Takayama is also known as Hida-Takayama or 飛騨高山 for those of you willing to brave the difficult Japanese language. I highly recommend visiting this little piece of Japan located in Gifu Prefecture. It is something special compared to the more traveled locations around this lovely country.
Takayama offers a more quiet and serene experience compared to the hustle and bustle of Kyoto or Tokyo and because it has managed to preserve the traditional spirit of Old Japan, especially in its old town. One can easily reach this city by either train or bus, though if you are willing to get there fast, you can enjoy the amazing Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nagoya, then boarding the so-called Wide-View Hida, an express train running to Takayama. The trip only takes about four hours and the price is affordable, even by most standards – somewhere close to ¥15000 (around $150).
There is much to see around town, though I recommend visiting the old town the first opportunity you get. You will feel transported through time, almost literally. as you walk the same streets as the ancient samurai of old. Japan is a place unlike anything else you will experience, and you will be awed at the harmony and simplicity of their towns. Visit the Hida-no-Sato, also known as the Hida Folk Village – an open-air museum which holds a slice of the old Japanese lifestyle. The buildings here were built in such a way that it very closely recreates the way Takayama must have looked before the Industrial age. Many of the buildings here still hold craftsmen and their studios, practicing the old arts and keeping their traditions alive.
There are two major festivals which make Takayama famous around Japan. One is the Sanno Matsuri, the other Yahata Matsuri. They are two faces of the same festival, just held at different times of the year. The festival’s origins were sadly lost to history, though rumors state that it was celebrated between 1586 and 1692 during the government of the Kanamori clan. The festival features large and lavish floats, traditional music and the amazing traditional mechanical dolls called karakuri ningyō, capable of movement and dance. The origins of these dolls date all the way back to the reign of a man called Prince Kaya (794-871) who built one of the first dolls of this kind according to the stories written in “Konjaku Monogatuari-shu” which is a set of over a thousand stories from pre-medieval times about Japan’s past. The festival brings a lot of traffic in the area before its days so booking months in advance is something you should consider if you want to enjoy the town as much as you can without worrying about lodgings.
There is much to do and to enjoy in the area, but if you are into souvenirs you should consider buying some of the strange local ones as gifts for your friends. The sarubobo are some strange small amulets, shaped as humans with no faces. They were traditionally made by Japanese mothers for their kids, meant to be toys and at the same time symbolizing the carefree spirit of childhood. You can also buy a great deal of other arts, such as wood block prints. Many artists spend their time around the city of Takayama and their works find their way into the local shops and then around the world. Something else you should not miss is the Hida Sashiko, amazing handmade stitching goods made with great craftsmanship and skill. They are traditional and absolutely gorgeous for those of us who enjoy the beauty of such things.
Last, but not least – there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy food, both local and foreign around Takayama. Whether you are dining on hidagyu (steak) or yakisoba noodles or visiting a traditional Japanese restaurant you will find something to enjoy here. You can even find hamburgers, American-style at Center4 Hamburgers if traditional Japanese food is not to your liking for some reason. Have a nice trip and enjoy your stay! Ganbatte!
About The Author: Angela Harpert is an avid traveler and adventurer by hobby. She quickly falls in love with new places, constantly finding inspiration and fascination behind every corner. She’s a real expert in finding the most appropriate rental options for your perfect trip.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Creative Commons