Takayama Mini Travel Guide
Takayama is known as the “Gateway to the Japanese Alps”
It’s located in Gifu Prefecture, approximately 300 km from Tokyo, and those traveling on a JR rail pass can take the Hida limited express train from Nagoya to Takayama. That trip will take you about 2.5 hours and you can enjoy the beautiful rural mountain scenery along the way. From the beautiful town of Takayama, you can easily visit the World Heritage Site at Shirakawago, travel to Kanazawa, go hiking at Kamikochi, Mt. Norikura, and Matsumoto and beyond.
After living in the town for a year, I can honestly tell you that Takayama is a great place to visit all year round. In the spring there are cherry blossoms and you can enjoy on the the 2 famous festivals (mid April) that is considered one of the top 3 most beautiful festivals in all of Japan. In the summer the green mountains & rice paddies are very scenic, and you just might catch a view of the still-snow-covered alps in the distance! In fall, the colors change on the mountainsides, and it’s a nice time to enjoy the 2nd famous festival (early/mid October). If you are adventurous enough to visit in winter, be prepared: it’s very snowy and a bit cold, but Takayama is a great stepping off point for snowboarding and skiing at any one of the many nearby resorts. You will definitely want to bring your gloves, hat & scarf! You may also be up for visiting an onsen to enjoy the traditional hot public bath surrounded by the winter atmosphere – a great experience to enjoy, and one that is sure to warm you up for the next few hours!
Rent a Bicycle!
I always think the best way to see a city is on bicycle! Study the map a few minutes, then take off! Takayama is no exception – it is a perfect city to enjoy via bicycle (unless it’s the dead of winter!). If you try to get around Takayama via car, you’ll miss all the tiny streets full of small restaurants & bars (sometimes they look like alleys at first glance) and all the beautiful foliage, and you cannot drive down some of the old town/downtown streets. Parking is also sure to run up a nice bill. It’s better to rent a bicycle for the day and head off! Don’t worry about getting lost – there are a few large landmarks that you’ll be able to see from anywhere. Be sure to keep an eye out for the old town streets – you’ll have to walk your bicycle down these streets (you’ll want to take it a little slower down these streets anyway, and pop into a few shops along the way).
Eat a hamburger!
Yes, yes, it’s Japan and you should enjoy the Japanese food, but you might also have a craving for a good old hamburger or cheeseburger. It’s totally understandable and the best burgers in the area are at Center4 . Here you can expect a tasty burger, fries, and probably some other foreign faces eating. The menu is in english and the owners speak excellent english, so just relax! It’s a little tricky to find, but that makes it all the more awesome. You’ll have to keep an eye out for the signboard propped up out front, and go inside. Don’t be afraid! You will walk into an antique shop first, but keep walking straight back and you’ll stumble upon the entrance. They are open from 11am until 9:30pm, but are closed on Wednesdays. Enjoy, but be sure to have some other local Japanese food as well! 😉
Savor some Hida beef!
You’re bound to smell the beef being grilled and you’ll surely pass at least one little booth selling skewers of Hida beef. You should try it. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s a little fatty, but Yes, IT’S THAT GOOD! Seriously. Just try it. You will not complain.