Takayama, Japan has all of the makings of a fairytale: ancient wooden homes, mountainous surroundings, narrow streets, and plenty of festivals. The best way to see the entire town and its magical surroundings may be the Shinhotaka Ropeway, two trams that will take you up and down Mount Hotaka—the third-tallest peak in Japan.
One thing to note if you’re planning a trip to this part of Gifu Prefecture: There are other locations that go by the name Takayama, so it’s also commonly referred to as Hida-Takayama. The town has become a popular spot for tourists looking to break out of the larger, more modern cities of Japan for a more rural experience in the countryside.
If you’re trying to nail down the best time to visit Takayama, look into traveling in the spring or fall, think April through June or September through November. Not only can you catch the bi-annual Takayama Festival, but you’ll also avoid a majority of the region’s snowfall—a factor that can quickly derail your trip. But if you’re looking to ski, a very popular pastime for locals and visitors alike, a trip to the Gifu Prefecture during the wintertime will sound just a little more appealing to you.
You can really dig into the town and the surrounding nature, so plan at least a long weekend in the area—more, if you’re looking to ski or hike. Old Town is, you guessed it, the oldest section of Takayama, dating back as far as 1600 in some parts. This span of time was called the Edo Period, which also happens to be when Takayama was full of wealthy merchants. This golden reputation carried on through the years and can still be seen in the nooks and crannies of the old wooden homes. Head to Sannomachi Street if you’re looking to stroll a street lined in these historic homes. You also have the option of hiring a rickshaw to weave you through the streets, if that’s more your speed.
Another thing Takayama does not have a shortage of: museums. You’ll find an open-air folk museum, an exhibition hall dedicated to the famous parade floats, and temples all within the city limits. You’ll also want to get a taste of the regional Hida beef, which is sourced from special black-haired Japanese cattle that have been bred in the prefecture for at least 14 months. And when you’re ready to walk off your lunch, head to the nearby Chubu-Sangaku National Park. There you’ll find a forest spanning more than 7,400 acres filled with waterfalls, rivers, and wildlife.
If this mix of ancient homes, winding streets, and mountainous environment piques your wanderlust, do some digging into Hida-Takayama. After a few Google image searches you’ll be hooked.