Are you planning a visit to Takayama for a couple of days and are wondering what to do in Takayama? This complete Takayama travel guide doesn’t only cover the things to do in Takayama but also the best restaurants in Takayama and the best hotels in Takayama (Japan) for every budget.
I have visited Takayama twice before and I love this beautiful town very much. There is always more to explore in Takayama and while it is possible to do a Takayama day trip from Nagoya I highly recommend to spend a couple of days here to really get a feeling for the place and to relax into a much slower rhythm completely.
Where is Takayama
Takayama, also called Hida Takayama (Gifu Prefecture) is a small village in the Japanese Alps on Japan’s largest island Honshu. It is 300 kilometers (190 miles) from Tokyo by car. The closest big city is Nagoya to the south from which you can reach Takayama conveniently either by car, bus or train.
Other destinations of interest close by are the UNESCO world heritage site Shirakawago as well as the Onsen town Gero Onsen. Both are excellent places for a day trip from Takayama (you will find more details further down this post).
Best Time to Visit Takayama
Japan has beautiful seasons and so it is very difficult to decide on the best time to visit Takayama. I have visited Takayama twice in summer and it was beautiful. But the other seasons all have something special as well.
Takayama in Winter
Takayama like Shirakawago turns into a winter wonderland in the coldest months of the year. The whole town is covered with a thick blanket of snow and it all looks very romantic. It is a great time to visit Takayama, especially if you combine it with a trip to Shirakawago which is nearby.
Takayama in Spring
The Takayama Spring Festival (Takayama Matsuri) is held each year in spring. It draws huge crowds and is one of the top reasons to visit Takayama. The festival usually coincides with the blooming of the cherry trees another highlight of Takayama.
Takayama in Summer
It gets hot in Takayama in the summer months but since it lies in the mountains it is considerably cooler than in the coastal cities such as Nagoya or Tokyo. Everything is lush and green in the summer months and it is the perfect time to enjoy some summer treats while exploring Takayama.
Takayama in Autumn
Takayama is also beautiful in autumn, especially when the surrounding Hida Mountain range turns its colors to reds and yellows. It is the perfect time for some beautiful hikes in the mountains.
Autumn is also the time for the second Takayama Matsuri, the Takayama Autumn Festival which is equally popular to the spring festival and worth a visit.
Things to Do in Takayama
Let’s talk about what you came here for, a list of the most interesting things to do in Takayama. There is plenty to do to fill a day or two in Takayama, and if you want to take it slow, better make it two days.
Visit Old Town Takayama
The central area of Takayama known as the Sanmachi Suji District, or simply Takayama Old Town is probably the main attraction of Takayama. The district consists of three streets lined with the beautiful wooden houses typical for this part of Japan and unchanged since the turn of the last century.
The streets are lined with souvenir and other kinds of shops, restaurants, Sake breweries and cafes and it is hard not to stop at every single place to explore the interesting crafts, foods, and drinks sold here.
Yoshijima Heritage House
The beautiful wooden houses are one of the highlights of Takayama. If you want to get a look inside one of them, Yoshijima Heritage House is a great choice. The house was built in 1907 for a family of Sake brewers and moneylenders. You can see how wealthy the family was in the way the home was constructed and in the high quality of the carpentry all around you.
Do a Sake Tasting in Takayama
At many of the Sake breweries in the old town of Takayama, you can do a Sake tasting. The owners will try their best to find a type of Sake you enjoy and they will try to explain to you the differences in more or less understandable English. What becomes clear quite quickly is that the Sake brewers of Takayama are passionate about their craft and that they will make you drunk in their mission to find a type of Sake you like.
You can identify the Sake breweries very easily when walking by. Just keep a lookout for the gigantic Sugidama (balls made of cedar branches) above the entrances.
If you visit Takayama between January and February you have the opportunity to visit one of the Sake factories and learn how Sake is produced.
Explore the Morning Market in Takayama
There are two morning markets in Takayama, the Miyagawa Market along the river banks of the Miyagawa river in the center of the city and the Jinya Mae Market in front of the Takayama Jinya. These markets are held daily from around 7 a.m. till noon. Locals and tourists alike stroll along the stalls selling crafts, snacks and produce such as vegetables and flowers to do some shopping.
Learn about History at the Takayama Jinya
Takayama Jinya used to serve as the administration office of the Hida region under the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled from 1600 to 1868. It is one of the only administrative offices from that time still intact today and loaded with history.
You can walk the compound inside and outside and learn about how the Hida region used to be governed at that time. The buildings are very beautiful and a great photo opportunity if there are not too many guests.
Participate in the Takayama Matsuri
The Takayama Matsuri (Takayama Festival) is ranked as one of the top 3 most beautiful festivals in Japan, together with the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and the Chichibu Matsuri in Chichibu, which is about 90 minutes from Tokyo.
There are two annual Takayama Festivals, the Takayama Spring Festival which is held in April and the Takayama Autumn Festival held in October.
The Takayama Spring Festival, also known as the Sanno Festival is the annual festival of the Hie Shrine in the southern part of Takayama.
In autumn of each year, the annual festival of the Sakurayama Hachimangu is held in the northern part of Takayama, the festival is also known as the Hachiman Festival.
Both festivals have similar schedules and attractions which include the display of the festival floats, Karakuri doll performances, the Mikoshi (portable shrine) procession, and the evening festival.
The Takayama Festival draws several hundred thousand visitors from Japan and all over the world, especially if the dates fall on a weekend. Therefore it is advisable to book your hotel as early as possible because they are usually fully booked several months in advance.
Visit the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition
The Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan or Takayama Festival Float Exhibition houses 4 of the 11 floats (called Yatai) from the Takayama Autumn Festival. These floats are a work of art and incredible craftsmanship and each is several hundred years old.
The floats are not the only things exhibited here, you can also marvel at the detailed models of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko which have been hand carved. They are accompanied by short explanations in English and Japanese.
Make a Wish at Sakurayama Hachimangu
Next to the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition is Sakurayama Hachimangu, the most important Shinto shrine in Takayama and the starting point of the Takayama Autumn Festival. It is a beautiful shrine worth a short visit.
Take a Walk at the Higashiyama Walkway
Starting just behind Sakurayama Hachimangu the Higashiyama Walkway invites you to take a walk in the eastern mountains of Takayama. The 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) long course leads past multiple small temples and shrines as well as the site of the former Takayama Castle in Shiroyama Park.
It is a pleasant walk to get to know the calmer side of Takayama and a nice change in pace away from the beaten tourist path.
Visit the Hida No Sato Folk Village
About 2 kilometers outside of Takayama is Hida no Sato, or Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village a collection of houses that have been taken from all over Central Japan and reconstructed here to preserve the cultural heritage and amazing craftsmanship.
The thatched roof houses are located around a scenic pond and you can visit many of the houses and learn about the life of the people who used to live in these houses. There are also little workshops spread out around the village.
Relax at an Onsen in Takayama
While there are some Ryokan in Takayama that offer hot spring baths to their guests in Takayama, if you really want to experience Japanese Onsen in the area it is advisable to do a 1-hour bus ride to nearby Okuhida Onsen. The Okuhida Onsen Valley consists of 6 Onsen town each fed from different hot springs and with a total of hundreds of different baths between them.
Some of these are available to day tourists for a fee of between 500 and 2000 yen. For a truly relaxing experience, it is, of course, better to spend the night, have delicious Japanese dinner and fall into a deep sleep in a futon bed at one of the many Ryokan in the area.
While Onsen is generally gender separated there are some facilities in Okuhida Onsen that offer mixed gender baths, usually providing something to cover up your body while in the bath.
Best Restaurants in Takayama
Every traveler has to eat and Takayama food is quite delicious. When you come to Takayama you probably want to try some of the famous beef of the region, called Hida Beef. It is not as famous as Kobe Beef, but just as delicious.
Here are the best restaurants in Takayama to try Hida Beef:
Hida Takayama Ateya
If you want to try Hida Beef prepared in different variations, Hida Takayama Ateya is the place to go. This cozy Izakaya which only seats about 10 people serves some of the most delicious Hida Beef dishes in town.
Try the Hida Beef steak, one of the best ways to enjoy the flavorful beef. While you are here sample some of the best sake in town. And if you don’t know what to order, don’t worry, the owner will help you out.
Hida Kotte Ushi
When visiting Takayama don’t forget to stop by Hida Kotte Ushi for some amazing Hida Beef Sushi. They serve different kinds of thinly sliced beef in delicious sauces and seasonings on some of the most delicious rice (also grown in the region).
Two pieces of Sushi cost between 600 and 1000 yen (6 to 10 US dollars) and are served on a Senbei (a rice cracker) as a plate. (Talk about zero waste) Make sure to come early or the most popular pieces are sold out and don’t worry about placing your order at Kotte Ushi. They have little plates in Japanese, English, and Chinese which include a picture and an alphabetic letter to make it easier to order. To order it is enough to say the letter and the quantity you want. Easy!
Center 4 Hamburgers
If you are looking for something a little bit different try a Hida Beef burger at the Center 4 Hamburgers. This quaint little shop sells delicious burgers of different variations, the Hida Beef burger is just one of them, and they are all amazing especially for lunch after a long stroll in Takayama.
Best Hotels in Takayama
There are many Takayama hotel options for every budget, from luxury hotels or Takayama Ryokan to a cheap dormitory bed or a whole holiday home, Takayama has great options for you.
In the following I will introduce to you different Takayama accommodation.
When I last went to Takayama I stayed at Utatei Takayama, a beautiful holiday home. The old building has recently been renovated and it has a lot of old Japanese charm with all the modern amenities you could want including air conditioning, a small kitchen, and a modern bathroom.
Utatei Takayama is just a short walk from the center of the town and especially cheap when you travel in a group since this property can sleep more than 6 people comfortably.
K’s House Takayama
For an amazing budget option in Takayama stay at K’s House. If you are two people you can either spend the night in a double bed in a dormitory or in your private double or twin room with private bathroom. Both options are one of the most budget-friendly in Takayama.
The hostel has great ratings from previous guests. Many of them complimented the great location close to Takayama Station, great facilities and helpful staff.
Country Hotel Takayama
If you are looking for a mid-range hotel near Takayama Station check out Country Hotel Takayama. It is located just a 1-minute walk from Takayama Station. The rooms in the Country Hotel Takayama are simple but have all the amenities you might need for your stay including air-conditioning, a kettle, and a fridge. There are smoking and non-smoking rooms available.
Takayama Ouan Hotel
For a real luxurious stay in Takayama including a large public bath with sauna, open-air bath, and private family bath consider a stay at Takayama Ouan Hotel. The beautifully furnished Japanese style rooms come with tatami mats and western beds.
You can have breakfast and dinner at the Japanese restaurant on site serving local dishes in a beautiful setting.
Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan
For the ultimate unforgettable experience in Takayama consider booking a night at the most luxurious hotels in the area: Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan. This 5-star hotel is pure luxury.
The Japanese style rooms come with a seating area where you will be served tea upon arrival. You can choose to have your authentic Japanese multi-course dinner either in the dining hall or in the comfort of your own room. The private bathrooms have a bathtub but you can also enjoy the public bath of the hotel. In my opinion the best Ryokan in Takayama
Day Trips from Takayama
Even though Takayama is a smallish town and you can maybe fill a day or two with activities in the city, there are surprisingly many day trips from Takayama that are very interesting.
The most famous one is probably Shirakawago, a world heritage site. Another option if you want to relax in a nice Onsen is Gero Onsen. Other options include Okuhida Onsen with I mentioned above, Kamikochi a great place for nature and hiking, or Furukawa a smaller and less touristy version of Takayama.
Shirakawago Day Trip from Takayama
Shirakawago is a picturesque village with thatched roof houses only 30 kilometers from Takayama. The village is a UNESCO world heritage site and a fun day trip from Takayama. For all the details about Shirakawago check out my day trip to Shirakawago post.
To get from Shirakawago to Takayama city you can easily take a bus there. The Nohi Bus leaves in front of Takayama Station and in 50 minutes you will already be in Shirakawago. The one-way trip costs 2470 yen (25 US dollars) and a round-trip 4420 yen (45 US dollars).
You can also take a Shirakawago tour from Takayama. This half-day tour starts and ends in Takayama. You will visit Shirakawago by bus and have 2 hours in the village. The cost is basically the same as the Nohi Bus round trip from Takayama with the difference that here you have a knowledgeable English speaking tour guide who will happily tell you all about Shirakawago’s history.
Gero Onsen Day Trip from Takayama
If you are looking for an amazing Onsen experience there is another option from the one I mentioned above. A visit to Gero Onsen. The town has a more than a 1000-year history and the hot spring waters are said to have beautifying and healing properties.
There are 3 public baths in Gero Onsen you can visit as a day visitor or you can alternatively purchase a Yomeguri Tegata pass for 1300 yen and enjoy 3 visits to Onsen facilities of the more than 30 participating Ryokan in town.
For an unforgettable day trip experience from Takayama, you can book ‘Gero Onsen Experience and Hide Beef Lunch‘ via klook.com. This amazing package combines a relaxing visit to one of the Onsen facilities in town at Suimeikan Inn in Gero Onsen, with a delicious 5-course lunch including Hida Beef. Transport to Gero Onsen from Takayama is not included but it is surprisingly easy to get there.
This famous Onsen town is less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from Takayama and easily reachable by Nohi Bus or JR Hida train. The bus leaves from Takayama Station hourly and takes roughly one and a half hours and the fare is quite cheap at 1040 yen (10 US dollars).
Alternatively, the limited express train takes just 45 minutes but costs 2240 yen while the local train takes an hour and costs only 970 yen (10 US dollars) which is even a little cheaper than the bus. If you have a Japan Rail Pass the train journey will be completely for free.
Shirakawago, Kanazawa and Lake Biwa Day Trip from Takayama
If you are heading to Osaka or Kyoto next, you might want to check out this cool day trip option that will take you first to Shirakawago, Kanazawa’s most famous landscape garden Kenrokuen and Lake Biwa before dropping you off in Kyoto or Osaka at night. For people who are short on time but want to see as much as possible of Japan, this is a great option. Much more fun that spending the day just sitting in a bus or trains.
Mount Fuji or Kawaguchiko Day Trip from Takayama
If you are heading to Tokyo from Takayama you can combine your trip with a stop in either Kawaguchiko or at Mount Fuji to see the famous mountain up close. This is an amazing opportunity for travelers who don’t have the time to visit Mount Fuji on their own.
By the way, there is also a trip that goes in the other direction from Tokyo to Takayama with a stop at Mount Fuji in between. If you are looking for a way to visit Takayama from Tokyo this might be an option for you. Book it here!
How to Get from Nagoya to Takayama
No matter where you are in Japan (maybe with the exception of Kanazawa) chances are you have to first get to Nagoya to get to Takayama. To get to Nagoya you have many options, from the big cities like Tokyo or Kyoto you will be in Nagoya in only a couple of hours by using the Shinkansen. This trip will be free if you have purchased a Japan Rail Pass for your trip to Japan.
If you are farther away for example in Hokkaido or maybe Kyushu, you can also fly to Nagoya’s central airport which has many cheap connections within the country. From Nagoya Airport there are different options to get to Nagoya Station.
From Nagoya, you have multiple options to get to Takayama. You can either take the JR train from Nagoya to Takayama, a bus from Nagoya to Takayama or you can even participate in a day tour from Nagoya to Takayama.
Nagoya to Takayama Train
If you are a Japan Rail Pass holder the train to Takayama from Nagoya is also free for you. JR Hida express trains leave Nagoya every hour and are in Takayama in only 150 minutes.
If you don’t own a JR Pass the one-way journey will cost you around 6000 yen (60 US dollars). It is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Takayama.
Nagoya to Takayama Bus
A much cheaper and not that much longer option to go to Takayama from Nagoya is a highway bus. They are operated by three different companies: JR, Meitetsu and Nohi Bus. The trip takes a bit over 2 and a half hours and costs 3100 yen one-way (30 US dollars) or 5400 yen round trip (54 US dollars).
Takayama Tour from Nagoya
If you have just one day and want to experience Takayama from Nagoya you can do that on a Takayama tour from Nagoya. Usually, these tours visit Takayama and Shirakawago by bus before returning to Nagoya at night.
Here are 3 different tours you might be interested in. You can book them all on klook.com.
Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama
The ‘Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama‘ is a great day trip to visit Shirakawago and Takayama in one day from Nagoya. Perfect if you really only have very little time but want to explore Shirakawago as well as Takayama.
You leave from the bus terminal close to Nagoya station, head to Takayama where you will explore the old district and have lunch. From there the bus heads to Shirakawago where you will have 80 minutes to explore before heading back to Nagoya. An English speaking guide will be there throughout the tour.
Takayama and Shirakawago Day Trip from Nagoya
At the ‘Takayama and Shirakawa-go Day Trip from Nagoya‘ you will also visit both Takayama and Shirakawago. The bus leaves from the Nagoya VIP Lounge close to Nagoya Station or Kanayama Station.
You will first visit Takayama and have lunch there before heading to Shirakawago. You will have the opportunity to try some delicious Hida Beef Sushi during your tour.
The Historic Villages of Shirakawago and Gokayama and Takayama Jinya Day Trip
If you are looking for a private tour you should consider ‘The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama and Takayama Jinya Day Trip‘. This tour isn’t much more expensive than the other two tours I mentioned above but you will be picked up from your hotel in a minivan for your trip.
Head to Shirakawago and Gokayama first and then make your way to Takayama where you will visit the Takayama Jinya a 400-year-old government building. Lunch is not included in this tour.
On this Takayama tourist map, you can find all the activities and places mentioned in this Takayama travel guide. I also marked the different Takayama restaurants and accommodation in Takayama I mentioned.
If you zoom out of the map you can see where Takayama is located in relation to Shirakawago, Gero Onsen and Nagoya.
Final Thoughts about Takayama
Now that you know about the amazing things to do in Takayama, where to eat in Takayama and also where to stay in Takayama you should be all set for your trip. You can find other detailed guides for destinations around Nagoya here.
If you want to find out more about Nagoya, visit the Nagoya Travel Guide, read the post about things to do in Nagoya, find out about the best hotels in Nagoya, and explore Nagoya Meshi by reading my Nagoya Food Guide.
In case you still have questions about Takayama or Nagoya please let me know in the comments!
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.