Hida Takayama (飛騨高山), or simply Takayama (高山), is an interesting city in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県) known for its well-preserved old town, rustic surroundings, and colorful festivals. Home to many temples and shrines, the city has been popular to local and foreign tourists as it is also a famous gateway to Shirakawa-go (白川郷). Spending two days or so in this charming old town is worth the time and money as it offers various activities that will surely give you satisfaction. Here are five things to do in Hida Takayama!
Walking in the streets of Takayama’s Old Town is like being transported to the place where wealthy merchants lived during the Edo period (江戸時代). The best way to enjoy this part of town is to visit early in the morning (to avoid the crowd), starting from the northern side near Miya River (宮川) where the morning market is usually held. You can eat your breakfast at one of the local shops there and you can also buy local crafts and souvenirs from the many stalls and shops open early in the morning. It’s also a great way to see the local produce of the town and have a glimpse of the local people’s way of life.
From there, you can walk to the main Takayama Old Town street to see some traditional houses such as Kusakabe (日下部家) and the Yoshijima (吉島家) Heritage House. These houses are open to the public with a 500-yen entrance fee. But even if you decide not to enter these houses, looking at them from the outside is also a nice treat for your camera lens.
At around 9:00 AM, the shops will start to open and you can see a lot of handmade materials made in Takayama which you’ll be tempted to buy. There are also a lot of different shops that offer delicious snacks and desserts. The old town streets get busy from then on. Walking further south will bring you to Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋), old sake breweries, an art gallery, museum, and the famous red bridge of good luck, the Nakabashi Bridge (中橋).
If you walk to the southernmost part of Takayama’s Old Town, cross the Nakabashi Bridge and go to Takayama Castle Ruins (高山城跡). From there, you can take the 3.5-kilometer Higashiyama Walking Course. The route will take you to many temples and shrines, and will bring you closer to nature as it gives a “rural Japanese town” vibe. It’s an experience that will surely be loved by people who like walking and being close to nature.
The whole walking course will take about two hours or so depending on how fast you walk. However, I suggest you take it slow as walking to this part of town is a one-of-a-kind experience.
From the Takayama Bus Terminal, Shinhotaka Ropeway is approximately a 110-minute travel that will take you to the mountainous part of Takayama. Though a bit far from the town center, Shinhotaka Ropeway is a must-go destination, especially in autumn for its fall foliage and majestic sunset and in winter for a complete view of the Japanese Alps from its observation deck. The view from the observation deck is amazingly beautiful, especially on a clear day. From the deck of Station 2, you can even walk to the path with snow walls.
If you’re up for it, there’s also a mountain trail nearby, just make sure you are in proper attire for hiking, especially in the winter season when the snow is really deep. At Station 1 of the ropeway, you can wander in the area, take some pictures, and treat your feet to a hot spring!
Nohi Bus (濃飛バス) operates daily to this part of Takayama and stops at several interesting places as well. During peak season, they offer a Spa & Shinhotaka Ropeway Combination Ticket for 5,900 yen, which is a good deal because it gives you a ropeway ticket, a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket, a free curry lunch, and a spa ticket for Hotel Hotaka (near the bus stop at Shinhotaka Terminal). This is the easiest and most economical way to experience Shinhotaka Ropeway.
After the worldwide success of Your Name, more and more tourists come to Gifu Prefecture to check some of the locations found in the anime movie. The Hida-sannogu Hie Shrine (飛騨山王宮日枝神社) in Hida Takayama is one of them. It is the model for Miyamizu Shrine (宮水神社), the symbolic shrine in Itomori (糸守), Mitsuha’s (三葉) hometown.
Another location is the Hida-Furukawa Station (飛騨古川駅) where Taki (瀧), the male protagonist, travels to search for Mitsuha’s hometown. In fact, if you go to Hida Furukawa Town, you’ll see a lot of similar spots found in the movie like the Hidakuro picture in the station. The movie is now being used as a tourism promotion for people to come and visit the town. Hida-Furukawa is just three stops away from JR Takayama Station.
Bonus information: If you decide to take the bus to Takayama from Tokyo, it stops for 10 minutes at Lake Suwa (諏訪湖) in Nagano Prefecture (長野県). The lake was also used in the movie as the model for the symbolic lake in Itomori.
If you decide to walk the whole day to discover more of Takayama, the best reward is eating Hida beef for dinner. This premium, high-quality beef is the pride of Takayama. Yes, it is expensive but insanely delicious. It literally melts in your mouth! Many restaurants in town offers Hida beef. Ajikura (味蔵) and Maruaki (丸明) offers it at a reasonable price.
You can go to Takayama from Tokyo by taking the Nohi Bus from Shinjuku (新宿) for around 7,000 yen. You can also take the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) to Toyama City (富山市) from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station (上野駅) for around 12,000 yen.
From Toyama City, you have three options:
- Ride the Hida limited express train to Nagoya (名古屋) for an hour and a half. It costs around 3,000 yen and is the best option for those who have a JR Pass.
- Take the JR Takayama Line to Inotani Station (猪谷駅), and then from Inotani Station to Takayama Station. This takes about two hours and costs around 1,600 yen.
- Ride the Nohi Bus going to Shirakawa-go/Takayama for about two and a half hours. It costs around 3,200 yen.
Takayama offers an experience that brings you back in ancient time, gives you a rustic feel, entices your taste buds with its local delicacies, and gives you some of the location inspiration of a famous anime movie. What more can you ask for? Truly, Takayama is a must-go destination for those who are looking for an adventure in Gifu Prefecture.