If you’re not Japanese and are over 165cm (5’5”) tall, you’ll look really out of place in Takayama. This vibrant town is so traditional it looks like a film set, with shrines that are hundreds of years old and hillside morning marketsand sake breweries running over with the finest local booze and fare!
Takayama has more than a dozen museums and galleries in its small perimeter. To quickly get up to speed with 500 years of history, start at the Takayama Museum of Local History. For something more modern, take a guided tour around the Sūkyō Mahikari Main World Shrine– this new religion teaches healing through amulets that transmit divine light rays. And you can’t get much more organic than the Japanese Alps, which stick out more than a Western tourist drinking hot sake in the corner of an old inn.
Takayama's Top 10
10. Shishi Kaikan A huge display of over 800 lion masks and musical instruments.
5. Hida Kokubun-ji Temple Takayama’s oldest temple was destroyed by fire, but this still dates back to the 16th century.
9. Yoshijima-ke This design buff’s haven is Japanese minimalism at its most, well, minimal.
4. Takayama-jinya The only remaining office building of the Tokugawa shōgunate, originally built in the 1600s.
8. Kusakabe Mingeikan Displays extraordinary craftsmanship from the 1890s. You won’t find things like this at Target.
3. Takayama-jō Trek around the old part of town to see the enchanting ruins of this famous castle.
7. Shōren-ji Temple Wander around 10 temples before checking out the greenery at Shiroyama-kōen Park.
2. Takayama Yatai Kaikan They don’t dish out ramen, but these 23 rotating yatai are still mesmerising.
6. Shunkei lacquerware Exhibition Hall Houses over 1,000 boxes, trays and vases in the traditional style. Storage has never been so interesting.
1. Hida-no-Sato Museum A huge open-air museum where you can see dozens of traditional houses and get some great views of the alps.
- Takayama Yatai Kaikan – Contains a selection of 23 multitiered floats, some of which date back to the 17th century.
- Takayama-jinya – The last Tokugawa shogunate prefectural office building. It was built in 1615 and used as late as 1969.
- Hida Kokubun-ji Temple – The oldest temple in Takayama. It was built in the 8th century and renovated in the 16th century.
- Shoren-ji Temple – This temple was moved from its original home in 1960. There are a dozen temples and shrines in this one area.
- Kusakabe Mingeikan – This building was erected in the 1890s and showcases carpentry skills and folk art.
Takayama Art & Culture
- Sūkyō Mahikari Main World Shrine – This building is home to a new religion that teaches healing and sells amulets that supposedly transmit rays of light from the divine.
- Hida-no-Sato Museum – Several dozens of homes were transported from other places in the region and reassembled here.
- Takayama-jo – Hilly districts connected by a walking trail that provides a good view of the ruins of the castle as well as the Shoren-ji temple.
- Shunkei Lacquerware Exhibition Hall – A museum of sorts displaying Takayama city’s signature lacquer style. Some pieces are from the 17th century.
- Fujii Folkart Art Gallery – A private collection of folk craft and ceramics from China, Japan and Korea.
- Mori no Kotoba – A shop where you can purchase a variety of woodcarvings, puppets and furniture.
- Miya-gawa Market – You can purchase fresh vegetables, crafts, coffee and souvenirs in this Takayama market.
- Jinya-mae Market – Another daily morning market where you can buy a variety of goods including pickles, crafts and art.
- Sanmachi Suji – A small neighbourhood filled with breweries, miso shops and museums.
- Shunsodo – A great place to get pottery and glassware.
Gay & Lesbian Takayama
- Shu – A gay bar for men that welcomes people from all walks of life.
- Metro – Located in Nagoya, this is a gay club that hosts a GLBT event every second Saturday of the month.
- Kiraku-Kaikan – A bathhouse located in nearby Matsuyama that is gay friendly. Offers sauna and other spa services.
- Explosion – A large dance club in Osaka that is popular with local gays and lesbians.
- Lupu – Lesbian-owned Takayama bar that welcomes both gays and lesbians.
- Hida Satoyama Cycling – Take a bicycle tour of the city.
- Shinhotaka Ropeway – A great way to get an aerial view of Takayama.
- Hirayuotaki Fall – A beautiful waterfall. There are also restaurants around so you can enjoy the view while you eat.
- Higashiyama Walking Course – A 3.5km walking tour of the city. See the temples and shrines up close and at your own pace.
- Okuhida Bear Park – A theme park where you can watch Asian black bears perform, feed them and observe them interacting with people.
- Go skiing or snowboarding at the Ciao Ontake Snow Resort.
- Go surfing at Uchinada Beach.
- Play golf at the local area golf courses such as the Takayama Golf Club.
- Rent scuba gear and go scuba diving off Miyako Island.
- View a sporting event at the Nakayama Sports area.
Genjitsu (New Year’s Day) is a huge celebration for the Japanese. It’s customary to visit Buddhist and Shinto shrines to pray for good luck.
Got some dried beans lying around? The Setsubun Festival marks the beginning of spring (around February) by scattering beans to banish evil spirits.
Buddha’s birthday, aka Hana Matsuri, sees celebrations held at various temples throughout Takayama in April.
In the Hida region, the Tanabata Festival is held in August. Celebrate the beginning of summer by gorging traditional fare at one of the many markets.
Marionettes dance atop elaborate floats when October brings the Autumn Takayama Festival, perhaps the most beautiful in Japan.
When To Go
- January and February are great months to visit. The crowds will be at a minimum, but the weather is sunny and generally dry.
- The most popular time for tourists is March to May, when the trees blossom and the city is at its most photo-friendly.
- June to July is both summer and the rainy season. Actually, the odd downpour can be a relief when it’s particularly hot and humid.
- Takayama is small enough to walk around, and you’ll discover a lot more if you travel this way.
- Another great option is to hire a bike.They’re pretty cheap at ¥600 per day, and most streets are cycle-friendly.
- The only time you’ll really need a busis to get to Hida-no-Sato. These buses leave every half hour and cost around ¥200.