Takayama, the Jewel of the Japanese Alps


Playing second fiddle to its touristy neighbours Toyama and Nagano, Takayama in Gifu Prefecture in the Japanese Alps is a postcard town of Edo period beauty. A town carefully preserved, lavishly gifted with elegant old Japanese architecture and peppered with historical and cultural sites, it’s a town worth veering off the well beaten bullet train track to see.

Takayama Onsen

Natural Onsens in the Japanese Alps near Takayama

The Japanese Alps

Nestled in the Japanese Alps and featuring some of Japan’s purest natural onsen (hot spring bathing areas), Takayama is a favourite destination of those looking for a more authentic and peaceful Japanese experience. The sky blue pure headwaters of the Takayama river snake through the picturesque alps before cutting through the middle of the town and under the picturesque Naka Bashi Bridge.

Takayama Naka Bashi Bridge

The Famous Naka Bashi Bridge during the Takayama Spring Festival

Takayama Historical Sites

From the 17th century architecture, to the breathtaking Hachiman and Hie Jinja shrines (dating back to the 11th century), to the 500 year old Hida Minzoku Mura open air Folk Village, Takayama delights those with a passion for Japanese history and culture. Takayama is famous for its sake production, and you can enjoy a tour through a traditional sake factory – some dating back hundreds of years.

Takayama Accommodation

While there is western style accommodation available, Takayama is well known for its many Ryokan – comfortable, traditional Japanese lodgings. These (often historic) “inns” may require adherence to Japanese etiquette, including strict bathing times, footwear and curfews, so brush up on your cultural norms before checking in.

Takayama Matsuri (Festivals)

Twice yearly (April 14th and 15th and October 9th and 10th), Takayama becomes a Mecca for Japanese tourists (and even foreign ones) for the Takayama Festivals. Because Takayama makes such a stunning backdrop, these festivals (particularly the April festival when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom) are considered among the most beautiful in Japan. The festivals celebrate the coming of Spring and Autumn (Fall).

What you won’t find in Takayama….

There’s only one thing missing. Hundreds and hundreds of shabbily dressed western backpackers! Takayama is just far enough out of the way to only interest the discerning traveller and in fact, you may even be lucky enough to meet no foreigners at all throughout your trip.

Getting There

It’s impossible to avoid the slow local trains unfortunately. The trip from Tokyo can be done by Shinkansen as far as Nagoya followed by a local train to Gifu and another to Takayama. The journey takes 5 – 6 hours but snakes through some of the most beautiful countryside Japan has to offer. If going by car, head west from Tokyo to Kofu, north-west to Matsumoto and west to Takayama.

About the Author: Dana Flannery lived for several years in Japan and travelled extensively in that time. She now lives back in Australia where she does content marketing for businesses in the baby products industry.

3 Responses to “Takayama, the Jewel of the Japanese Alps”

  1. Japan Australia  on June 12th, 2012

    Love staying at a traditional ryokan north of Takayama and enjoying the amazing onsen and Hida gyu beef. The city has everything including traditional inns, shops and sake breweries still in operation. The main town is small enough to explore on foot or by bicycle and I recommend at least 2 days to fully enjoy the place.

  2. Travis  on June 13th, 2012

    I think the Hida beef is on par with the Kobe beef we tried last time. Both are so tender and delicious. Can’t wait to go back and try some more :)

  3. RC  on September 9th, 2012

    Travelling from Tokyo to Takayama can be done in 272 minutes according to hyperdia.com with trains that you can take with a JR Railpass. So that is less than 5 hours. There is a direct train from Nagoya to Takayama and it is a scenic ride. This train has extra large windows to make it possible to enjoy the landscape even more.

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