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Takayama Old Town: 10 best things to do

10 best things to do in Takayama Travel Guide

Takayama, located in the Gifu prefecture, is known for its well-preserved historic town, traditional festival, famous sake breweries, temple walks with natural surroundings, and unique Japanese Hida food. It’s a town that takes you back in time to old Japan days it was a thriving merchant town.

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Where to stay? >>

Transportation >>

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Things to do >>

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Takayama is the place to go for anyone looking for an authentic Japanese experience and to be able to freely roam around town and temples in Japan. The town is full of hidden gems and surprises! I can guarantee that you’ll leave feeling inspired and enriched.

How to get to Takayama?

SHINSANKEN to TAKAYAMA

Tip: The train ride itself is an experience! Get yourself a meal in the station before boarding the Shinsanken bullet train.

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 do in Takayama, Gifu

1. Experience the Splendid Takayama Festival!

Japan Takayama Festival

The beautiful Tayakama Festival, is ranked as one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan alongside Kyoto Festival in Gion! Truly one of the most beautiful travel experiences I’ve seen! The Takayama Matsuri is held twice a year in fall and spring to pray for a good harvest and to celebrate the Takayama’s history, craftsmanship, and people. At night the Tayakama Floats Festival turns the city into an enchanting town with lanterns that light up the roads alongside traditional dances and music. The main attractions are

  • Display of Festival Floats
  • Floats Parade
  • Goshinko Procession- Mikoshi Shrine
  • Yoimatsuri Night Festival
  • Shishimai Lion Dance
  • Morning Market- Food Market
  • Traditional Music
  • Street lanterns and intrinsic city-wide decorations

2. Go back in Time at Sanmachi Historic District

Japan Takayama, Gifu

Takayama’s Sanmachi Historic District, also known as Sanmachi Suji, is THE MUST-VISIT attraction in Takayama! Famous for it’s Edo period traditional buildings, it is a walkable Japanese preserved area. Also know as Takayama’s old town, has three streets in the center of Hida Takayama with Sanmachi-dori being the main one, it features beautifully preserved houses and sake breweries. In this district, you can actually go in and explore old merchant houses, art galleries, craftsmen stores and delicacy shops. It’s a delightful place for a leisurely stroll.

3. Enjoy World Class Sake at the Sake Breweries

Japan Takayama Sake breweries
Japan Takayama Sake breweries

No visit to Takayama would be complete without a visit to the local sake breweries in  Sanmachi Historical preserved area!  Takayama is home to some of the best sake in Japan, and the old town is dotted with historic sake breweries that offer tastings and tours. There are 7 of them and plenty of sake to taste! You can identify the brewries by the big balls of cedar branches called sugidama, that hang over the entranceas t! You can walk in for free and sample the sakes! I highly recommend taking some time to explore these breweries and to sample the local sake and appreciate the beautifully preserved houses of the area.

4. Visit Temples Along the Higashiyama Walking Trail

Higashiyama Walking Course in Takayama
Higashiyama Walking Course in Takayama
Higashiyama Walking Course in Takayama
Higashiyama Walking Course in Takayama
Higashiyama Walking Course in Takayama

Take a leisurely walk along the Higashiyama Walking Trail. You’ll get to soak in the stunning scenery of temples, castles, stunning moss-covered trails. It’s a peaceful way to spend the day. This trail offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Takayama. The sights and sounds along the way are truly breathtaking. Here is a Higashiyama Walking course map

5. Experience local life at the Takayama Morning Market

Japan Takayama Morning Market

Everyday in the morning Takayama Morning Markets opens from 6:00-noon. There are in two different locations. The Miyagawa River market is located in front of the river! It’s a great spot to get breakfast and see the local produce, dried fish, taste varieties of pickled vegetables, flowers and crafts!

BONUS: Feed Giant Koi Fish by the River

Japan Takayama Morning Market

FIND ALL YOUR HOTEL OPTIONS FOR TAKAYAMA

6. Try Hida Beef and Steamed Hida Beef Buns (Gyuman)

Takayama Hida Beef Buns
Takayama Hida Beef Buns

I highly recommend starting your day off with a steamed beef bun. The beef-filled buns are a specialty of Takayama made using Hida beef, a beautifully marbled beef made in Gifu Japan from black haired cattle. It’s deliciously juicy and super famous in the region, a must-try when visiting Takayama’s old town. You can find them at Hida Gyuman Honpo (飛騨牛まん本舗) and Hida Beef Bun Kihachiro.

7. Learn about Takayama’s Artisanship & Sarubobo Dolls

Japan Takayama dolls

After enjoying  breakfast,  on your way to the Higashiyama Walking Trail you’ll see gift shops selling Sarubobo dolls . These dolls, a symbol of Takayama, are handmade and are said to bring happiness and good luck to those who own them. You’ll find these dolls in different colors, each representing a different wish, such as red marriage and pink for romance.  I should have gotten a red one when I visited!!! 🙁

8. Take a Day trip to World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go

Japan Shirakawago

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Shirakawa-go village is a It’s an enchanting snapshot of the past, with fairy-tale-like farmhouses in Gassho-style with steep thatched roofs built against the region’s heavy snowfall. It’s specially beautiful in winter!

9. Try Unique Chestnut Sweets at Handmade Confectionary Store

Japan Takayama sweets
Japan Takayama sweets

After all that walking, you’re probably ready for a snack break. Head over to one of the local shops and try out hand made black sesame or chestnut baked crackers from the confectionary store These tasty treats are the perfect pick-me-up to keep you going.

前畑点心堂
Japan, 〒506-0845 Gifu, Takayama, 上二之町16

10. Go Izakaya Bar Hopping at Dekonaru Yokocho

Dekonaru Yokocho, Takayama Japan
Dekonaru Yokocho, Takayama Japan

Dekonaru yokocho is a foodie alley in Takayama with small street stalls, restaurants and bars where you can choose dishes from various shops. These stalls sells sushi, tempura, barbecued chicken, ramen.

It’s the spot to find an izakaya restaurant and order some yakitori. Yakitori is a type of Japanese cuisine that involves grilling skewers of all kinds over charcoal, making them crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Don’t miss out on their delicious skewers and the must-try eggplant with miso and cheese. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you. If you are solo traveler like me, it’s the perfect place to meet people. Don’t be shy and sit at the bar! I ended up talking a stranger traveling through Japan on a yoga retreat!  It’s a perfect way to end the day and if you go in the evening you’ll see locals coming out of work to enjoy dinner!

Tip: When you get sake, they’ll over pour! It’s an act of kindness and generosity by the host to show their appreciation. 

Wada izakaya 和田 Was my favorite spot here!
23 Asahimachi, Takayama, Gifu 506-0017, Japan

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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