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Takayama Festival a Beautiful Japan Autumn Festival

Japan Festival in Takayama 1

Uncover one of Japan festivals in Takayama, home to one of the top 3 Japan’s most beautiful festival, the Takayama Festival. Transporting you to old Japan days, this festival held biannually in spring and fall attracts visitors with its enchanting floats, lantern-lit streets, traditional dances, and music to celebrate enduring craftsmanship and the community’s vibrant spirit.

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Where to stay? >>

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Where to eat? >>

When is the Takayama Festival?

The Takayama festival is a highly renowned Japan Festival, being considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals alongside the Kyoto Gion Matsuri. The festival, also known as Takayama Matsuri, consists of two distinct festivals that occur each year: the Sanno Festival, in spring in mid April, and the Hachiman Festival, in autumn in early October.

How to get to Takayama?

SHINSANKEN to TAKAYAMA

There are multiple ways to get to Takayama from Tokyo. The fastest way to get to Takayama is by JR Shinsanken bullet trains. The journey takes ~4 hr and require a single train transfer. The two train routes covered by the JR Pass are below and can be purchased from ticket counters at stations, ticket machines or online at JR East Railway.

TOKYO (JR Tokaido Shinkansen) → NAGOYA → TAKAYAMA
TOKYO (JR Hokuriku Shinkansen) → TOYAMA → TAKAYAMA

Tip: Buy your Shinsanken a few days in advance. I got mine the day I landed in Tokyo!

Order the JR Pass online in advance of your trip.
The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) gives you  unlimited access almost all Shinkansen trains and it is cheaper to buy outside of Japan!

Things to see at Takayama Festival

1. Takayama Floats Parade

Japan Takayama Festival Floats

The Takayama Floats are a magnificent. Takayama Floats also known as Yatai are handcrafted floats decorated with intricate carvings of gilded wood, gorgeous metal-work, dolls, bamboo blinds and colorful curtains. There festival showcare about 12 yatai that date back to the 17th century! That’s about 300 years old! During the parade you can see the men in traditional Japanese clothings maneuvering the floats out of their storage into the narrow alleys of Takayama! You’ll see the parade marshals (keigo) wearing broad-shouldered kamishimo ceremonial kimonos and guiding the men. It’s a whole process!

Tip: The parade starts early before ~8AM just before the float exhibition which is at 9:00AM!

2. Goshinko Procession- Mikoshi Shrine

The Goshinko Procession is the transport of the Gods in a small portable shrine called Mikoshi, It happens twice during the festival, once each day without the floats. It’s a beautiful sight of the festival you’ll see a procession of priests, locals in traditional Japanese costumes and lion dances.

3. Display of Festival Floats

Japan Takayama Festival Floats exhibition

The floats parade reach it’s final destination at the yatai hikizoroe (gathering of yatai) in front of the shrine for an open exhibition where the 11-12 floats are staged. Here you can appreciate the details up close of the yatai.

4. Karakuri Marionette Performance

Japan Takayama Festival Marionette peformance

At the floats exhibition grounds you watch performances by mechanical puppets (karakuri ningyo) on top of the floats. The performace is held twice a day. These puppets are controlled by skilled puppeteers known as ayaka using silk cords!

Tip: The grounds get super crowded! Arrive at least 30 min before the show!

5. Traditional Music

Japan Takayama Festival-16

Throughout the festival you’ll be hearing ancient gagaku music played by groups on top and around the floats. Gagaku music is a type or Japanese imperial court music. Take a look up at the floats in the top you’ll see musicians playing the drums and flutes! I marbeled at how they get them up there and play music while the floats are parading!

FIND ALL YOUR HOTEL OPTIONS FOR TAKAYAMA

6. Festival Food Stalls and Morning Market

Japan Takayama Morning Market

Lets not forget about food! During the days of the festival along the streets you’ll see many food stalls selling all kinds of Japanese street foods!

7. Yoimatsuri Night Festival

Japan Takayama Festival-16
Japan Takayama Festival-16
Japan Takayama Festival-16

At night you can see the Yoimatsuri Night festival. It goes from 6:00-9:00PM. The floats become moving lanterns as each paraded back to storage decorated with ~100 lanterns all around. The lantern-li floats make the town look like a scene straight out of Spirited Away movie! You’ll also see the volunteers taking a rest while dinking and chattering!

8. Enjoy the Festival Lanterns and Street Decorations

Japan Takayama Festival lanterns

During the Yoimatsuri Night Festival the town steets gets adorned with lanterns. These lanterns are a symbol of good luck and happiness. So take a stroll around the city and recharge on good luck!

9. Shishimai Lion Dance

Japan dragon dance
Japanese Lion dance

The Shishimai Lion dance is a 400 year old dance tradition! It’s played by youth and it’s meant to cleanse the town fo demons. You’ll see the dancers rhythmically moving a wooden lion mask as they dance accompanied by flutes and drums music.

10. Take a lantern-lit Evening Stroll by the River

Japan Takayama Morning Market

Don’t forget to make your way back home through the river side walk! It’s a beautiful walk with willow trees!

Where and What to Eat in Takayama?

Takayama has amazing and unique regional foods along with speciality restaurants in the city center. You can also find amazing Izakaya’s bar at Dekonaru yokocho, a foodie alley in Takayama with small street stalls, to get Yakitori! Check out this two blog post with 15 things to eat at Takayama and what to do in Takayama.

Where to Stay in Takayama?

The best area to stay is near the Takayama station in Takayama Center. Takayama Center has easy access to all main attraction, shopping and dining areas within walkable distance. For booking in Japan I prefer Agoda.com

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There are too many cuisines to only cook one! I  hope this blog allows you to explore and taste the diversity of cuisines from around the world. Here you’ll find globally-inspired recipes and the travel stories that led to them.  

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