Get ready for your pants to be charmed right off at this picturesque mountain town.
Nestled at the foot of the Japanese Alps, Takayama is literally a breath of fresh air. This mountain town’s remote location has led to excellent preservation of its charming Edo-period streets. A stroll through the old town reveals a way of life lost to time, and the copious museums will enlighten anyone searching for more historical depth. In spring and autumn, Takayama holds the Takayama Matsuri, considered one of the three most beautiful festivals in the country.
Takayama’s preserved old town is just a short walk from the station. Sannomachi street is the main drag, where souvenir shops and cute cafes blend in perfectly next to historic sake distilleries and miso paste stores. Come hungry, for this is also where you’ll be able to sample local delicacies like Hida beef, the mouthwatering regional rival to Kobe beef.
This area is home to the Takayama Museum of History and Art, and the Fujii Folk Museum. At the end of the street, Takayama Shrine is also open to the public as a museum.
The Shimoninomachi-ojinmachi preservation area takes up the other half of the old town. Peek into former merchant homes that are open for touring, like Kusakabe and Yoshijima Heritage House. By the river, a morning market is held daily from early morning until noon. You’ll find fruits and vegetables, as well as regional crafts. One common souvenir to spot here is the sarubobo, an intriguing faceless red doll in traditional clothing.
If you haven’t got time for a trip to nearby Shirakawa-go or Gokayama, the Hida Folk Village is a must do. It’s an open-air museum of thatched-roof houses collected from their original locations around the region. Historic artifacts of interest are on display in the houses, which you’re free to wander.
The beloved Takayama Matsuri is actually two festivals, held every year from April 14th-15th and October 9th-10th. Ornate floats, topped with dancing marionette dolls, are paraded through the streets from day until night. Those who can’t make the festival can get a taste of it at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, where some of the floats are kept on display.