When we visited Japan, we really wanted to make a visit up towards the Japanese Alps. We had a tough time deciding where we wanted to visit, because we were only in Japan for 2 weeks. We ended up visiting Takayama and it ended up being one of our favorite cities that we visited in Japan. Takayama, also known as Hida Takayama, is a beautiful and authentic Japanese village. Takayama is set in the beautiful mountains of northern Gifu prefecture in an area known as Hida. Takayama is similar but more lowkey to Kyoto. Nestled in the Hida mountains, Takayama is an adorable town that you need to visit while in Japan. We loved Takayama so much and would go back in a heartbeat! So here are all the wonderful things to do in Takayama.
Things to do in Takayama
The Takayama festival is one of Japans biggest festivals. It is held in spring and autumn. The festival runs for 2 days in the spring, and 2 days in the fall. The spring festival is known as the Sanno Festival. The autumn festival is known as the Hachiman festival. The Takayama festival features about a dozen heavily decorated festival floats. The festival is a very popular event and gets very popular.
Visit the morning markets
There are 2 morning markets in Takayama daily. The Miyagawa Market is along the Miyagawa River in the old town. The Jinya-mae Market is in front of the Takayama Jinya. The markets are open from 7am (8am in the winter) to 12pm. At the morning markets, you can find local crafts, snacks, and things like vegetables and flowers.
We got up early to explore Takayama, so we visited the Miyagawa market when it first opened, with very few people. The miyagawa market is right along the river, and is a great place to shop and explore the Japanese goods.
Takayama old town
Takayama’s old town has been beautifully preserved, dating back to the Edo period, when the city thrived as a wealthy town of merchants. You’ll find rows of old wooden latticed buildings. Sannomachi street is a nice area to walk around and explore the old homes, shops, coffee houses and sake breweries. You can also get pulled through the streets of Takayama by a rickshaw. A 30 minute tour for two costs around 5000 yen.
Hida no Sato (Hida Folk Village)
Hida no Sato is an open air museum with over 30 traditional houses from the Hida region. The houses at Hida Folk Village are all from the Edo period and were relocated the create the open air musuem. All the buildings are carefully preserved and open to the public. The museum features logging huts, storehouses, and gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which have steep thatched roofs. The buildings have unique wooden architecture, and have tools and utensils that were used in the past on display.
- Open 8:30am-5pm
- Hida Folk Village is a 10 minute bus ride from Takayama (210 yen/each way)
- Entrance fee 700 yen
- You can combine the bus and entrance fee for 930 yen
Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
The Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine is 10 minutes from old town. The shrine is the oldest in Takayama and entering the shrine is free. The shrine has gorgeous wood decor and is surrounded by large trees. The shrine hosts the fall Takayama festival with all of the floats.
- open everyday
- free entrance
Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall
If you are unable to see the Takayama Festival, you can still see 4 of the festival floats at the exhibition hall. The floats are on display at Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan, a hall next to the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine. The floats are several hundred years old and are beautifully built.
- admission fee: 900 yen
- hours 9am-5pm
If you don’t want to visit Shirakawago on it’s own, you can do a day tour of Shirakawago from Takayama. Shirakawago is known for it’s traditional thatched and steep roofs, called gassho-zukuri, some of which are more than 250 years old. The farmhouses’ steep thatched roofs were designed to withstand the large amounts of snow during the winter. The shirakawago tour is a great option for a day trip, but if you have extra time, it’s truly special to stay overnight.
Takayama produces some of the best tasting sake in Japan, due to it’s location, cold weather, and pure mountain water. Takayama has been famous for it’s sake production since the Edo period, and there are still a handful of sake breweries that you can get a tour and sake tasting.
Where to eat in Takayama
Eat Hida-dyu beef
Takyama is known for it’s local beef, called hidagyu. Hida Beef is a high-quality marbled beef from black-haired Japanese cattle raised in Gifu Prefecture. When you are in Takayama, make sure to find a hida beef restaruant. We ate at a yakiniku, Korean style BBQ, where the beef is cut thinly and grilled over a webbed grill. While hida beef can be expensive, it’s incredibly delicious!
Try the Chuka soba
You’ll find various versions of ramen throughout Japan. In Takayama, the ramen is known as “chuka soba”. The ramen uses local ingredients. The taste and texture of the ramen incomparable to other ramen dishes around Japan. We ate our chuka soba at Menya Shirakawa, and loved it!
Where to stay in Takayama
Takayama has a good variety of hotels for all budgets.
budget: Relax Hostel Takayama station is a nice, modern, and clean hostel right near the station. Choose between shared rooms or private rooms.
mid-range: Tabino Hotel Hida Takayama is a little bit away from the town, but nice rooms and great price
luxury: Takayama ouan hotel – if you’re looking for a takayama ryokan, the Takayama ouan hotel has 3 private onsens on the top floor, overlooking the city. This is may be the best Takayama hotel!
Day Trips from Takayama
Shirakawago and Gokayama
Shirakawago and Gokayama are nestled in the mountains of the Gifu prefecture, famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Shirakawago is home to Ogimachi, the most visited of the regions UNESCO villages. Shirakawago is halfway between Takayama and Kanazawa, so if you’re going from one of the towns to the other, Shirakawago is a perfect day trip on the way.
You can travel by bus from Takayama to Shirakawago (time is 50 minutes), price is 2600 yen/one way or 4600 yen round trip. Or you can set up a a private driver or a tour for a more guided tour.
Located in the Nagano Prefecture, Kamikochi has gorgeous mountain scenery in the Northern Japan Alps. Due to the snow, Kamikochi is only open from mid April until mid Novermber. Private cars are banned and access is only available by bus or taxi.
Gero is about an hour south of Takayama, located between Takayama and Nagoya. Gero is known for their onsens (hot springs). There are 3 public bath houses available in town.
How to get to Takayama
Takayama is easy to get to from the main cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. The train is the easiest way to get to Takayama. Takayama is on the JR Takayama main line, which runs north from Nagoya. Takayama is 2 hours and 30 minutes from Nagoya on the JR line.
Tip: it’s best to purchase a JR pass to get to Takayama
- From Tokyo, take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Takayama with a transfer at Nagoya. Total time: 4 hours 20 minutes
- From Kyoto, take the shinkansen from Kyoto to Takayama with a transfer at Nagoya. Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Have you visited Takayama? If you haven’t, is it on your list? Tell us some of your favorite places in Japan
If you liked this Takayama travel guide, check out our other Japan posts:
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