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Takayama is a Castle Town up in the Mountains in the Hida region a few hours by train from Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Nagoya. After spending 1.5 weeks in Japan in the very touristy and popular places to visit in Japan, before going to Tokyo I really wanted to visit somewhere in Japan that was not on everyone’s usual Japan Itinerary.
I came across Takayama when reading a blog post, looked into it, liked what I saw, went and really loved it.
So I hope in this post, not only do I help you with what to do in Takayama when you visit, but if you have not yet fully decided on whether to visit Takayama in Japan or not, I hope I will convince you that you should visit Hida Takayama as I had such an enjoyable 2 days in Takayama in this Mountain Town and I think you will too!
To SEE my trip to Takayama, have a watch of my YouTube video here:
Takayama Town is small which is what I liked most, no public transport is needed to get around the town centre as everything is very walkable and easy to see in just one day in Takayama.
Sanmachi Street is where you’ll probably head first. This is the Takayama Old Town and definitely the most popular place to visit in Takayama thanks to the street being lined with Traditional Wooden Buildings that have been very well-preserved.
The best time to visit Sanmachi Street is in the morning when it is quieter, in the morning you can really take in the beauty of the buildings. With that being said, many of the shops and cafes are closed early in the morning not seeming to open until about 10:00 am and seeing these open, tasting the food they have to offer (more on that below) and seeing the buzz of Sanmachi Street, later on, is also very good. If you want to do some shopping in Takayama for local and traditional Japanese products, this is where to go.
It’s very touristy so be warned, but we are tourists, aren’t we!
The Morning Markets in Takayama are very popular Takayama Attractions. There are 2 main markets – Jinya-Mae Morning Market which is a smaller market in front of the Takayama Jinya building (which you can pay to go inside) and Miyagawa Morning Market in Takayama which runs alongside the Miyagawa River and is bigger.
Both markets in Takayama are open every day from 8:00-12:00 from November to March and 7:00-12:00 April to October so there’s no need to get up that early. The sellers are Farmers selling their local produce whether that’s food or fabrics and local items.
If you are looking for some Japanese food to take home with you from your trip this is a good place to buy it as many of the foods are all packaged up and will last awhile.
There were also some stalls set up around Sanmachi Street when I visited too.
The centre of Takayama is home to quite a few museums which all cost to go in from what I saw. I didn’t go in any of them but museums/attractions you can visit in Takayama are:
Museum Hopping would be a good thing to do in Takayama on a rainy day or cold day as the weather in Takayama does get very cold with snow in the Winter and it does seem to get a bit of rain too throughout the year.
Have you got your JR Pass yet? Do you still need to get it? Remember you need it BEFORE you get to Japan. Get it from Japan Rail Pass who offer free & quick delivery!
If you want to get into nature within a 5-minute walk from the busy street of Sanmachi head into Shiroyama Park.
This was perhaps my favourite part of the City. There are many Temples in the park and many footpaths to take, I suggest making the Takayama Castle Ruins on the top of the hill your aim point so you finish on top of the hill. I didn’t see many ruins at the top, to be honest, but what I did see was an incredible view of the snowcapped mountains in the distance also known as the Japanese Alps.
It was also so quiet up here in the park even on a busy Saturday in town so I really recommend this as a place to walk and hike in Takayama.
Higashiyama Temple Walk
Another walk in Takayama is the Higashiyama Temple Walk and this is a lovely little walk and has to be part of your Takayama Sightseeing. I did the walk after going up Shiroyama Park which worked well as it’s at the base of the hill.
The walk is essentially a footpath between 12 Buddhist Temples and Shrines. It doesn’t take much time as they are very close together but it felt so special up here as it’s away from the town in a residential area of Takayama and at the base of the Forest.
Soyuji Temple is at one end and Eikyoin Temple is at the other so start at one end and walk to the other end. The two main Shrines- Higashiyama Hakusan Jinja Shrine and Higashiyama Shinmei Jinja Shrine are up footpaths into the Forest and it’s beautiful once you get to them as you’re surrounded by forest.
The path is signposted so you can’t go wrong and the Temples have signs around them explaining what they were once used for, there are graveyards sounding the Temples too which I found very interesting. This area holds a lot of History about Takayama and I’ve found many of the Temples in Japan cost to visit so if you want a free thing to do in Takayama where you can learn more and not pay, this is a good thing to do in Takayama Japan.
Kitayama Walking Course
Another good walk and mild hike in Takayama is the Kitayama Walking Course. I saw this shown in the Takayama tourist walking map which I got from my hostel but you can pick up in the information centres too. It’s a pink coloured map with lots of detail on it.
The walk essentially just takes you to the top of Kitayama Park and the Ayuzaki Castle Ruins via the Takayama Betsuin Temple Treasure House and the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
The view from Kitayama Park is really good, it shows you the main Old Town of Takayama and the other side of the Town which isn’t the tourist side. You can also see the snow-capped mountains from here on a clear day too.
If you want to know where the best place to watch the sunset is in Takayama, it’s up here! Nearly at the top of the Park is a cafe called Ichii Cafe which has a view over the Town and Mountains and the sunsets straight into these mountains. There’s a view from the Cafe so you could have dinner or a drink up there or you could watch it from the Park for free.
The street food of Takayama is mainly along Sanmachi Street and there are quite a few things on offer from Ice Cream, Mochi, Dango, Rice Crackers, Buns, Sushi, Sushi with Hida Beef (Hida Beef is one of the famous types of Beef in Japan along with the likes of Kobe Beef).
The prices are inflated for street food here which is to be expected but to be honest I found all of the restaurants in Takayama to be pretty pricey, generally over 1000Yen for a meal so the Street Foods are a cheaper way to eat in Takayama.
If you do want to go for a good meal in Takayama, Sanmachi Street is a great place to eat in Takayama as not only does it have Street Food it also has some nice Cafes and Restaurants too.
On the note of food and drink, Takayama has some great cafes too serving lots of Coffee and Cake as well as Breakfast and Lunch.
Good Cafes that were recommended by my Hostel – J Hoppers Hostel are:
I found Steamers Cafe in Takayama to be a great place to work from on my laptop as it has good high benches with power sockets, good coffee and good wifi, plus it’s right by Takayama train station.
For a Cafe with a view try to find one along the River.
If you arrive in Takayama and it’s cold or wet, spending some time in cafes is still one of the good things to do in Takayama in Winter.
What to see in Takayama does not end in the Town though as there are so many things to do near Takayama and great Day Trips from Takayama which will enhance your trip there even more.
Hida Folk Village
The Hida Folk Village is the closest place to visit near Takayama Town and it is very easy to get to.
It’s an open-air museum which opened in 1971 to preserve the buildings, tradition and way of life of the Hida People. Its comprised of many different types of buildings which have been relocated from around the Hida Region and it’s possible to go inside them and read about what they were used for, who used to live in them and why they are built how they are.
I thought this might seem a bit gimmicky but it really wasn’t and it’s a really nice space up in the forest in nature overlooking the Town and should be on your list of Takayama things to do.
How to get to Hida Folk Village from Takayama: Go to the Nohi Bus Station which is next to Takayama Train Station. Use the ticket machines to buy a ticket, go to the stand 1, board the bus and give the driver the ticket when you get off. The bus takes about 10 minutes.
The best ticket to purchase for Hida Folk Village is the combined bus and entrance ticket which costs 1000Yen as the bus is 210Yen each way otherwise and the entrance was 700Yen.
Alternatively, it is possible to walk from Takayama to Hida Folk Museum in about 40 minutes.
Shirakawago is quite a bit further away from Takayama Town, it’s a good alternative place to visit to the Hilda Folk Museum as instead of being a museum village, it’s an area of real villages with people still living in the traditional houses there, it sounds good and is rated highly as a great place to visit from Takayama but I decided not to go because of the higher price point.
How to get to Shirakawago from Takayama: A Shirakawago Tour is offered from Takayama which seems the best way to get to Shirakawago from Takayama. There is a Shirakawago Tour you can book with Nohi Bus Service which also goes via Gokayama, a round trip to and from Takayama with lunch is 6780Yen.
J Hoppers Hostel also offers the same trip, however, they offer it in the morning and afternoon whereas the Nohi Sightseeing Bus Tour only seems to offer it leaving in the morning. J Hoppers Shirakawago Tour is offered at 200Yen less that the Nohi Bus Service tour and if you stay at their hostel (which is a good hostel and I recommend it) you get 500Yen off so it is the cheapest Shirakawago Tour. Read more about the J Hoppers Tour here.
Utsue 48 Waterfalls and Yuyukan Onsen
A great hike near Takayama is the Utsue 48 waterfalls, it will take you about an hour to walk uphill past all of these waterfalls before reaching the Onsen at Yuyukan which is a traditional Japanese Onsen totally in nature and probably what you imagine an Onsen to be really like!
How to get to Utsue 48 Waterfalls and Yuyukan Onsen from Takayama: Take the bus from Takayama to Kokufu. There is then a bus from Kokufu to Yuyukan and from Yuyukan back to Kokufu to Takayama.
Note that Yuyukan Onsen is closed on Sundays and there are less frequent buses on the weekends and public holidays.
This ropeway is extremely unique, the ropeway climbs the 3rd highest mountain in Japan – Mount Hotaka and is Japan’s only double-decker cable car (which I’ve never heard or seen anywhere else!).
How to get to Shinhotaka Ropeway from Takayama: Nohi Bus Service offers a loop route from Takayama with the last stop being the Shinhotaka Ropeway and you can stop at many other places on the way like Caves, Waterfalls & Parks. Read more about this on their website here.
Natural Hot Springs are popular in this area of Japan and Hirayu Onsen is a popular Onsen Town near Takayama with 2 public baths in town.
How to get to Hirayu Onsen from Takayama: The Nohi Bus that goes to Shinhotaka Ropeway also goes via Hirayu Onsen making this a great day trip from Takayama as you can visit the Mountains and go in an Onsen too!
In essence, as well as Takayama having a mainline train station, Takayama is very well connected to many places nearby by Bus and the Nohi Bus in particular and this is the best way to see the local area. They have a leaflet with all of their destinations and timings in, it’s very organised so you can easily get around the Hida Region and do many day trips from Takayama.
Takayama accommodation is plentiful and there are many options for all budgets. In terms of where to stay in Takayama, the town centre is the best area to stay in and being fairly close to the train station is a convenient location.
Hostels In Takayama
I stayed in J Hoppers Hostel which I enjoyed, the staff were friendly, the location is good and they have a kitchen.
Relax Hostel is very close to Takayama Station with good reviews on Booking.com (which is what I always go by).
Takayama Olan Hotel is a popular Takayama Hotel as it has a rooftop open-air, natural hot spring bath overlooking the City. It offers Double and Twin Rooms in traditional Japanese designs.
Wat Hotel & Spa Hida Takayama is another great place to stay in Takayama if you want to incorporate a spa break and a bit of relaxing time into your Takayama stay.
Ryokans in Takayama
A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese style inn and there are many Ryokans to stay in Takayama Town.
I hope that helps you plan your trip to Takayama and know what things are available in Takayama in both the Summer and Winter months.
To SEE my trip to Takayama, have a watch of my Youtube video here.
For more of my Japan posts see:
This post contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you.
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.