilities, and a heated swimming pool.
phone: +81 577 32-0427address: 6-9 Hanasato-machiA romantic ryokan close to Takayama Station and within walking distance of Old Town. Hotel features indoor/outdoor onsen, private full bathrooms, free yukata rental, free Wi-Fi, and an English-speaking staff. Included dining plans available.
phone: +81 577 32-3756address: 58 Tenshoji-machiRyokan near the Higashiyama Walking Course and temples. Ryokan is about a 20-minute walk from Takayama station, but offers free shuttle service to and from the station if you ask a day ahead. Ryokan includes a public onsen, but private bathrooms do not include bathing/showering facilities. Included dining plans available.
- 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.