Takayama Sightseeing & Attractions
Our top picks of things to see and do
With the last several hundred years of culture and buildings perfectly preserved you can imagine the abundance of good ol’ traditional Japan experiences that would abound in Takayama, whether its at ‘old town’ in the center of the city or Shirakawa village out in the boonies.
Old Town is in the center of Takayama city, and is a time portal 400 years back into the Edo Period of Japan (Edo Jidai). There are only a few districts in Japan left that still perfectly preserve the Edo Period and this is one of them.
You’ll find private homes turned museums, sake breweries, old shops, inns, restaurants and more.
The district is directly East of the JR Takayama station, on the East side of the Miyagawa River.
Hida Folk Village
Only a 30 minute walk or 10 minutes by bus you’ll find the amazing open air museum that is the Hida Folk Village. It consists of over twenty farm houses and buildings which are unmistakable by their very steep and high roofs. It is the only area in Japan where you can find such buildings (save for Shirakawa-go where these buildings originated from). The exhibits are a must see.
This former government complex turned museum is a rarity of its kind. Going back over four hundred years it remains as it was in 1816 when it was renovated. It became open to the public in 1969 as a museum and features admin offices, kitchens, bathrooms, living spaces and even a court house.
More than the Hida Folk outdoor Museum, Shirakawa is the real deal, a living and breathing network of ancient towns located twenty five miles North West of Takayama. The region is accessible by bus or car only. There are no JR trains running through this town, baby!
The landscape is dotted with the regions signature Gassho-zukuri homes: farm houses with extremely steeped roofs (in order to curtail the heavy snow fall), reminiscent of the Chalets of the Swiss. Grass and straw are used to make the roof thatching and are over 20 inches thick.
The region of Shirakawa go features many villages including the main attraction: Ogimachi. Additionally you can visit the Gokayama region for smaller and less tourist swamped villages such as: Suganuma and Ainokura.
If you’ve come this far you might as well splurge and go for the gold by spending the night in an actual Gassho-zukuri home. Prices aren’t too dear, coming in around $100 USD per guest. The fee includes dinner and breakfast, so you’ll also be able to score some real local fare as part of the experience.
The pride of Takayama, their bianual festival is considered #3 in the top festivals in Japan. There is a Spring Festival which is during April 14-15, and an Autumn Festival during October 9-10.
The festivals are a very gay affair with floats, performances, processions and more. Japanese come from all over the country to attend.
For a lively, non-touristy traditional shopping experience, at about 350 meters from Kaji-bashi Bridge, along the Miyagawa river in the center of the town you’ll find the Miyagawa Market! One of two morning markets in Takayama, the Miyagawa specializes in fresh fruit & veggies, as well as Japanese crafts.
Make sure you come between 6am and 11am, for the market closes by noon.
In addition to the Miyagawa Market you can check out the Jinya-mae market. Which is right in front of the Takayama Jinya, Takayama’s most popular building! In case you’re wondering ‘mae’ means ‘in front of’.
So while you’re visiting the Jinya and if it is before noon take a walk on over to the market and check out what the farmers have brought in. You’ll find a wide variety of picked veggies (tsukemono), high altitude veggies, (Koureichi Yasai) and other delights!
Hida Takayama Shopping Area
Located just east of the JR Takayama station by the Miyagawa Rriver you’ll find the city center and heart of shopping for the area. Souvenirs, traditional Japanese crafts, clothing, snacks and restaurants abound in this ‘old world-feeling’ part of town.