Takayama (高山市 Takayama-shi), 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.
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 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.
Takayama is the major transport hub of the Hida region.
- 1 Takayama Station (高山駅). This station 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 train runs from Toyama in the north, 1½ hrs (¥3,360), and Nagoya in the south, 2-2½ hrs (¥6,030). Local trains from Toyama take 2 hours, including a transfer at Inotani (¥1,690).
From Tokyo there are two equally viable routes: the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya on the Nozomi (4-4½ hours) or Hikari (just over 4½ hours), or the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Toyama on the Kagayaki or Hakutaka (4 hours). Both routes are around ¥15,000. Search engines may find only the Tokaido route; try searching with a stop in Toyama, or experiment with the departure or arrival time.
From Kyoto, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya, which takes 2½-3 hours (around ¥10,500). Alternately, one Wide View Hida leaves Kansai in the morning (#25 at 07:58 from Osaka Station) and returns in the evening (#36 at 15:38 from Takayama) using conventional lines. This is convenient because there are no transfers, and it's cheaper than the Shinkansen, but it's slower and no food or drink is sold on the train. Travel on this service from Kyoto takes around 4 hours (¥7,650), and from Osaka around 4¼ hours (¥8,300).
Using a JR East Pass, take the Azusa limited express train from Tokyo to Matsumoto, walk to Nohi Bus at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal, and then take an express bus to Takayama. The trip takes about 5½ hours depending on connections in Matsumoto. With a JR East Pass the Azusa is free and you can get a round-trip bus ticket between Matsumoto and Takayama at the discounted price of ¥2,500 (normally ¥5,500). 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. If you're already in Tokyo, you'll need to go to Haneda Airport (free with the pass) and visit the JR East counter during business hours to buy a ticket.
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).
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 Minzoku-mura, 飛騨の里 Hida no sato). An 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. ¥700 entry, or ¥930 for entry with bus ticket from and to JR Takayama Station.
- 2 Karakuri Museum (からくりミュージアム), Sakura-machi 53-1. Daily 09:00-16:30. Museum displays mechanical dolls which get mounted onto the Takayama festival floats. The museum also shows over 200 lion dance masks from around Japan.
- 3 Kusakabe Mingei-kan (Kusakabe Heritage House, 日下部民芸館), 1-52 Ojin-machi, ☏ . 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.
- 4 Matsuri no Mori (まつりの森), 5-1 Tenman-machi, ☏ . Daily 09:00-17:00. Literally "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.
- 5 Sakurayama Nikkokan (桜山日光館). Daily 09:00-16:30. Admission 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.
- 6 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 tourists around browsing the lanes flanked by tourist-oriented shops. The area is a 10-minute walk to the east of the station.
- 7 Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋). This is a 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 tatami rooms with some indication of what the original use was. In the rice storage area there are interesting displays and information (mostly in Japanese) about how local government 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.
- 8 Hida Takayama Museum of History and Art (飛騨高山まちの博物館 Hida-Takayama-machi no Hakubutsukan). Daily 09:00-21:00. The 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. free.
- 9 Takayama Yatai Kaikan (高山祭屋台会館), 178 Sakura-machi, ☏ . Daily 09:00-16:30. 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.
- 10 Hikaru Museum (光ミュージアム), 175 Nakayama-machi (3.2 km SW of Takayama Station), ☏ . Late Feb to mid-Dec Th-Tu 10:00-17:00, last admission 16:00. A 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 artifacts from the world's ancient cultures. ¥900; combination ticket with Hida Takayama Museum of Art ¥1300.
Takayama is famous for its two festivals:
- Sannō Matsuri (山王祭り). Apr 14-15.
- Yahata Matsuri (八幡祭り). Oct 9-10.
Even though the festivals' origins are 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.
- 1 Higashiyama Walking Course (東山遊歩道). A 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.
- 2 Miyagawa Morning Market (宮川朝市). 07:00 (08:00 in winter months) to mid-morning. Local 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.
- 3 Miyagawa Ryokuchi Park (宮川緑地公園), 1 Kiriumachi. A 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.
There are several crafts that Takayama is known for. Sarubobo amulets (lit. "baby monkey") are shaped like faceless humans and available in a variety of sizes. Shunkei lacquerware, beautiful wooden boxes, trays and utensils, with a lustrous transparent lacquer that lets the grain of the wood show through, are another good choice. Takayama is also 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.
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 Agura (あ蔵), 4-7 Shinmei-cho (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)), ☏ . Tu-Su 18:00-00:00. 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.
- 2 Beef Bun and Cafe Kihachiro Kamisannomachi (フェ喜八郎 上三之町店), 35 Kami-Ninomachi, ☏ . A 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.
- 3 Chitose (ちとせ), 6-19 Hanasato-machi, ☏ . A casual restaurant specializing in yakisoba, a dish made from fried soba noodles. English menu available.
- 4 Crepe and Wine Hanchikutei (クレープとワイン はんちくてい), 1-95 Hachiken-machi, ☏ . One of the best dessert shops in town, 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.
- 5 Hatoya (鳩谷), 3-110 Oshin-machi, ☏ . Traditional 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.
- 6 Maruaki (丸明), 6-8 Tenman-machi, ☏ . Traditional Japanese restaurant with reasonably priced Hida beef. English menu available, friendly staff, grill and hot pot options.
- 7 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.
Takayama is pretty quiet at night. Some of the few bars which are open include:
- 1 Desolation Row, 30 Asahi-machi. Cozy cellar whiskey bar with plenty of vinyl records from the 1960s through the 1990s. Owner knows a lot about music.
- 2 "Doya", Sōwa-machi 1-23-1. No 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.
- 3 Japanese Pub Yu (結), 1-3-1 Hatsuda-machi, ☏ . M-Sa 16:00-23:00. Yuichi Sano, the owner, is very friendly and welcoming. Great cocktails, even better conversation!.
- 4 Red Hill Pub (レッドヒル), 2-4-2 Sowa-machi, ☏ . Tu-Su 19:00-00:00. Stocks 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.
- 5 Rum Dance Hall, 29 Asahi-machi. 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.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||$75 - $150|
Takayama has more traditional-style accommodations than western-style hotels, but it is a great opportunity to experience a ryokan or temple stay. Keep in mind that in Japan, room rates are advertised as per person as opposed to per room. Accommodations are categorized below with the assumption two adults would be staying in the room.
- 1 Hida Takayama Tenshōji (ひだ高山天照寺ＹＨ), 83 Tenshoji-machi, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00-21:00, check-out: 06:00-10:00. 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 ¥3400/night for HI members and ¥3700/night for non HI members.
- 2 J-Hoppers Hida Takayama Guest House (ジェイホッパーズ飛騨高山ゲストハウス), 5-52 Nada-machi (3-min walk from JR Takayama Station, just in front of Takayama Post Office), ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Roomy bunk beds in dormitories and some Japanese-style private rooms. Self catering kitchen, hot shower, free Wi-Fi, guest PC, rental bikes, free tea/coffee. Visa/MasterCard accepted. It's advertised as a place to practice English, so expect people pestering you for conversation. Dorm bed ¥2500, twin/double ¥3000/pp.
- 3 Temple Hotel Zenkoji (飛騨高山善光寺), 4-3 Tenman-cho (exit station, turn right, walk until 2nd light; turn left, walk until 3rd light), ☏ . Clean and spacious rooms. No meals, but there is a kitchen. The owner speaks very good English. 3 rooms for 3, 5 and 9 people starting from ¥25,000, ¥20,000 and ¥4,000 in low season, up to +50% in high season, +¥3,000/person if more than 2/2/4 guests.
- 4 Best Western Takayama (ベストウェスタンホテル高山), 6-6 Hanasato-cho, ☏ . Western-style hotel with free Wi-Fi, business center, room service, restaurant, and spa. Close to Takayama Station.
- 5 Takayama Green Hotel (高山グリーンホテル), 2-180 Nishi-noisshiki-machi, ☏ . Japanese and western style rooms and breakfast buffet. Amenities include a large bath, fitness center, karaoke room, free parking and WiFi. A 10-min walk to downtown. Bicycles available to rent.
- 6 Hida Hotel Plaza Takayama (飛騨高山温泉 ひだホテルプラザ喜多館), Hanaoka-cho 2-60, ☏ . Western 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.
- 7 Oyado Koto No Yume (おやど古都の夢), 6-9 Hanasato-machi, ☏ . A 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.
- 8 Yamakyu (山久), 58 Tenshoji-machi, ☏ . Ryokan 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.
- Oku-Hida Onsen Villages — these remote and beautiful villages are less than an hour away by bus
- Shirakawa-go — beautifully-preserved villages and an open-air museum
- Gero Onsen — one of Japan's three famous hot springs, a short ride down the JR Takayama Line
|Routes through Takayama|
|← Toyama ←||N S||→ Gero → Gifu|
|Toyama ← Shirakawa-go ←||N S||→ Mino → Seki → Gifu|
|Ōno ← Gujō ←||W E||→ Matsumoto|
|Toyama ← Hida ←||N S||→ Gero → Inuyama → Nagoya|
|Fukui ← Ōno ←||W E||→ Matsumoto|
|END ←||N S||→ Gero → Nakatsugawa → Toyota|
|END ←||W E||→ Kiso → Shiojiri|