Asia > Eastern Asia > Japan > Enjoy 1 Day in Takayama, Japan

Enjoy 1 Day in Takayama, Japan

Say goodbye to noisy cities, relax in an onsen, and discover the most traditional side of the land of the rising sun by visiting Takayama, Japan.

Japan is worldly known for being in the vanguard, not only of technology but also of gastronomy and fashion. There, you can enjoy fun activities such as the samurai experience or spend time with deer in a Buddhist temple. One of the wonders of this country is precisely that it has multiple facets that include the traditions and customs of its people. Traveling to Japan is like traveling in time. Today, DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, invites you to forget about the huge Japanese metropolis and visit the small city of Takayama. There, you’ll find the best of traditional Japan, surrounded by surprising nature and a peaceful environment.

Hida Takayama in Gifu Perfecture

The city of  Takayama, also known as Hida Takayama, is located in the heart of Japan, in the mountainous region of the Gifu prefecture. Unlike other big cities such as Tokyo or Osaka, Takayama has only 100,000 inhabitants.

Is Takayama Worth Visiting?

Once in Takayama you’ll be delighted by the calm and natural atmosphere, very different from what people expect to find in the land of the rising sun. You won’t even need to find public transport because you can explore the whole city by foot. Your tour will start in Sanmachi Suji, whose houses date back to the Edo period. Today, this part of the city has many craftwork shops and sake houses. If you want to find a special souvenir, in Sanmachi Suji you’ll find from chopsticks to samurai swords. Other known places where you can find local goods are the morning markets of Myagawa and Jinyamae. There you can also try local foods such as octopus meatballs known as takoyaki, meat buns or dango, and white rice flour skewers.

From Nagoya to Takayama by Train JR Pass

In order to get to Takayama, we recommend you take the express train from Nagoya, using your JR Pass. Take the Hida-Nagoya line and get off at Takayama station. The trip lasts around three hours but it gives you the chance to enjoy the rural landscape of Japan. Little by little, buildings and their neon lights transform into bucolic paintings sprinkled with rivers and mountains. Remember that the Japan JR Pass allows you to use trains, bullet trains (Shinkansen), and the Narita Express. Buy your tickets in this link.

Higashiyama Walking Course

Your next stop is vital if you want to learn about ancient Japanese culture. Head to Higashiyama Teramachi or Higashiyama Walking Course, a historic route composed of 13 Buddhist temples and five Shinto sanctuaries distributed along three kilometers that lead to Shiroyama Park. The most outstanding attraction at Shiroyama Park is the Nishikiyama Jinja sanctuary. At each stop you’ll learn a bit more about the history of Takayama. Since it’s a wooded area, it’s also ideal for those who love natural attractions.

Staying in a Ryokan in Takayama

If you want your visit to last more than a day, we invite you to stay at a ryokan. A ryokan is a hotel with Eastern style rooms with tatami floors, sliding doors, futons, and closets with yukatas and geta shoes. This type of shoes might be new for you, but once you put them on, they’ll make you feel at home! Night rates at a ryokan vary depending on the services they offer. For example, some have private bathrooms or serve authentic Japanese food. In some cases they can be very expensive, but if you travel to Japan, and especially to Takayama, it’s an experienceworth paying for at least once in a lifetime.

Relax in an Onsen in Takayama City

To complement your experience in Takayama, DINKtravelers invites you to try the traditional thermal baths known as onsen. There are two types of onsen: those that heat the water artificially, and the most famous ones that have a volcanic origin and offer cosmetic and health benefits. The closest onsens to Takayama are located in the town of Okuhida, nearly an hour away by bus. There are five thermal baths whose peculiarity is that they are all found in open air. You won’t only get to relax and enjoy their benefits but also enjoy the landscape. Taking a relaxing bath in front of a winter landscape will be an experience you’ll never forget!

Take into account that the use of an onsen is a ritual for Japanese people. They are associated with the Buddhist and Shinto philosophies, which believe baths purify the body and the soul. Follow these tips and avoid getting into trouble:

  • Whether you are in Okuhida or in any other thermal bath in Japan, take a shower and wash your body before using the bath. This way you’ll keep the water free from impurities.
  • In most cases, you cannot wear a bathing suit or introduce objects into the water.
  • In many onsen  people with tattoos are not allowed.
  • Once inside, you should only relax. It is not allowed to swim or make too much noise. Even so, believe it or not Japanese people also consider baths as a way to socialize and make friends, so it’s okay to chat with the locals.

Takayama Spring Festival: Sanno Matsuri

Takayama hosts one of the most popular festivals in Japan: the Sanno Matsuri, which takes place on the 14th and 15th of April every year in south Takayama.

In this festival, you can find the famous yatai, mobile food stalls or floats declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO. This floats date back to the Edo period and are decorated with karakuri ningyo, mechanical dolls that can move. The Mikoshi Procession is another important event, where a portable shrine (mikoshi) is carried around the town in a parade during the festival. It carries a kami (Shinto deity), and the festival is the only time of the year in which the deity leaves the shrine.

If you miss the spring festival, there is another one at autumn called Hachiman Matsuri, which takes place on October 9 and 10, in north Takayama.

As it’s widely known, Japan is always one step ahead in technological advances. However, its people like to maintain their traditions and customs. Cities like Takayama are vital to preserve the identity of this country. They also remind us that simple things such as taking a walk in the woods or bathing in an onsen can be the most beautiful and enjoyable.