Takayama is famous for its well-preserved quarter with Edo-style streets, only rivalled by those of Kanazawa.
Takayama is the major transport hub of the Hida region.
From Tokyo Station, you can reach Takayama by taking a Tokaido Shinkansen train (Nozomi or Hikari) to Nagoya and then transfer to the Wide View Hida (ワイドビューひだ) Limited Express train for the run to Takayama. The ride takes just over 4 hours via Nozomi with a good connection, and costs ¥14800. By Hikari it takes 4 1/2 hours, but the ride is fully included in the Japan Rail Pass. From Kyoto or Osaka, you can take the Shinkansen to Nagoya, then the Wide View Hida, but there is also a morning Wide View direct from Osaka and Kyoto, slightly slower but more convenient.
Buses from Shinjuku in Tokyo go straight to Takayama (5.5h, ¥6500). Great views along the way!
If you go the mountain route, there is a bus from Matsumoto (with some mountain village like Kamikochi on the way).
Takayama is small enough to cover on foot, but bicycle rental (¥600 per day from the youth hostel) is also a good option.
The Hida Folk Village (飛騨民俗村 Hida Minzokumura, ), also known as Hida-no-Sato (飛騨の里), is an attractive open-air museum assembled from real buildings that effectively recreates an entire traditional mountain village. Not only can you tour the village, but artisans continue to work in many buildings; you can buy their crafts and even try your own hand at a number of activities. The architectural highlights are the traditional thatched-roof gasshō-zukuri houses, built with roofs like hands in prayer to withstand the heavy snowfalls in this region. More whimsically, there is a giant maneki-neko cat outside, standing over 4m tall. Entry is ¥700, or ¥900 for a combination ticket including bus transfers from and to JR Takayama station (recommended, as this will save you a 30-minute uphill walk). GPS coordinates: Lat. 36.132660 Lon. 137.235168
Sanmachi (さんまち) is a very pretty section of Takayama's old city. Consisting of three narrow lanes packed with wooden buildings housing sake breweries and little boutiques, some of the larger merchant houses are now open as museums. The area is a 10-minute walk to the east of the station.
Takayama Yatai Kaikan (Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall). This is the hall where the festival floats are stored. Takayama hosts a famous yearly festival and the floats are quite ornate. The floats on display are rotated. Address: 178 Sakura-Machi, Takayama City; Phone: 0577-32-5100.
Kusakabe Mingei-kan (Kusakabe Heritage House).  The Kusakabe house is a restored old merchant's home built in 1879. The home is filled with artifacts and crafts from that time period. Address: 1-52 Ojin-machi Takayama-shi, Gifu 506-0851; Phone: 0577-32-0072.
Takayama Jinya is a large, beautifully preserved government building from the time of the shogun.
For something completely different (and slightly out-of-place), Tomenosuke is a science-fiction movie gallery-store hidden a few blocks north of the Train Station. Inside the store you will find some very cool original movie props (a beast mask from Star Wars, the original robot suit from Spaceballs, and a 1/4 model of the Alien queen for example) in addition to replicas and American designer art figurines. There is an admission fee of 500 yen, but it is well worth it.
Takayama is famous for its two festivals:
Sannō Matsuri (山王祭り), April 14-15
Yahata Matsuri (八幡祭り), October 9-10
Even though the festivals' origin is unknown, it is said that they were first celebrated between 1586 and 1692 when the Kanamori family governed the Hida Takayama area. The spring festival is associated with Hie Shrine (日枝神社) and the autumn with Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine (桜山八幡宮). Both are much alike and feature a parade of large floats (屋台 yatai) decorated with thick curtains, lacquer ware, and mechanical dolls (karakuri). Twelve floats appear in the spring festival and eleven in autumn. The procession carrying the portable shrine (mikoshi) is unique to the autumn. During both festivals, this usually quiet town is lively filled with visitors, so it is best to book accommodation and tickets early.
Sarubobo (lit. "baby monkey") amulets, shaped like faceless humans and available in a variety of sizes, are the most popular souvenir from Takayama.
Shunkei lacquerware, beautiful wooden boxes, trays and utensils, with a lusterous transparent lacquer that lets the grain of the wood show through.
Wood Block Prints, Takayama is known for it's wood block prints, with many well known artists spending time each year in Takayama. Many shops sell original modern works at reasonable prices.
Hida Sashiko, All hand-made, beautiful stitching goods are displayed as if gallery. All of the arts and goods are purchasable. Media often report Hida-Sashiko as Japanese traditional art with the beauty of goods and its skills. (http://hidasashiko.com/english/index.html)
Takayama is famous for its ramen noodles, cooked in miso stock with thin noodles. As elsewhere in Gifu, you are also likely to encounter hōba miso (ほうば味噌), a version of the ubiquitous Japanese bean paste grilled on a hōba leaf and served as a dip or for eating with rice as is. Sounds pretty simple, but the taste is exquisite.
Agura. An excellent restaurant in Takayama built out of an old warehouse, Agura serves Western-style pizza and a variety of other Japanese and vegetarian friendly fare. A good place to go if you need "something for everyone". Hours are a little odd, dinner only: Tues-Sun 6pm-midnight. Address: 4-7 Shinmeicho. Directions: On the road that runs to the south of Takayama City Memorial Hall, on the right side (look for the green sign with the yellow seated Buddha; 12 min.). Prices are moderate, ranging from ¥800-¥1,500. They do accept credit cards. GPS coordinates: Lat. 36.139088 Lon. 137.259842
Yakisoba. A restaurant specializing in Yakisoba, a dish made from fried soba noodles. English menu available. Can be found by crossing the street North of the station, walking West, and taking the first right. GPS coordinates: Lat. 36.142761 Lon. 137.252197
Center4 Hamburgers. A true jewel for anyone looking for authentic American-style hamburgers in Gifu. Extremely popular among the local foreign population, Center4 offers not only delicious fare, but a warm and inviting atmosphere decorated in 1920's & 30's American memorabilia with classic rock playing in the background to complete the experience. The adored owner, Gaku, also offers an excellent selection of imported and domestic beers. The locals here in Takayama cannot find enough good things to say about this 'hole-in-the-wall' hamburger shop. Located at 94 Kamiichinomachi St., approximately 1.5 blocks south of Kokubunji St. If you're walking down Kokubunji from the station, simply cross the river and turn right at the first traffic signal and walk south until you see Center4 on your left. http://www.tiger-center4.com/index.html
Takayama is also famous for its steak (飛騨牛 hidagyu）. You can find it at many restaurants throughout the city.
Tulips (Snack Bar), 11-3 Asahimachi (朝日町), ☎ 0577-32-9041. The owner is Emiko Maruta. There is no English menu and she doesn't speak much English, but she is receptive to sign language. Drinks are cheap and the place is cozy. There is a pink sign out front with a drawing of a tulip and the word "snack". It is located on the 2nd floor above a place named "Passion."
Bagus (Reggae Bar), 1-31-3 Hatsuda 0577-36-4341. From City Hall go one block east and two streets south and then turn left onto the east-west street and it is about 50m ahead on the left (north) side of the street, on the second floor. English version of a varied menu a bonus! Seats about six at the bar and possibly 10 at tables on a small platform which also doubles as a stage. Huge variety of drinks including a very nice pot of Chai tea. No herb here, but good fun! (A reggae bar in Takayama is definitely worth having a look, even for just one drink!
Doya. No phone number. No menu. No actual name (locals simply know it as 'Doya'. About 50m due south of Red Hill Bar, also on the ground floor on the east side of the street, the fifth shop in from the corner that has a restaurant called ワン ポンド ('Wan Pondo' or 'One Pound'). Cool urban jazz and a very earthy, hip atmosphere. The proprieter speaks decent English. Despite the lack of menu, drinks are varied and priced reasonably up to ¥700. Light food is also available. Room for only about 12 at the bar only, but worth coming back later if it's full. No sign out front, just a blue and white curtain with two big cirles on it. The bottled Bintang Beer from Bali served here is a rare find in Japan.
RUM DANCE HALL a lot of different shochu and Rum of course. Owner speaks english; perfect place to finish after Doya. Best to ask your way from Doya the Rum dance hall is very close.
Red Hill Bar, 1-4 Sowa-cho 0577-33-8139 Open 7-12. Closed Mondays. Approximately two blocks east and one block south of city hall on the ground floor, on the west side of the street. Stocks imported beer as well as serving the usual cocktails and liqueurs. Light food such as pasta, salads, snacks, etc available. The proprietress, Hisayo, speaks fairly good English. Expect to pay ¥600-¥800 for drinks. Popular with local foreigners.
J-Hoppers Hida Takayama Guesthouse (Backpackers Hostel), 5-52, Nada-machi (3 min walk from JR Takayama Sta. Just in front of Takayama Post Office), ☎ +81-577-32-3278, . checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. The first independent hostel in the Hida region. Roomy bunk beds in dormitories and some Japanese style private rooms. Self catering kitchen, hot shower, Free Wifi, Guest PC, Rental bikes, Free tea/coffee.Dorm from 2500 yen, twin/double 3000 yen/pp.
Hida-Takayama Tenshōji Youth Hostel (ひだ高山天照寺ＹＨ), tel. 0577-32-6345, . A temple-affiliated youth hostel on the eastern outskirts of the city, a 20-minute walk from the station. A bed for the night is ¥2800/night for HI members.
Hida Takayama Temple Inn Zenkoji (飛騨高山善光寺), 4-3 Tenmancho (Exit station, turn right, walk until 2nd light. Turn left, walk until 3rd light.), ☎ 0577-32-8470 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Clean, spacious rooms, no meals but has kitchen and owner speaks very good english.Private room ¥3000, Dorm ¥2500, cash only.
Best Western Takayama, 6-6 Hanasatocho, ☎ 0577-506-0026, .
Hida Hotel Plaza Takayama, 2-60 Hanaoka-cho, ☎ 577-33-4600, . US$96 and up.
Hida Tourist Information Office, opposite JR Takayama station, tel. 0577-32-5328. The staff speak English and are a mine of information for the area. Open daily from 8.30 AM to 5 PM.
Shirakawa-go, with its beautifully preserved villages and open-air museum, is memorable. Stay in one of the old-time farmhouses. Reached by a 2-hour scenic bus ride from Takayama.
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