Takayama was my first stop in Japan.
When I was looking into where I wanna go, I realized it’s everywhere… And everywhere as a direction is tough to plan so that you know 🙂 I found out that hotels were disappearing like crazy because of hanami season (cherry blossoms). So I had to pick a place fast. It had to be more or less close to public transport as I bought JapanRail Pass. And so I started thinking and googling a lot!
I figured I would be exhausted after 17h of flights and because it was my first intercontinental flight I had no idea how bad the jet lag would be. And I heard horrifying stories!! So taking that into account I decided to start it slowly and relax in hot springs! I dreamed about onsen (hot springs) ever since I read about them in mangas! So I picked Takayama 😀
It is a little rural village in Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, tucked away in the beautiful Japan Alps. It has a nickname “little Kyoto” because of how charming it looks. Traditional houses in the district called Sanmachi Suji has been preserved in almost the same state for the last 200-300 years! It is a great city to take it slowly. Take a stroll through the alleys, try some sake and candies on the way and then jump to the onsen.
When you book a hotel, try Ryokan. It is a traditional hotel, where you sleep on the tatami mat and get to try local food. AND you get to go to a hot spring!! Most of the ryokans have one on the premises. Most of them also offer dinner/ breakfast. That was great as I got to try many weird things I wouldn’t dare to otherwise 😀 I don’t even know what I have eaten and they didn’t speak much English so couldn’t ask. But it was delicious 😀
The best time to visit Takayama is during the Takayama Matsuri festival that is held twice a year (spring and autumn ). It is ranked as one of three best festivals in Japan!! Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it and was there one week earlier 🙁 Next time!
How long to stay?
I am not good at taking it slowly, so I managed to get everywhere where I wanted in a day. I loved the place but was happy I got to move on. I think if you arrive in the morning as I did, then it’s doable to go around the city in a day, take a couple of baths in between and in the morning hit the road again.
Did I mention the baths? Yep, I took 4. In one day!!! The cleanest holidays ever!!!
What to see
Sanmachi Suji District
As I mentioned before, Takayama is called “Little Kyoto”, and when you look at this district, you will understand why. The whole neighborhood is full of beautifully preserved wooden houses, some of them dating the Edo period! This days most of the houses are souvenir shops, restaurant, and breweries.
The only problem is the crowds!! There were so many people on the streets! To get some beautiful photos without all those crowds, I had to wake up early in the morning 🙁 Nonetheless, I really enjoyed walking down the streets and popping my head in the shops and trying the food. Thank you Japan for understanding that tourists have no idea what food you sell and giving us pictures and looking-like-real-plastic miniatures! Best thing ever!
Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall
As I mentioned before, Takayama is famous for its festival held twice a year (spring on April 14 and 15 and in the autumn on October 9 and 10). I didn’t manage to see it when it was happening, but I was still able to see some of the floats and videos from the festival. They looked cool, of course not as cool as when used for the festival but I had to settle for that 🙂
If you want to know more, check out their website for more info!
Right next to the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall there is a small museum dedicated to Nikko. I entered it by accident, and I am so glad I did it! Inside there are replicas of different shrines that can be found in Nikko in 1:10 scale! It took 15 years and 33 carpenters to finish it. It looks soooo cool!
Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
Right next to the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall and Sakurayama Nikko-kan there is nice shrine, so just go there and check it out!
It is an old government building that was used during Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo period. It is the only building of that type left in Japan. I walked around a little, looking at different rooms in there. It is one of those places you should check out.
If you want more info about it, try this website.
Migayama Morning Market
If you can’t sleep and wake up at 6, go and check out the market. I went, but I was a little bit disappointed, to be honest. Maybe I was too early, but I didn’t find there anything exceptional. It was kinda naaah — most of the things you can buy in any other shop. But maybe you will have more luck.
It is a lovely walking path about 3.5km long. It goes through several small temples, shrines and castle ruins. Though saying ruins is a little bit too much – it is a pile of rocks at the top of the hill 😀 Anyhow, the walk was great, with some great views. I must say I enjoyed it. If you have time and you’re not that tired yet, try it.
There are a lot of signs both in Japanese and English and maps are located in some places. You don’t have to take the whole route; I didn’t. No matter how long the walk will be, it is still awesome!
On this website, there is a small map showing how the walk looks like.
Hida Folk Museum
It is an open-air museum featuring houses from Edo period from all around Hida region. I heard it is nice, but it is 30 minutes away with a bus. If you are going to Shirakawa-Go as I did, I would just skip it and save some time for some other places.
But if you are still interested, they have exhibitions of arts and crafts from the region as well as typical furniture, tools and such. So it is up to you.
More detailed information can be found under this link.
Just go around the city, there are many exceptional houses, temples, and shrines. Go, eat some weird cool food and just enjoy the day!!