Takayama is a great place to visit on a day trip from either Tokyo or Kanazawa on the northern coast of Japan – if you want to add a rural dimension to your itinerary. By train you can reach this destination in the Hida region in a few hours from both Tokyo and Kanazawa. From Kanazawa you will take the Hakutaka Shinkansen to Toyama and from there continue with a train more suitable for the Japanese Alps. Takayama is often referred to as Hida Takayama to differentiate it from other ‘Takayamas’ in Japan.
UAN kanazawa enjoy this hotel with an excellent location near Omicho Market. The hotel features a terrace/patio where you can have a cup of green tea and each room is equipped with Yukata robes for the guests’ use. Breakfast is both Western and Japanese-style and at night there are free soba noodles in the bar.
THE HOTEL SANRAKU KANAZAWA located only 1 km from Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden – and near the Kanazawa seafood market – you will find this 5-star hotel with spacious air-conditioned rooms. Some rooms have balconies and others garden views. In the morning the hotel serves both an American and Japanese breakfast (including local dishes).
Takayama was in the feudal era under direct control of the shogun due to its plentiful timber resources. In fact, it is a region that has always been rich in natural resources such as gold, silver, and lead. In particular, the extensive timber industry led to Takayama becoming an important and thriving merchant town. Even today, you can get an insight into the town’s traditional crafts and the way of life of merchants in this part of Japan by visiting the old town and the shops in Takayama.
If you arrive in Takayama mid-morning, you will have enough time to experience the popular morning markets (which generally close around noon) that are among the largest in Japan. The two Takayama morning markets take place in front of Takayama Jinya (a historical government house that is open to visitors) and along the Miyagawa River between the two bridges Yayoi Bridge and Kaji Bridge. Notice the multitude of colourful carp swimming around in the river.
In the market stalls you will find everything from fresh farm produce and flowers to food specialities, snacks, spices, and local crafts. One of the special souvenirs from Takayama is a traditional faceless sarubobo doll which exists in all sizes around the markets and in the souvenir shops.
There is quite a village-like atmosphere along the picturesque river and the riverbanks are full of visitors and locals alike. It is a great place for people watching!
Sanmachi-Suji is the historic district of Takayama and consists of three quaint streets: San-no-machi, Ni-no-machi, and Ichi-no-machi. The old township dates back to the Edo era (1603-1868) when the Tokugawa family ruled Japan and this group of streets is considered one of the best preserved old towns in Japan. Walking around you will understand why this preservation area is sometimes referred to as ‘Little Kyoto’.
During the feudal ages, timber production was one of the key industries in Takayama with woodworking and carpentry as important occupations.
The old townhouses with wooden fronts are former samurai or merchant houses established between the 17th and 19th century, and they are still in use as craft shops. The row of wooden structures even includes sake breweries, characterised by large cedar balls hanging over the entrance (sugidama)!
Other of the wooden structures today serve as confectionary shops and restaurants – where you should not miss tasting the regional Hida beef and other local delicacies. Hida beef is the high-quality beef from Japanese black cattle that are bred in the Hida region. It is top quality beef – try it for lunch!
Also, the Fuji Folk Museum is housed in one of the buildings in Sanmachi-Suji. If you have a second day in Takayama, you should consider visiting one of the town museums. Around Sanmachi-Suji you will find the Hida Takayama Town Museum, the Kusakabe Heritage Traditional House (handicraft museum), and the Yoshijima Traditional House.
A lovely thing to do is to hike up the hillside east of the city. The Higashiyama Walking Course is great to visit some of 16th-century temples that were built into the hillside. You will pass interesting places with scenic views of the temples and the town of Takayama below.
The hike is also a good opportunity to see the more local and non-tourist side of the mountain town, including local agriculture and gardens.
The entire hike past the temple grounds and castle ruins is around 4 kilometres and it can easily be extended with a visit to the woodworkers’ cemetery with mossy gravestones in the forest.
Continuing into the forest, notice the sign warning against bears: ‘Beware of the bears’!
After the hike you may have time to discover more of Takayama, maybe visit the historical Takayama Jinya (government house) next to the town morning market. It is the only magistrate’s office (out of the 60 existing in the Shogunate’s heyday) whose main building still remains. The government house includes a rice granary storing the ‘rice tax’ paid by the rice peasants. The office was used for around 300 years for the rule of the Hida Province. Moreover, it also served as an administrative office in the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912).
If you haven’t changed your mind and decide to stay for another day, you will take the train back to Kanazawa or Tokyo (if that is where you are staying) in the late afternoon or evening.
If you have more than one day in Takayama, there are other interesting places to visit such as the Takayama Castle Ruins in Shiroyama Park or one of the heritage museums around Sanmachi-Suji.
A bit out of town you will find the Hida Folk Village which is an open-air museum providing an insight into the way rural life was hundreds of years ago. It consists of old farmhouses built in the traditional architectural style that was typical in mountainous regions.
Takayama also features one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan (top ranked like Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri or Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri). It is held in mid-April and mid-October. At the Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan (next to the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine) you can view some of the beautifully decorated historic floats (yatai) that are still used for the festival.
Taking the bus from Takayama to Shirakawa-go is another popular day trip. It is a village of spectacular thatched farmhouses – unique in Japan.
Make the Most of a Day Trip to Hida Takayama, Japan
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A Day Trip to Hida Takayama, Japan:
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