It’s best-known for its picture-perfect preserved town center and elaborate spring-and-autumn festivals, but if you ask us, Takayama’s real treasures are found in the surrounding alpine countryside.
Google Takayama and you’ll see images of wood-paneled streets lined with sliding screen doors, sake breweries with sugidama cedar balls hanging from their eaves, and rickshaws pulled by young men in split-toed tabi shoes and straw hats. It looks like an alpine toy-town, but what you won’t see is what’s just outside it: sprawling, concrete suburbs just like any other Japanese city. We’re not saying this to be negative. Takayama may not be a twee little town in the mountains, but it’s special nonetheless.
For a start, its old-town district really is as pretty as a picture. The sake brewery tours are fantastic, the Hida beef really is to die for, and the craft workshops are a great spot to scoop up some authentic souvenirs. But what really makes Takayama worth visiting, for us, is its surroundings.
Head just out of the city and you’ll find little towns where the streets are lined with carp streams. At the Hida Folk Village, you’ll find an open-air museum where steep-roofed farmhouses offer a window into traditional countryside life. Join a cycling tour and you’ll roll through water-filled paddy fields and tiny villages, stopping in at traditional sweet shops and farms to chat to locals against a background of evergreen mountains. A visit to Takayama isn’t about sightseeing: it’s about slowing it all down, taking time to notice the little things, and seeing where it takes you.