Nestled in the northern mountainous area in Gifu Prefecture, Hida Takayama is home to some world-class tourist attractions as well as beautiful nature. The impressive townscape created by traditional Japanese houses, the historical festivals and the abundance of nature attract numerous visitors. When you walk down the narrow streets of the old town of Takayama, you will immediately feel as if you were back in the Edo period. It also offers you great opportunities to try local specialties or get memorable souvenirs at friendly shops and stalls standing along the main street known as Sanmachi Street. Hida Takayama is also an ideal base to explore the Japanese Alps and other famous sightseeing spots located in the surrounding Hida area. Here is a complete guide to the Hida Takayama area to help you make the most of your time there!
1. Old Town Sanmachi Suji
Sanmachi Suji (known as “さんまち通り” in Japanese) refers to three narrow streets located in the central part of Hida Takayama, lined by traditional merchant houses, restaurants, shops & breweries. Takayama started to grow as a castle town back in the Edo period, and you can still enjoy a number of traditional Japanese buildings that have been preserved in an outstanding condition for centuries. The city of Takayama was not targeted by the World War II bombings and therefore many old buildings still exist. The Sanmachi Suji It is home to a range of shops and stalls, including souvenir shops selling traditional crafts, small galleries, restaurants and cozy cafes located in centuries old buildings.
Try local specialties such as Hida beef, or sample the local sake brands at an old sake brewery. Sarubobo (さるぼぼ)” refers to a traditional local crafted lucky charm, which is great souvenir from Takayama. Just strolling the narrow streets will be an unforgettable experience and give you a glimpse into life during the Edo period. This is where you should go if you want to discover the authentic beauty of Japan!
2. Miyagawa Morning Market
Miyagawa Morning Market is a famous local market that can be found within walking distance from the Sanmachi Suji area. This lively market started off as a small-sized place where locals would exchange products. In the 19th century it grew into the market as we know today. It is held every day all year round, from 7am till noon, along Miyagawa river that runs through the city. There are a number of small stalls selling a variety of products such as fresh vegetables, fruits, sweets, traditional handcrafts, clothing and much more! Explore the joyful market, interact with locals and buy some locally produced products!
3. Takayama Jinya
If you are interested in the Japanese history, head to Takayama Jinya – a former government office building dating back to the Edo period. Designated as a national historic site, the beautiful complex, which once functioned as an administrative headquarters of the Hida area, attracts many visitors. It is the only jinya still in existence in Japan and you can visit the building. You can walk around inside the rooms that have been maintained well for centuries. It allows you to get a glimpse of governmental operations and real lives of samurai back in the Edo period. A free English guide is conveniently available for international visitors to understand the history of the Hida area even better.
8.45am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥440 (adult)
4. Hida Kokubunji
Another historic spot you should not miss is Hida Kokubunji, located a short walk from JR Takayama station. The main hall of this Buddhist temple was established during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), making it one of Takayama’s oldest buildings. The temple itself was built in the Nara period (710-794). The temple features an iconic three-storied pagoda, that was originally a seven-storied pagoda. Another famous part of the temple are the ginkgo trees that change color from green to yellow in fall, creating a stunning scenery alongside the sacred temple complex.
9am – 4pm
5. Hida no Sato
About two kilometers south of Takayama, Hida no Sato or Hida Folk Village, offers an impressive scenery created by re-located historical structures. It boasts about 30 historic buildings, including iconic gassho-zukuri houses of Shirakawago that are known for their unique traditional Japanese architectural style. You can learn more about the Japanese old houses and also enter them. Hida no Sato shows a variety of exhibitions and demonstrations giving an insight into the daily life of the old days. It is a fun experience to watch and try some of the incredible craftsmanship of local artisans dedicated to traditional crafts passed down over centuries.
8.30am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥700 (adult)
From Takayama Station, it takes about an hour to get to Shirakawago by bus. Officially listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beautiful area attracts visitors from around the world. Shirakawago is nestled in the mountainous Gifu area and home to a number of gassho-zukuri houses that are known for their steep thatched roof. This unique architectural style protects the houses from the heavy snow during the winter season, as snow can easily slide off from the steep roof.
Walking around the village is like a fairytale. Discover the traditional Japanese lifestyle that has been well-preserved by the local community. Some of the gassho-zukuri buildings are open to the public with informative exhibitions, where you can learn more about the Japanese lifestyle and the history of the beautiful village. During the winter season, the entire village is covered with snow, which creates an amazing scenery.
7. Shinhotaka Ropeway
If you can spend a couple of days in the Hida Takayama area, it is worth considering visiting Shinhotaka Ropeway! It is about a 1.5-hour bus ride from Takayama station to reach the ropeway station from where you can take the cable car up to Nabedaira Kogen at 1,304m where you can enjoy an onsen, some hiking trails and also take the double decker gondola car to the Nishi-hodakaguchi Station which is situated at an elevation of 2,156m. From the top you have a beautiful panoramic view of the northern Japanese alps. The view is magical all year around with different colors created by seasonal changes. Winter is the best time to catch the incredible scenery created by snow capped peaks. There are also several hiking trails that start from the station.
A round trip to the stop station takes about 25 minutes and costs ¥3,000
8. Hirayu Great Falls
Selected among the best 100 waterfalls in Japan, Hirayu Great Falls is visited by many tourists as a must-visit spot all year round. The waterfall is 64m tall and 6m wide and in wintertime transforms from a classic columnar waterfall into an ice pillar. An annual festival is held from the mid-February for about 10 days, which attracts people with the naturally frozen waterfall beautifully illuminated at night! You can also relax at the nearby Hirayu Onsen, a peaceful hot spring resort with a number of traditional Japanese inns!
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The beautiful townscape and peaceful atmosphere in the Hida area will help you get away from the bustles and hustles in big cities. Spending a couple of days there enables you to explore the extensive area which includes popular spots around, while a day trip is still enjoyable if you want to visit only limited spots. It also could be a perfect option for not only international tourists, but those who reside in Japan but hardly get a chance to travel to countryside regions!
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