Sunday Spotlight – Takayama, Japan

Howdy folks, hope that this post finds you well. Today I would like to take you to a city in the Gifu prefecture of Japan, destination – Takayama. I visited it on my very first trip to Japan back in 2011, and decided to visit this town of a little under 90,000 people after reading about it in the trusty guide book, the ol’ Lonely Planet.

It was my second stop, after Kyoto, and to get to Takayama I needed to take a fast train to Nagoya, and then a slower train through some spectacular valleys and so forth as we increased the altitude to get to Takayama. It’s not that high though, only around 550 metres above sea level, but it certainly was cooler than Kyoto.

I arrived in the evening and stayed at the Hostel Zenko-ji, which is accommodation based in a temple. At the time it was a hostel experience and I was able to cook there and experience a very different kind of accommodation to what I was used to. A little internet search has me finding it’s now billing itself as a ‘hotel’ with prices far far in excess of what I paid when I was there, which I guess is disappointing. I was there in the first half of April, and at night time temperatures fell to zero degrees. The temple thankfully provided me with an electric blanket which mist definitely was needed!

Takayama doesn’t feel very big, but actually for Japan it’s somewhat spread out over a few hills, although the very centre of town is quite flat and contains straight streets with shops and businesses, and feels very ‘Japan’ to the visitor. There are plenty of restaurants and you can try the Hida beef if you wish, and your wallet is okay with it as special beef can be amongst the most expensive meals you can get in Japan. In general, I found the city to be very pleasant and peaceful – in fact it was very quiet for a Japanese city, cities which often have a lot of traffic noise and electronic sounds. The quiet was at times interrupted by roaming vehicles for the election that was upcoming there, as they were fitted with megaphones on top blaring out messages.

There are a number of temples in Takayama. The first one I visited was the Hida Kokubun-ji (I won’t suffix this with ‘Temple’ because ‘ji’ in Japanese is temple, so it basically says that already). This is a nice, smaller temple which is worth visiting. It has a multi-storey pagoda attached, is next to a big, old tree and is the city’s oldest temple.

I also went to see the Sukyo Mahikiri Main World Shrine – this temple was atop a hill on the side of town on the other side of the train line and river. There wasn’t that much town over that side, and from the main side you could see the golden roof of this temple clearly despite low clouds. Unfortunately, after a half hour or so walk uphill, it turned out to be closed. It is a much more recently built temple and felt like it was a bit… out there in some ways.

Back on the main side of town, down a street with many historic looking homes, the Hida Folk Art Museum was in fact an historic house with a few museum pieces inside. I found it most interesting for the actual building. According to my trusty guide book the house used to belong to a samurai, and according to the people working there, it is 200-300 years old.

The Takayama Showa-kan is a kitsch museum in a sort of warehouse I guess dedicated to the 1950s to 1980s, during the Showa period under the reign of Emperor Hirohito. There are mock ups of a typical Japanese living room back in the 1950s/1960s, loads of kitsch from the time period, old TVs, record players, signs and the like. I don’t know if it’s for you, but I loved this place! Strange – sure, a little, but infinitely interesting, although the owners there didn’t speak English and there was a fair bit I didn’t understand.

The Float Hall is something special to the city. There are bi-annual festivals in Takayama, when I presume the city comes to life, and it’s probably the best time of year to visit Takayama when they are on. For the rest of the year, you can see a number of floats in the ‘Float Hall’ – or the ‘Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall’ if you like to use full names. You can see some of the floats on display there that get wheeled out twice a year.

The ticket for this also gets you into the Sakurayama Nikko, which is a model display of shrines and buildings at Nikko. It’s actually a really large display and worth going to see as it’s already included on the Float Hall ticket. The lights dim and brighten as to mimic the passing of days and nights.

All in all, Takayama is a nice little place. You can certainly cover the sights of the town probably in a day, stretch it to two and you may be looking for a way to fill your time. Having said that, come when there’s a festival and you shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a lovely location and certainly has a certain charm. Have you been? Is there something there I haven’t mentioned you think is worth seeing? Please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for visiting today. Take care – and May the Journey Never End!

11 thoughts on “Sunday Spotlight – Takayama, Japan

  1. Wow, what a gem! I’ve never heard of Takayama, but it looks to be a charming place to visit. Hopefully, the cold didn’t get to you too badly, especially coming from Australia!

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