The BEST Things to Do in Takayama: The Ultimate Itinerary

Discover the charm of Takayama in its Edo-period streets, savor the legendary Hida beef, and unwind in serene onsens.

Things to do in Takayama

Takayama is the town that made us fall in love with Japan.

Tucked away in the embrace of the Japanese Alps, its crisp alpine breeze, charmingly preserved Edo buildings, and a culinary scene to write home about (we’re talking life-changing Hida beef and soul-warming Takayama ramen) make it a slice of heaven in Japan.

Takayama is the kind of place that captivates both wide-eyed tourists and discerning Japanese locals, offering an array of experiences that simply can’t be crammed into a single day.

We went to Takayama and made this YouTube video of some of the things to do in Takayama!

We went to Takayama to explore its ancient streets, eat its incredible food, and relax in the onsens near the city. And now, we’re thrilled to share with you our curated list of the absolute must-dos in Takayama!

🚐 Guess what? We’ve been so enchanted by Takayama’s allure that we’ve already penned it into our travel diaries for a return in April 2024. We’ll be road-tripping around Japan in a camper van for a month, and you can bet Takayama is on our list.

Things to Do in Takayama

There is just so much to do right in the town of Takayama itself!

Unlike many tourist destinations out in the countryside, you don’t even need a car to explore the best of Takayama. You could spend your entire time in Takayama getting around by foot.

Here are some of the best things to do located right in Takayama:

Wander through Hida Folk Village

📍 Hida Folk Village – Google Maps | Hida Folk Village Website | Cost: ¥700 (Adults), ¥200 (Children ages 6-15) | 👉 Hida Folk Village Tour Tickets

Situated just a short bus ride from the heart of Takayama, Hida Folk Village (or “Hida no Sato”) is an enchanting window into Japan’s past. This open-air museum is home to over 30 traditional houses from the Hida region, beautifully preserved and transplanted to this picturesque setting.

Thatched roof houses at Hida Folk Village with the backdrop of Takayama's mountain range

Strolling around, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been transported back in time. The village layout allows you to discover intricately constructed wooden farmhouses, some of which date as far back as the 1600s.

On our recent visit to Hida Folk Village, we thought we’d simply breeze through in about an hour or two. Yet, we found ourselves lingering far longer, captivated by the craftspeople at work, demonstrating traditional arts like ceramics and woodworking.

![Person weaving cloth on a traditional loom at Hida Folk Village, showcasing the area’s rich craft heritage.](Image link placeholder)

Meander Down Old Town’s Sanmachi Street

📍 Sanmachi Street – Google Maps | Takayama Old Town Website | Cost: Free

Right in the historic core of Takayama, Sanmachi Street is the famous street in Takayama that the town is most known for. It’s that kind of place that feels frozen in time – but in the most delightful way. Lined with wooden Edo-period merchant houses, it’s a vibrant scene of what life was like in old Japan.

Traditional wooden storefronts lining the atmospheric Sannomachi Street, illuminated by lights as dawn approaches.

Seriously, there’s something about those quaint sake breweries, coffee shops, and craft boutiques that just pulls you in. During our trip, Chloe and I had this game: guessing what was behind each wooden façade. And trust me, each doorway led to a unique surprise.

For the foodies out there, look out for the little stalls selling Hida’s signature treats. We stumbled upon a tiny shop selling Mitarashi Dango – skewered rice dumplings with a sweet soy glaze.

Eating a stick of mitarashi dango in the streets of Sanmachi in Takayama

However, our favorite treat in Takayama was its Hida beef skewers. Hida beef comes at a price, but its some of the best beef we’ve ever eaten!

Savor Some Hida Beef

When you first arrive in Takayama, you won’t be able to go anywhere without seeing advertisements for its famous food – Hida beef.

Many restaurants in Takayama serve Hida beef in some form or another. And if you don’t want to go all out and get a Hida beef steak, there are many stalls in the town that serve up Hida beef in all sorts of portion sizes and styles.

Chloe and I realized that leaving Takayama without indulging in some Hida beef would be nothing short of a culinary crime. And so we found ourselves cozied up in a street stall, eager to sample this renowned dish.

Hida beef nigiri in Takayama Japan

Unlike other beef varieties, what sets Hida Beef apart is its intricate marbling and buttery softness that seems to dissolve the moment it touches your tongue. Seriously, Hida beef is like the sashimi of the beef world.

We opted for two different preparations—nigiri style over rice, and yakiniku style barbequed on a skewer.

Taking that first bite of the Hida beef nigiri was nothing short of a revelation. The beef was tender, bursting with flavors enhanced by its intricate marbling. I’m not one for raw beef, but Hida beef was a rare exception.

Our next dish was a Hida beef skewer. In our opinion, this is the best way to eat it. The interior of the beef retained its melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.

Hida beef skewer in Takayama

Each bite was an exquisite balance of smoky, savory, and the signature sweetness of Hida Beef, while still having that melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Relive Childhood Dreams at the Teddy Bear Eco Village

📍 Teddy Bear Eco Village – Google Maps | Teddy Bear Eco Village Website | Cost: ¥1000 (Adults), ¥600 (Children)

Now, here’s a little gem that took us by surprise. Within walking distance of Hida Folk Village, the Teddy Bear Eco Village isn’t just a quirky stop; it’s a delightful haven for both the young and the young-at-heart.

Street food mini bears at Teddy Bear Eco Village

Imagine a place where creativity meets nostalgia. The museum leads you through playful teddy bear exhibits, giving “teddy-life” to everyday scenes. Some are walking down the street, others are ‘fishing’ by a pond, and a few are even dressed up in traditional Japanese garb.

When Chloe and I first walked in, we couldn’t help but giggle. It’s such an unexpected blend of the serene Takayama surroundings with the playful charm of teddy bears.

And the ‘eco’ in Teddy Bear Eco Village? It’s a nod to the sustainability efforts. Many of the installations and displays are crafted using recycled materials, adding an eco-conscious touch to teddys.

Trey with the Patagonia Fleece Bear in Teddy Bear Eco Village
The Patagonia Fleece bear is made from scraps from the Patagonia factory!

But, the more we wandered, the more we realized there was a certain magic to it. It’s like stepping into a childhood dream where teddies come to life.

Explore Takayama on a Bicycle

It’s no secret that we love exploring new areas on two wheels. And while you might think that the Japanese countryside is wide and spread out, the town of Takayama is quite dense and is more of a small city than a remote town.

Riding bicycles around Takayama Japan

Takayama is an awesome town to bike around. Quaint streets, flat roads, and a bicycle-friendly culture make it safe to ride around and park your bicycle almost anywhere.

Here are two places in Takayama where you can rent bicycles:

We recommend renting a bicycle for a day and then going to all of the sights within the city of Takayama. This makes it way more efficient to travel to all the spots within Takayama, and you’ll be less tired than if you walked there.

Savor the Slurp at a Takayama Ramen Restaurant

📍 Hida Takayama Akarenga Sohonten – Google Maps

You might’ve tried ramen in Tokyo or Kyoto, but there’s a local spin on this classic dish right here in Takayama that you can’t miss: Takayama ramen.

A steaming bowl of Takayama ramen, with its thin, wavy noodles and soy-based broth.

Picture this: thin, delicate noodles swimming in a soy-based broth that’s both light and incredibly flavorful. And when I say flavorful, I mean the kind of depth that has you pausing after that first slurp, trying to decode all those flavors playing on your taste buds.

Tucked away in the town’s nooks and crannies are these quaint ramen joints, often family-run and each with their own guarded recipes.

Our favorite stop was this cozy place where the owner, a friendly woman named Mayumi, not only made us some of the best ramen we’ve ever eaten, but also chatted with us after we were done.

Immerse in Tranquility with the Higashiyama Walking Course

📍 Higashiyama Walking Course – Google Maps

The Higashiyama Walking Course stands out as an essential experience for those seeking a blend of culture, history, and scenic views.

Situated at the eastern edge of town, this gentle route winds through a series of historic temples, shrines, and lush landscapes that collectively tell tales of the town’s storied past.

Starting from the iconic Shiroyama Park and leading all the way to the atmospheric Teramachi district, the course spans roughly 3.5 kilometers. Along the way, you’ll be treated to sights of historic structures like the Shinshu-ji Temple and Soyu-ji Temple.

But it’s not just about the temples. This walking course offers stunning vistas of Takayama’s townscapes, the surrounding mountains, and the maze of narrow streets that hark back to the Edo period.

Indulge in Some Treats at the Miyagawa Morning Market

📍 Miyagawa Morning Market – Google Maps

The first rays of sun peeking over the horizon, the quiet hum of vendors setting up their stalls, and the alluring aroma of local handmade snacks wafting through the air — welcome to Takayama’s morning market!

Located along the Miyagawa River and in the Jinyamae Square, this market has been a daily tradition since the Edo period.

If you’re looking for handmade snacks and local goods, this is the perfect place. The market has all sorts of local snacks, from mochi to sweets, wrapped up so you can take them home (or eat them right there!).

And if you need some trinkets as souvenirs, the market has everything from keychains to magnets, and even fancy chopsticks

If you’re looking to get really fancy, you can also purchase some raw hida beef to cook later.

Things to Do Near Takayama

Takayama serves as the perfect gateway to the northern Japan Alps. Besides all of the things to do in Takayama itself, there are many things to do as day trips near Takayama.

Journey to Shirakawago

Takayama, in all its rustic charm, offers a golden ticket to step even further back in time – a day trip to the enchanting village of Shirakawago.

Nestled in the shadow of majestic mountains, the village’s patchwork of glistening rice fields and iconic thatched-roof houses, known as gassho-zukuri, create a picturesque tableau reminiscent of ancient Japanese landscapes. It’s no wonder UNESCO deemed it worthy of World Heritage status.

Before heading back to Takayama, we made sure to sip on some warm matcha at one of the village’s traditional tea houses, soaking in the serenity one last time.

Relax in an Onsen

With Takayama’s proximity to the Japan Alps comes a huge array of onsen options.

The onsens near Takayama get their hot spring water directly from the earth. The hot water is full of minerals that are thought to possess properties that are beneficial to your health.

Relaxing in a private onsen in Shinhotaka Japan

We went to the mountain town of Shinhotaka via bus from Takayama. It was about a 1 1/2 hour bus ride directly from Takayama. Shinhotaka has both public and private onsens in a picturesque mountain setting in the heart of the northern Japan alps.

The public onsen in Shinhotaka is right in the river, so you can onsen in nature with crisp mountain air and birds chirping.

If you’re shy, there are a bunch of hotels in Shinhotaka that have private onsens in the hotel rooms. That’s right – you get your own onsen right in the comfort of your hotel room.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Takayama?

We recommend either Spring (late March to May) or Autumn (October to November) to visit Takayama. During spring and Autumn, the weather is cool, but not too cold, and not too rainy.

  • Spring (late March to May): Spring in Takayama is a beautiful time to visit. The cherry blossoms bloom in late March and April, and the Takayama spring festival happens in April.
  • Summer (June, July, and August): Summer in Takayama is the rainy season, and while the weather can be nice for outdoor activities, it tends to be quite humid and wet during the summer.
  • Autumn (October and November): Autumn is another excellent time to visit, with cooler weather and stunning fall foliage. The autumn leaves typically peak in October and early November, creating a colorful display around the town and its surrounding mountains. The Takayama autumn festival happens in October, so that’s another popular time to visit Takayama.
  • Winter (December, January, and February): Winter in Takayama is cold and snowy. While there won’t be many crowds in Takayama during the winter, it is quite a tough time to visit since Takayama gets a decent amount of snowfall.

How to Get to Takayama

There are two ways to get to Takayama by public transportation: Train or bus.

How to Get to Takayama by Train

  • From Tokyo:
    • Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya, then transfer to the JR Hida limited express in Nagoya, which goes to Takayama.
    • Going to Takayama from Tokyo by train is around 4 1/2 hours one-way, which means you can’t do Takayama as a day trip from Tokyo.
  • From Kyoto:
    • Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto to Nagoya, then transfer to the JR Hida limited express in Nagoya, which goes to Takayama.
    • Kyoto is slightly closer to Takayama than Tokyo is. The train ride to Takayama from Kyoto is about 3 hours total one-way, so it can be done as a day trip. But with all the traveling involved, it would be quite a long day, so we don’t recommend doing Takayama as a day trip from Kyoto.

How to Get to Takayama by Bus

Going to Takayama by bus is much cheaper than a train, but it takes a little longer to get there.

Getting back on the bus to Takayama at the rest stop
Chloe ran to get back on the bus after getting snacks at the rest stop! We took a little bit too much time cruising around the rest stop checking out all of the different shops, so the bus was waiting for us!

The bus from Tokyo to Takayama is a spacious tour bus, cozy enough for the long haul, and it even stopped at a few rest stops for bathroom breaks and a chance to purchase snacks. Plus, you’re free to snack onboard, which isn’t always the case with city buses and trains.

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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