Takayama, Japan is a rural mountain town with a population of 88,000 and features centuries’ old merchant streets, preserved wooden houses and picturesque bridges. The area has been well preserved because of its secluded surroundings. The buildings and traditions are 300 to 400 years old.
Takayama was first settled as far back as 1000 BC. The area is rich in natural resources, especially timber, which allowed the town to prosper. During the Edo period, Takayama became a city of wealthy merchants. In 1692, it was put under direct control of the shogun.
To get to Takayama from Nagoya or Toyama, take the Wide View Hida train. It’s a scenic train that goes through the Japanese Alps and countryside and takes around two hours to reach the JR Takayama Station. It is fully covered using the JR Pass.
Once you arrive, getting around Takayama is easy. You can walk almost anywhere in about 10 minutes.
7 Things to Do in Takayama, Japan
1. Explore Takayama Old Town
The historic district is called the Old Town. Here you can see beautifully preserved streets of wooden houses. There are shops, cafes, and sake breweries. Many of the local shops have been in business for centuries.
2. Visit Takayama Jinya
Takayama Jinya was the local government office during the Edo period. It was in use until 1969 and has now been converted into a museum.
The traditional offices, conference rooms, guest rooms, and residential area have been well maintained. It also features the largest traditional rice storehouse in Japan, built in the 1600s.
3. See Heritage Houses
There are two heritage houses next to each other that are open to the public. The Kusakabe Heritage House is one of the oldest merchant homes open to the public. The family used to be moneylenders. The Yoshijima Heritage House was a residence and sake brewery.
4. Taste Local Sake
Takayama has been producing sake since the 17th century. The cold climate, water from the Northern Alps, and locally produced rice make sake from this area a local specialty.
During the Edo period, there were over 60 local breweries, but now there are only around six remaining.
There are four breweries in the Old City within walking distance. Niki Sake Brewery is the oldest and opened in 1695. It’s in a traditional house with a dirt floor and preserved rooms. Hirata opened in 1895 and is next to Niki. Kawashiri is across the street and Harada Sake Brewery is down the street.
Sake breweries hang Sugidama, a ball made of cedar branches, to announce they have sake ready to drink. You can go inside and get a tasting for a small fee.
5. Stroll the Morning Markets
There are two Morning Markets. The Miyagawa Market is along the Miya River and the Jinya-Mae Market is in front of Takayama Jinya. They are open every day until about noon and sell local crafts, vegetables, flowers, and snacks.
6. Shop for Sarubobo
A unique item in the Hida region is the Sarubobo. It is a good luck charm traditionally made by mothers for their daughters. It’s said to bring about a happy marriage and a smooth childbirth. It’s also good for preventing sickness and accidents.
These days you can get them in a variety of colors and sizes.
7. Try Street Foods
Takayama is known for Hida Beef. The cows are raised in Gifu Prefecture and produce high-quality meat with significant marbling. It is best served as sirloin, filet, Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, or Yakiniku. If you just want to taste the prized meat, you can find street stalls selling sticks of Hida Beef and even Takayama beef sushi.
Another popular street food is Mitarashi Dango, made from glutinous rice flour. Three to five balls are put on a skewer, grilled, and basted with soy sauce. Delicious!
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!