Located in Gifu Prefecture, Takayama is hidden among beautiful mountains. Takayama is famous for its charming ancient town of Sanmachi-Suji with many wooden-shops dating back to the Edo period. Takayama is a popular destination in the winter when it owns a natural hot spring source (onsen) with many Ryokan (a traditional Japanese-style wooden inn) serving onsen bathing and vacation leisure. I also had the opportunity to stay at a ryokan and experience onsen bathing in the winter here which is extremely interesting, very Japanese. From Takayama it’s only a 40-minute bus ride to the ancient village of Shirakawago, which makes Takayama a stopover for exploring this UNESCO heritage site, but Takayama itself is also a delicious treat for visitors to come and enjoy. So, is Takayama worth visiting and what to do in Takayama —The enchanting ancient town of Japan. Let’s explore top 5 things to do in Takayama: The old town, onsen, premium beef and more including must do in Takayama, what to see in Takayama and what to eat in Takayama to find out the answer!
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Here are the best things to do in Takayama, what to do in Takayama when coming to Takayama that you can’t miss!
1. Exploring Sanmachi-Suji Old Town
Address: 20 Kamisannomachi, Takayama, Gifu 506-0846, Japan
The red bridge over the Miya-gawa River connecting Sanmachi-Suji to the rest of the city is very reminiscent of Kyoto’s Gion. In the old town of Sanmachi-Suji, ancient houses from the Edo period still exist and well-preserved. The neighborhood is always bustling, virbant with visitors filled up local restaurants, and although crowded, you can still hear the sound of water flowing from the nearby Miya-gawa River. In spring, matsuri (fair) are set up along the river banks creating the most bustling atmosphere. In the old town you can find the famous Hida beef sushi, trying local pastries as well as buying souvenirs.
Sanmachi-Suji Old Town is located just a 15-minute walk from JR Takayama Train Station, and you can visit in the evening to find relatively delicious shabu-shabu hotpot and grilled restaurants. But the most famous is still the beef sushi restaurants that always have long queues. In Sanmachi-Suji, you’ll also find many traditional sake breweries housed in cedar-wood houses. All of them combine to create an ancient atmosphere of Takayama.
2. Enjoy Premium Hida Beef
Hida beef is a premium Japanese beef brand that competes with Kobe and Matsuzaka beef. All 3 beef brands make up the trio of the best Japanese beef. But almost people will know Kobe beef because it is exported to a lot of countries and has been famous worldwide for a long time while Hida beef is more limited. Hida beef is a brand name given to beef with meat quality that is graded A/B and grade 5/4/3 and raised in Gifu Prefecture. The name of the Hida beef originates from the source of beef from the Hida mountains that surrounding Takayama. When you have just arrived in Takayama, just go to Google Maps to find a place to eat, Hida beef restaurants appear countless.
To enjoy Hida beef, there many different cooking methods to choose from, but the most popular is yakiniku (grilled meat) & sushi (beef slice placed on rice like nigiri sushi). Of course, you can still choose to eat with shabu-shabu hotpot, but personally, I don’t think it’s as delicious as two ways above.
Place to try Hida beef sushi:
Hida Kotte Ushi: Most famous & very crowded, you have to wait 20-30 minutes for your turn, the price is 650 JPY/2 pieces of sushi.
Address: 34 Kamisannomachi, Takayama, Gifu 506-0846, Japan
Place to try yakiniku:
Hida Takayama – Sengokuya: With affordable prices, a portion of beef depending on apart of cow costs from 900 – 1,500 JPY. If you choose premium beef, it will cost 1,500 JPY, which is still quite cheap. The average meal about 3,000JPY/person. That day, I ordered 4 portions of beef, 1 portion of vegetable, and 2 beers, so I spent up to 6,000 JPY but still worth the money. If you go with a group, you will have to wait a bit.
Address: 5-7 Tenmanmachi, Takayama, Gifu 506-0025, Japan
Hours: 5–10PM/Monday: Closed
Must do in Takayama: 3. Ryokan & Onsen
Takayama has mineral springs from the nearby mountains that make it a popular onsen bath destination in winter. If you want to enjoy onsen, you can choose the type of a public bath, but I like to experience a bit, so I chose to stay at a Ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn – to enjoy the true Japanese atmosphere. I stayed at Oyado Hachibei, located 15 minutes by taxi from JR Takayama train station. It offers indoor onsen, but the most famous is the relaxing outdoor onsen. When you come here, remember to wear a yukata (a casual version of the kimono, wearing in summer) to try living in a traditional Japanese space. Room rate for 2 people from 10,000 JPY/1 night.
Things to do in Takayama: 4. Visit Hida Folk Village
Hida Folk Village is an open-air museum with country houses from the Edo period, very similar to Shirakawago. The houses are original, transported from many places here for preservation, creating a picturesque space. Many of the houses are used to recreate the workshops of crafts such as woodcarving, lacquering, dyeing. The entrance fee is 700 JPY. This place is 2.5 kilometers from the train station, but quite close to my Oyado Hachibei inn, just a 5-minute walk to it.
Address: Japan, 〒506-0055 Gifu, Takayama, Kamiokamotomachi, １−590
5. Day Trip to Shirakawa-Go
Thanks to the tunnel through Mount Hida, the road from Takayama to the UNESCO heritage village of Shirakawa-go is reduced to only 40 – 50 minutes by bus. This convenience makes it easy to get from Takayama to Shirakawa-go and back in the same day. The Nohi Bus station is located next to the JR train station, which is very convenient for you to buy tickets. And only from Takayama you can buy tickets at the counter without reservation.
What to do in Takayama: Getting to Takayama
From Tokyo, you need to take the Shinkansen to Nagoya, then take the JR Hida Limited Express Hida 1 to Takayama, which takes up to 4 hours and will cost more than 14,000 JPY. However, if you have a JR Pass purchased on Klook, you can rest assured because these 2 trips are included. You should combine going to Nagoya – Takayama – Shirakawa-go to save travel time.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Takayama you can refer to
- A Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama
- Takayama and Shirakawa-go Day Trip from Nagoya
- JR Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass (5 Days)
- [Klook Exclusive] Shirakawago Illumination Wonderland Trip from Nagoya or Takayama
- The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Takayama Jinya Day Trip
- JR Pass for Whole Japan (7, 14, or 21 Days)
Read more the fullest Takayama travel blog & guide for first-timers and Japan travel guide here.