Like a window into the past, Takayama is a city in the northern region of Gifu Prefecture renowned for its preservation of historic architecture. The entire town is an attraction, surrounded by the Japanese Alps and pristine rivers providing a peaceful atmosphere. Just 150 minutes by train from Nagoya (JR Pass friendly), the city has plenty of notable historical sites worth visiting. If your next Japan trip is in need of something off the beaten track, consider these best 5 Takayama attractions!
1. The Old Town
One of the best-preserved historic districts in Japan is Takayama, with buildings dating back to the 1600s. Shops, cafes and saké breweries line the streets– some of which have been in business since the 17th century. The town offers an awe-inspiring walk, particularly in winter with snow blanketing the roofs of the historic structures. While enjoying the atmosphere of the old town, you can wander to the nearby Sakurayama Hachimangu shrine. The shrine is the oldest in town dating back to the 4th Century with a serene tree-shrouded setting.
2. Hida Folk Village
This open-air museum lets visitors experience an Edo Period (1603-1867) village atmosphere. It features more than 30 traditional homes from the Hida region open for people to explore. The museum presents well-preserved buildings including farmhouses, logging huts and storehouses. Each structure displays unique wooden architecture, lit fireplaces and tools used in the era.
【Admission】 700 yen
【Access】 10 minute bus ride from Takayama Station
【Opening hours】 8:30 to 17:00
3. Higashiyama Walking Course
This 3.5km walking course offers a relaxing and serene trail throughout the suburbs of the city. It leads you through a wooded path revealing more than a dozen shrines and temples, as well as the ruins of a former castle. This walk would be perfect after enjoying the morning markets where you can buy local street food and produce direct from farmers. These are located in the Old Town along the Miyagawa River daily until noon.
4. Takayama Festival
If you’re lucky enough to be in the area in April or October, one of the country’s top three most beautiful festivals are the annual Spring and Autumn festivals (April 14-15, October 9-10). The floats featured are a spectacle to behold, showcasing the detailed design of mechanical dolls that move and dance. In addition, the Shinto shrine’s deity is carried around the city in a portable shrine, marking the only time of year when the deity leaves the shrine. The festival is most noted for its evening festival, where the illuminated floats are paraded through the town for two to three hours. It is recommended to book hotels well in advance however as accommodation fills quickly during the festival seasons.
5. Matsuri no Mori
If you aren’t around for the Takayama festival – not to worry! This museum features dozens of replica floats from the 16th century festival. Tours offer a closer look into the details of the artistry put into them. Machine-run displays of the puppets are displayed through performances and taiko drum shows all day. As a result, you get a chance to enjoy the festival atmosphere you may have missed! In addition, the underground setting of the hall makes for a stunning showcase of the glowing floats and is a must-see for any trip to Takayama.
【Location】15 minute bus ride from Takayama Station south of the city center
【Opening Hours】9:00 to 17:00
There is plenty more this city has to offer and it makes for a great stopover for other attractions in the surrounding area. In short, make sure to add Takayama to your post-iso Japan trip!