Takayama Old Town, the “Little Kyoto” of Japan’s Gifu region.
Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to not like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.
Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local.
If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!
|This local’s guide to Takayama Old Town was written by Yuki from Finding Yoki. Her guide below actually inspired me to visit (read more in my detailed 2 days in Takayama itinerary, 3 week Japan itinerary and guide to Japan off the beaten path), so I am very excited to share her top things to experience in Takayama from a local’s perspective. Discover how you can make the most of your travel time and enjoy stunning Takayama like a local, written by a local!|
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Here are 6 unique experiences to try in Takayama Old Town
Located in Gifu prefecture, Takayama is in the centre of Japan and it has many popular tourist attractions that lure visitors from all over the world. Gifu is famous for its hot spring and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa’s Historic Villages.
Although many people visit Gifu for Shirakawa’s historic villages, my absolute favourite part of this region is Takayama Old Town, which is referred to as “Little Kyoto”.
Takayama is famous for retaining its historical appearance. There are streets called “Sanmachi-dori”, and the old town has been beautifully preserved for 1600 years! It is okay to be a tourist, but it is definitely more fun to explore and merge with the crowds. Here are the 6 recommendations for you to enjoy this inspiring city like a local:
Indulge in Takayama’s street food
Japanese people love eating around! There are many stores along the street, and you will never get bored of exploring the historical architecture.
Although it is fun to just stroll around the area, you have to eat local food when you are in Takayama Old Town.
There are several shops selling old-fashioned Japanese sweets and Takayama’s local food. My favourite local food is mitarashi dango and rice crackers.
I definitely recommend you try mitarashi dango (skewered rice balls covered with soy sauce and sugar), rice crackers, and Hida beef skewer. For mitarashi dango, be sure to visit the shop called “SANGAWAYA”.
I also recommend the store “TEYAKI SEMBEI DOU” for rice crackers. There are several coffee houses and sake breweries here too, some of which have been in business for centuries. The shops in the area are typically open daily from 9AM to 5PM.
Enjoy award-winning sake at a local brewery in Takayama Old Town
Sake is one of the many famous things from Japan. There are multiple Sake Breweries in this district as Takayama is popular for its tasty dry sake. One of the reasons why sake in Takayama is unique and delicious is because of its cold weather.
Takayama gets cold and it snows a lot in winter, so this cold climate is essential for making good sake. Another reason is due to the flavourful rice produced in here.
Takayama produces a brand of rice called “Hida-Homare”, and the rice has a good balance of flavour. The combination of this rice and cold climate produces amazing sake!
If you are in the district, I definitely recommend you try sake tasting. Each brewery makes unique flavours and aromas, so it will be fun to visit and taste the varieties of sake. The breweries are usually open to visitors from 8AM to 5PM.
You are welcome to enter and ask for their tasting samples. Finding the best sake for you is one of the great ways to enjoy Takayama like a local. My favourite brewery is Hirata Sake Brewery as it’s famous for its “suiou” sake, winner of many awards and is popular for its clear taste.
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Buy traditional crafts from a Takayama Old Town morning market
If you want to enjoy the Old Town like a local, you also cannot miss Miyagawa morning market. It is open from 7AM to 12PM (it is open from 8AM in winter) every day.
There are numerous stores along the Kaji Bridge to the Miya River so it’s easy to find. It’s a great place to wander through in the morning, and you can find lots of fresh fruit and veggies produced in Takayama.
You can also find handmade traditional crafts at Miyagawa morning market. It is definitely a perfect spot to hunt down souvenirs for yourself or loved ones!
Although Takayama is famous for their pottery (Shibukusa ware, Koito ware and Yamada ware) or wooden furniture, we decided to get cute crafts with traditional Ichii-Ittōbori.
This is the name of a particular type of wood carving style which began in the 19th century. Since each piece is handcrafted, they are varied in colour and shape making them the ideal decoration for your house or a perfect souvenirs gift.
Predict the weather like a local
As temperatures vary significantly depending on the season in Takayama, you should definitely check the forecast beforehand to decide when to visit. Here’s a useful guide to the temperatures for each season to help you prepare:
- Spring: 9°C to 22°C
- Summer: 18°C to 31°C
- Autumn/Fall: 9°C to 20°C
- Winter: -5°C to 3°C
I visited Takayama in January, and temperatures were cold and skies were cloudy. It snowed while we stayed and the road became icy. Be mindful of this if you’re planning to drive around. Although the weather was unpleasant, the city wasn’t crowded.
I would say January and February are the quiet and peaceful times to enjoy a Takayama winter. If you want no crowds at all, I would recommend visiting around 9AM. It usually gets crowded with tourists by the afternoon.
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Get involved in a Takayama festival
There are big festivals in Takayama during April and October, and they are two of the three most beautiful festivals celebrated in Japan.
Several hundred people participate in the festival, dressing up in traditional costumes. They parade through the streets and perform Japanese orchestra, ancient music, and traditional lion dance.
During the first night of both festivals, approximately 100 lanterns are on each float. Each float has its own unique ornaments, so it is fun to take time to compare the floats when they are all paraded around the festival.
Takayama Festival is a very popular event, and there are usually several hundred thousand visitors from across Japan and the world. I recommend you book a hotel or ryokan as soon as you decide to visit!
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Explore a stunning neighbouring village
If you visit Takayama, you cannot miss Shirakawa-go (Shirakawa’s historic villages). They are famous for their traditional farmhouses, and some of them are more than 250 years old.
Due to the area’s natural environment, with high mountains and heavy snowfall, interaction with neighbouring regions is limited.
Shirakawa-go is about a 50 minute trip from Takayama old town, and I highly recommend you take a bus. The fee is usually around JPY 2,500 yen per way, with around 16 round-trip bus services a day.
Shirakawa-go is out of a fairytale, and every photo you take will be a piece of art. There are many souvenir shops with wide varieties of products as well.
TIP: Just be mindful that you might need to wait in line for 2 hours to get a ticket (JPY 500 ea) if you are willing to take a photo on the observation point.
For more local recommendations from Finding Yoki, follow her adventures on Instagram!
Ready to be invisible in Takayama old town?
Now you’ve uncovered the best Takayama advice from a local, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not learn the crucial tips and advice for planning a trip to Japan with all my Japan travel guides and itineraries, or compare hotel prices here?
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Do you have any Takayama travel tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below! I hope you enjoyed this instalment of my Be Invisible series! If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok or Instagram for more!
Until next time,
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All photography copyright to Yuki at Finding Yoki.
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Hi, great post. We’re exploring a trip to Japan in 2023 (if it opens!). What do you think of Takayama vs. Kanazawa? Thanks!
Hi Sid, this a great question!
I have spent a few days in both Kanazawa and Takayama, and I enjoyed each for different reasons:
Loved the old wooden warehouses in the Sanmachi-suji district; Hida beef, amazing sake (some of the best in Japan), lovely temples and shrines, Hida Folk village, the canals running beside the streets. I personally adored the vibe, the souvenir shopping and a majority of the attractions are within walking distance of each other.
Kenroku-en gardens are a MUST when visiting, it’s very easy to see why it’s one of the top 3 gardens in Japan! I really enjoyed the old samurai districts (had a Kyoto-like feel), the architecture of Kanazawa station is very impressive, Kanazawa Castle is huge! The “Ninja Temple” was a massive highlight for me, demonstrating exceptional Japanese craftsmanship with its trick doors and hidden traps. However for me, the attractions in Kanazawa were quite spread out, meaning taxis or buses were required to get around. This is fine, but it’s something to ensure you build in extra time for when planning your visit.
There are many more things to see and do in each of these places, though!
In case you may have missed it, I have 2 day itineraries for both Kanazawa and Takayama for you to compare:
• 2 Days in Kanazawa Itinerary
• 2 Days in Takayama Itinerary
I hope that helps and you enjoy whichever you choose! 😊
Thanks for the brewery recommendations! Unfortunately I didn’t have time for a sake brewery on my first trip to Japan but would love to visit one on my second trip.
The breweries in Takayama are the best!! Definitely add one (or more!) to your future Takayama wish list 😊
Hi Alyse and Yoki,
I have been pinning all of your Japan content on Pinterest for a while now. I love how you design your pins.
Here are my thoughts on Takayama.
This is a great post with nice ideas on what to do in Takayama. Of course, there is much more to do in Takayama, and even in one day, you can do some other things as well.
Takayama is also a great base for day trips to other places not only Shirakawago but also Gujo Hachiman, Kamikochi, Gifu and many more.
Keep it up!
Thanks so much, Lena! I think it helps that I’m professional graphic designer 😉
I agree with your comments so much, Takayama and the surrounding region has so much to offer! It’s one of my favourite places in Japan. I’m glad Yoki captured some of her favourite things locals do in Takayama so well as it inspired me to want to “be invisible” there as well. Thanks for your comment!