10 Things To Do in Takayama, Japan
If the magical town of Takayama is not already on your Japanese bucket list, then this relatively undiscovered gem might be exactly what you need to add to your journey through the Land of the Rising Sun. Known for its historical old streets from the Edo Period, delicious Sake, relaxing onsens and stunning mountain ranges, this beautiful town is easily accessed from Nagoya via a 2.5 hour scenic train. Even just the scenery on the journey to the mountain town of Takayama will impress you, and it remains one of the most underrated experiences in Japan. Luckily for you, we’ve travelled here a lot! So we’ve put together the ultimate list of our favourite 10 things to do in Takayama, meaning you don’t have to miss out on a single thing when you visit.
Takayama is stunning year round, but the best months to travel are March to November so you can enjoy Cherry Blossom, the summer months, or even Autumn’s awesome maple season. You can definitely still visit from November to March, but the Takayama winter sees temperatures drop, so be prepared! This quaint old town has become a fan favourite on our trips, from our guests to our guides. So bookmark this page for later and make sure you make the most out of your time here when you visit Japan.
1. STAY IN A TEMPLE OR RYOKAN
Let’s be honest, the standard of accommodation in Japan is top-notch. Both hostels and hotels are spotless, clean and safe and the toilets will leave you, well, never wanting to use a different toilet again (if you know, you know). But one of the absolute must-do’s in Takayama is staying in a traditional Japanese inn or temple. Takayama offers some Buddhist temples that can accommodate your stay and are open to anyone, regardless of religion or age. They have traditional tatami mats for you to sleep on and even have zen gardens throughout the temple. Ryokans are very similar, and also offer truly authentic experiences. After spending the day visiting century old streets, sampling traditionally brewed sake & relaxing in an onsen, what more could you want than to walk back through the calm streets to what will undoubtedly be one of the best (and most unique) sleeps of your life?
Temple Stay Takayama
2. SANMACHI WALK
Takayama old town has been preserved from the Edo period (as far back as 1603!). When you imagine walking down a traditional Japanese street, this is the kind of spot that springs to mind. These streets are not as common as travellers might think when visiting Japan and are not found to this extent of preservation even in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, so this is a really unique experience you’ll find when visiting this magical corner of Japan. Takayama old town is lively during the day, but the shops do actually close early and the streets will empty out around 5/6pm, so do your shopping early and come back later for the photos!
Sanmachi Walk Takayama
3. ONSEN / SENTO
There’s so many things to do in Takayama but there is truly no better way to fully relax the mind and body than bathing in the warm water from the Japanese hot springs. Some onsens won’t allow you entry if you have tattoos, but luckily Takayama has many you can visit and some locations are absolutely fine with it! There is definitely some onsen etiquette you need to know before going in, so send us a message if you have any questions!
There’s a few day trips from Takayama but this picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site is a great idea if you have a couple of days lined up to explore the area. This mountain village is quite out of the way for most travellers, but if you’re in Takayama it will only take you 45 minutes on the bus to get there. Shirakawago consists of incredible mountain villages with thatched roof farm houses dating back 250 years, and they look awesome no matter which time of year you visit.
Shirakawago Day Trips from Takayama
5. THE FOOD!
A trip to Japan is not complete without trying all the food you can, and Takayama food is something you shouldn’t miss out on. You may have already noticed this in your research, but the region in which Takayama resides is actually known as Hida. Yes, as in Hida beef! Hida beef is world famous, unbelievably tasty and if the prices are too high for your budget, you can even find stick samples, beef buns and sushi, all at lower prices. Of course, if meat isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There’s plenty of vegetarian options around too. Jakson Curry & Coffee is an easy to miss, very small local restaurant that will blow you away with their mushroom curry.
Takayama Food Hida Beef Tasting
6. SAKE TASTING
You can’t mention Japanese food without talking about sake too. Among all the things to do in Takayama, sake tasting is an absolute must. It actually pairs very well with Hida beef and as such it is tradition to experience both during your time here! When wandering around the old town, you’ll find several breweries that are over 100 years old. Sake is traditionally drunk throughout winter, as this traditional rice wine is known for keeping you warm during low temperatures, but you can sample it all year round and this is the place to do it.
Sake Tasting Takayama
7. GO MUSEUM HOPPING
There’s a ton of things to do in Takayama, but during the colder months you might want to escape the outside chill by finding some indoor activities. If the temperature drops during your visit in the Takayama winter and you’ve already warmed up in an onsen, check out one of the many cafes or museums instead.
Try Coffee Don for some delicious desserts & Warajiya for the best coffee around.
Visit the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, a tradition that started around 350 years ago, or head to the Hida Takayama Museum of Art for some decorative art.
8. SHIROYAMA PARK
This one is a hidden gem that many miss out on, on your way to Shiroyama Park you’ll come across a spectacular viewpoint of the tranquil town of Takayama. If you continue on the path, you’ll end up in Shiroyama Park where you’ll find a small cafe & bar, and often many Japanese families having picnics. In fact, every time I’ve personally visited this area, I’ve encountered locals who have offered drinks & snacks, and even asked to play baseball together!
Another hidden gem that you should not miss. The archery located in the lively downtown area is so much fun and completely open to beginners. It’s only 300 Yen (~ $5 AUD) and you get 10 shots! Definitely plan to make a pit stop here one evening.
Archery in Takayama
10. MORNING MARKET
This quaint market is one of the most popular morning markets in Japan. It has a rich history and is located along the beautiful Miyagawa River. From wood carved souvenirs and local foods to bakeries and incredible coffee, there’s something here for everyone. The stall owners here are awesome too so definitely stop by for a wander in the morning to meet some friendly locals and try some delicious food for breakfast!
So there you have it. We believe this awesome spot has so much to offer and is worth getting off the beaten path to visit. With 10 different things to do in Takayama, you will absolutely be able to pick a few activities that suit you the most. Believe us, you’ll be telling people about these experiences for years to come!
WRITTEN BY: Michael Keays