Places to go in Japan: Takayama (Just My Travel Notes)

You know when you read that “getting there is half the fun” well to Takayama that is true. The scenery and life you get to see out of the train window is amazing.

My next destination in Japan after Kanazawa was Takayama. As I was researching this trip Takayama kept coming up as a place worth checking out – and boy was that correct. You will have to accept lots of pictures in this one because I got a little bit click happy and took so many pictures.

See what I mean – glorious views as you move through the mountains towards Takayama

To get from Kanazawa to Takayama you need to take the Shinkansen to Toyama station and then transfer to the Wide-View Hida Express train. The whole journey takes only about two hours. You could technically take it as a day trip but Takayama is such a glorious place I would allow yourself some time to stay.

The Miyagawa river that cuts through Takayama has many bridges that all offer amazing views to explore.

Our schedule only allowed us one night in Takayama, that was an absolute shame in hindsight I wish we allowed ourselves at least two to three nights to explore the region.

Many of the buildings in the old town date back to the Edo Period and have been preserved since the 1600s

Takayama is located in the mountainous Hida region. The city has an incredible traditional touch and feeling to it, especially in the old town with beautifully preserved buildings.

I couldn’t help but be captivated by the amazing timber work in the buildings throughout the town.

The area was well known for its high quality timbers and carpenters and that is evident in the design and exquisite construction of the buildings in the old town.

As you walk the streets even the “newer” parts of town look amazing

If you happy to be in the city around Autumn and Spring you can witness the Takayama Festival. The festivals are famous for their festival floats (yatai).

FOUND IT! Not terribly “historic” but I couldn’t help myself with this one – Australian fans of a certain Hunters & Collectors song will get why I found this funny….or perhaps fans of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Located only a short walk from the train station is the Takayama Old Town. Many of the buildings within the old town date from the Edo Period (1600-1868) and there are some whole streets that have been preserved from that period.

There are also a great deal of sake breweries throughout the town so if you are keen to taste some of the flavours of this town give them a go.

You could easily spend a day just wandering the old streets and exploring the shops, coffee houses and sake breweries.

You can see why I got a little bit click happy with the camera here. So many amazing sights to check out and so many potential photo opportunities.

As you wander be sure to try some of the Hida Beef Aburi/Nigiri. For a small amount (I think about Y400) you can sample beautifully tender strips of the famous Hida Beef. I may have indulged in a couple (…a lot).

“one” of my Hida Beef Sushi experiences in town. So tender, they basically take a piece of raw Hida Beef and just ‘kiss’ it gently with a flame to just lightly warm it up.

If you are feeling like you haven’t had the chance to explore enough Temples thus far in Japan you are in luck, in Takayama you can take a walk along the Higashiyama Walking Course. Along the walk, which is about 3.5km long, you will pass over a dozen temples and shrines as well as the ruins of the Takayama castle.

The Great Ginko of Hida Kokubun-ji. This tree is about 1,200 years old, stands 28m tall and 10m in circumference. It was believed that snow would fall when the leaves of the ginko fell.

Away from the old town and a short walk from the station is the Hida Kokubunji Temple. The temple is home to a large Ginko Tree said to be over 1,200 years old. The original temple was itself constructed in 746 by Emperor Shomu. The buildings however have been burnt down and rebuilt many times over the history of the site. The three story pagoda dates from around 1821.

A different view of the Kokubun-ji Bell Tower Gate – originally constructed during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603). The temple bell was cast in 1514.

Each morning in Takayama you can check out the morning markets from about 7am to midday. They are held along the Miyagawa River in the old town and also in front of the Takayama Jinya. These markets tend to sell local crafts, snacks and farm products.

The Hida Takayama Miyagawa Morning Markets are well worth checking out. Also you will notice a small “mascot” in this sign. This is the Sarubobo mascot, meaning Monkey Baby. It is the Hida Region Mascot. You will find many stalls selling versions of this mascot, it is said to bless marriages and ensure smooth birth delivery…so there you go.

Hotel: We stayed at the Takayama Ouan Ryokan in a Standard Double Room. The hotel features traditional tatami flooring throughout. Which means that as you enter the hotel you check in your footwear into lockers in the lobby and either walk barefoot or in provided slippers.

The tatami flooring and traditional low bed in the Takayama Ouan Ryokan. Small room but big enough for our stay (who really wants to waste their time in the hotel room in Japan!).

The rooftop of the hotel features an amazing open-air natural hot spring bath complex that has to be seen to be believed. The hot spring alone was enough to make me want to stay here much longer.

Yet another amazing bridge across the river in Takayama. Really can’t help but want to take photos in this town.

We chose this hotel as it was only about a 5 minute walk from the train station and again only about 5-10 minute walk from the old town so quite convenient for us to explore.

Bad travel writer alert: I can’t for the life of me remember where I took this photo – if you know let me know and I will credit you with the caption! There are so many temples and shrines in Takayama you can be forgiven for forgetting a few.

At the entrance to the hotel is a small hot spring foot bath that was a great place to sit and relax your feet for a quick soak after a long day of walking.

Make sure you allow yourself some time to explore this region. There are so many places to check out, as well as a couple of great spots a short bus trip away that are definitely worth a visit.

As I mentioned – we only had a short time in Takayama due to our schedule. I would have loved to spend a couple of nights here. We didn’t get to checkout the nearby city of Shirakawa-Go which is famous for it’s A-Frame rural houses. Likewise there are so many other temples and areas to explore in this region.

Thanks for following along today – hope you didn’t mind all the photos – I just loved taking photographs in Takayama. Have you been to Takayama? Let me know in the comments below what you thought. Otherwise feel free to let me know what you thought of today’s post anyway.

As always a big thank you to those of you who follow along my blog and leave comments. I have mentioned before I am just keeping this here are a place to share my travel notes with friends and anyone else who might be interested. If you enjoy my blog please hit that follow button and join in the discussions.

Thanks again and see you tomorrow.