Takayama, Traditionally Yours
Nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps in Central Honshū lies a historic town where life is slow and the atmosphere, incredibly charming. Visit Takayama, a delightful little piece of Japan that holds fast to its traditional ways, and seems more like a village, albeit offering every convenience of a big city.
Twice a year, Takayama shakes off its slumber and raises its voice to a riot of festive colour. The Takayama Festival that arrives during springtime and autumn attracts thousands of visitors from around Japan, and beyond. The intricately crafted floats displayed or paraded around the city by traditionally dressed locals bear testament to the artistry and craftsmanship that is predominant in this town. If you miss the festival season, you can still see these floats at the Festival Float Exhibition Hall. The Showa Museum is also worth a visit.
When to visit
Visit during spring or autumn to catch the Takayama Festival, or the cherry blossoms during spring.
Once home to Japan’s finest artisans and craftsmen, Takayama boasts this distinction through its well-preserved dark wood Edo Period buildings lining narrow and well-preserved streets. Now, these buildings are mostly craft shops, food stores and sake breweries, or even museums.
Farmer’s markets held every morning along the Miyagawa River and outside Takayama Jinya – a late 17th century historical government house, bring together local farmers and craftsmen. It’s a colouful melange of everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, crafts and pickles to clothes.
Gain an insight into rural Japan by visiting the Hida Folk Village, where you’ll find traditional wooden houses clustered around a picturesque lake. Each of these is a self-contained museum, displaying traditional tools and other items. Nearby, you can learn how to make Sarubobo dolls, wind chimes and other handicrafts at the Hida Takayama Crafts Experience Center. Travel a little further and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go Village.
Takayama is also synonymous with sake, and you’ll find many places to sample the different kinds of sake produced here. Savour some free sake at the festival held in mid-March each year, introducing new sake brews. Takayama’s local Hida beer is definitely worth a mention. Indulge in the local cuisine, including the Hida beef, soba noodles and the mouth-watering mitarashi dango (skewered rice balls dipped in soy sauce).
Stroll down the Teramachi District to explore the town’s temples and shrines. Don’t miss the World Shrine with its dazzling golden roof, or the nearby Mount Norikura, a popular sightseeing and trekking destination.
What to do
— Visit the Takayama Jinya government house
— Explore the farmer’s markets
— Visit the Hida Folk Village
— Discover Shirakawa-go
— Skiing and trekking in the mountains