Tip: Visit during the fall for amazing foliage views

Tip: Spend at least 1 night in Takayama

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Bright red fall foliage in Takayama Japan
The beautiful fall foliage in Takayama, Japan

The best things to do in Takayama, Japan? I’ve got you covered!

Takayama, often referred to as the Hida region’s “Little Kyoto,” is a charming town in the Japanese Alps. With a quaint historic street and easy access to the surrounding mountains, tihs off-the-beaten path location is a must on your Japan itinerary. 

Takayama is often overlooked by tourists more keen to visit the popular cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. Arriving in Takayama feels like you’re stepping back in history to the Edo period. So let’s dive into all of the best things to do and eat in Takayama, one of the most beautiful places in Japan. 

Before we dive into the article, here are some popular tours in and around Takayama if you are in a rush:

 Popular tours in Takayama

Prepare for your trip to Japan:

Is Takayama worth visiting? 

If you’ve landed on this page you’re hopefully planning a trip to the beautiful Hida Takayama, or you may still be wondering if it’s worth visiting Takayama. The short answer, yes a visit to Takayama is absolutely worth it! 

Nicknamed “Little Kyoto,” Takayama has all of the charming narrow alleys of historic homes, without the massive crowds of its namesake. While you don’t need a ton of time to explore this charming place, I definitely recommend adding it to your Japan itinerary.

How to get to Takayama 

With its own train station on the JR Line, Takayama is very easy to get to from other parts of Japan. Takayama is located in the Gifu Prefecture of the Chūbu region, which is in central Japan.

We arrived from the nearby park, Kamikochi, which is located one hour away by bus.

If you are coming from a major city, I’ve included travel times and costs in Japanese yen below: 

Tokyo > Takayama: 4-6 hours, 7-17k yen depending on mode of transportation

Kyoto > Takayama: 3-4 hours, 7.6-10k yen depending on mode of transportation

Osaka > Takayama: 3-5 hours, 9-14k yen depending on mode of transportation

Matsumoto > Takayama: 3 hours, 4,600 yen

Night buses are also a great option for reaching Takayama from Tokyo or Kyoto. Both of these journeys take between 5 and 6 hours. 

Getting around Takayama 

Takayama is an incredibly walkable city, making it easy to see most of the city on foot! Walking is my favorite way to explore a new city, as it ensures that I don’t miss anything en route.

A good alternative to exploring Takayama on foot is to rent a bike to explore Takayama. Many hotels and guesthouses have options to rent a bike for just a few dollars. 

If you’re looking to travel outside of the city to further spots like Hida No Sato or Kamikochi, you can travel by bus. 

How many days in Takayama?

1 night in Takayama is sufficient for seeing all of the main attractions. If you are interested in taking a day trip to nearby Kamikochi or Shirakawago, then I definitely recommend spending 2 nights. 

Where to stay in Takayama: Hotel and Hostel Recommendations  

Takayama has so many charming places to stay, with options for all budgets, so you can’t really go wrong. 

My only recommendation would be to stay close by to the train station. This will make it easier to arrive into and leave Takayama, without worrying about hiring a taxi or walking far with your luggage. 

Many of the city’s best restaurants are also in the newer part of the city, just a short walk from the train station.

Here are some options for lodging in Takayama:

Photo credit: Booking.com

K’s House Takayama Oasis

We stayed in a private double room at K’s House Takayama Oasis. This simple hostel offers both private and dorm rooms, along with a cozy common space for cooking and dining. It is located just a short was from the main train station and close to all of Takayama’s best restaurants and attractions by foot.

Check rates and availability

Takayama Restaurants: Where to eat in Takayama 

Generally speaking Japan is known for its line culture. If you want to eat out, expect to wait in line. While waiting in line isn’t the most fun, its great for us last minute planners who didn’t make any dinner reservations. 

Unlike most cities we visited in Japan, we quickly learned that having a reservation is a must in Takayama. After being turned away by countless restaurants on our first night, we made sure to make a reservation for the next night. I highly recommend doing the same! 

As an alternative, you can join a food and sake walking tour to experience 3 different top local spots.

Tenaga Ashinaga is a great dinner option for delicious ramen in Takayama
Tenaga Ashinaga is a great dinner option for delicious ramen

Cha-no-me cafe

Looking for a good breakfast spot in the Old Town of Takayama? Check out Cha-no-me cafe. They have a delicious assortment of local teas and coffees, as well as a menu of sweet treats and breakfast options. 

I had my best matcha in Takayama at Cha-no-me cafe.

Akariya

If you are a meat eater, then you can’t come to Takayama without trying Hida Beef, local famous beef from the area.

Akariya is a great spot to enjoy high quality Hida Beef at reasonable prices. You have your options of various cuts of meat, which you then cook yourself on your personal grill.

Tenaga Ashinaga

Easily the best ramen we had in Takayama was at Tenaga Ashinaga. It’s a big bustling restaurant with a both a downstairs seating area and quieter private booths upstairs.

As with all of the places on this list, it is super important that you make a reservation, as it is usually completely fills up. We made a reservation in person 1 day in advance and it was fine!

Hida Kotte Ushi 

I’ll tell you more about Hida Beef below, but for now let’s get into Hida Beef Sushi. A lightly seared cut of the famous local Hida Beef served on a thin wafer.

There are a number of places in the city to try it, but Hida Kotte Ushi is the most famous. There is usually a line, but it moves fast.

Cha-no-me cafe
Cha-no-me cafe
Hida Kotte Ushi 
Hida Kotte Ushi 

Best things to do in Takayama (plus day trips from Takayama)

Despite the city’s small size, there are so many amazing things to do in Takayama, Japan’s ”Little Kyoto’. From exploring the beautiful Edo-style old quarter to soaking in a traditional onsen, there is something for every type of traveler.

Let’s dive into all of the best things to do in this amazing Japanese city.

Experience the Miyagawa Morning market

This daily market can be found along the Miyagawa river each morning. The market opens in the early morning, between 7 and 8, and usually shuts down around 12pm. It is a great place to come for breakfast or small treats. 

Here are a few things I recommend purchasing the the Miyagawa Morning market: 

  • Taiyaki
  • Hida Beef
  • Fresh veggies or grains
  • Handmade chopsticks

Stroll the historical Old Town (Sanmachi Suji District)

The Sanmachi Suji District is charming at all hours of the day, but I recommend visiting in the early morning or right at sunset before the shops close. While visiting midday is definitely an option, you can expect a fair amount of other travelers, including day trippers from nearby major cities.

I recommend visiting in the morning and grabbing a matcha latte and sweet treat before heading over to the morning markets. 

You can return again in the late afternoon, when the sun reflects off the roofs of the homes dotting the narrow streets. 

Exploring the Sanmachi Suji District of Takayama
Exploring the Sanmachi Suji District

Cross the Nakabashi bridge 

Nakabashi bridge is considered a gateway into the historic Old Town of Takayama. The bright red bridge, which is one of the two bridges that cross the river, contrasts beautifully against the mountains.

The Nakabashi bridge makes for an excellent photo spot, especially in the Spring or Fall when the flowers are blossoming or the foliage is bright.

Takayama Yatai Kaikan 

The Takayama Festival is held twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. If your visit aligns with the festival, then you’re in for a treat. We missed it, but heard that it is one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan.

However, if like us you weren’t able to catch the festival, you can still visit Takayama Yatai Kaikan. Takayama Yatai Kaikan is an exhibition hall where you can find a number of the floats for the Fall Festival on display.

The cost to enter is 1,000 yen ($6.50).

Go sake tasting at the local sake breweries

Takayama is famous for its pure sake, a result of its location in the mountains. While in Takayama, particularly while in the Old Town, you can experience sake tastings at a number of different sake breweries. 

One thing to note is that these breweries tend to close between 5 and 6pm, so you’ll want to plan to enjoy your sake earlier in the day.

Here are a few spots to check out:

  • Harada Brewery
  • Funasaka Sake Brewery

If you want to learn more about the sakes that you’re trying, you can join a 30-minute sake brewery tour.

Fall foliage in Takayama
Fall foliage in Takayama
Delicious taiyaki at the Morning Market in Takayama Japan
Delicious taiyaki at the Morning Market

Try Hida beef

Meat eaters, this one is more you! If you’re planning a trip to Takayama, then you’ve surely heard of the famous Hida beef. Hida beef or “Hida-gyu” is the name given to beef that comes from a Japanese cattle breed raised in Gifu Prefecture. It is known as one of the finest cuts of beef in the world, known for its intense marble pattern.

Here are some places in Takayama to try Hida Beef:

  • Hida Kotte Ushi 
  • Akariya

Enjoy a local onsen

If you’re planning to visit Kamikochi, then you can also check out Hirayu onsen village, which is located just 15 minutes down the road from the park. Even without a visit to the park, Hirayu onsen village can be reached in 1 hour by bus from Takayama Train Station.

Small alleys of Takayama at night
Small alleys of Takayama at night
Biking is a great way to get around the small city of Takayama
Biking is a great way to get around the small city of Takayama

Explore nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa

One of the most popular things to do in Takayama is to take a day trip to Shirakawa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The villages of Shirakawa are located in a remote mountain area. The village is famous for its traditional Gassho-zukuri style homes. Ogimachi, the largest village in Shirakawa, is a popular day trip from Takayama. You can reach the village by bus in about 1 hour.

Take a day trip to Kamikochi

Kamikochi was easily one of the most beautiful places that I visited in Japan. Kamikochi is a beautiful mountainous area in the northern part of the Japanese alps. Kamikochi is a nature lover’s dream. You’ll find sharp mountain peaks, striking blue lakes and endless hiking trails for all fitness levels.

There are frequent buses between Takayama and Kamikochi that take about 1 hour. The buses depart from the main train station in Takayama. Alternatively, you can visit the villages on a guided day trip from Takayama for an easier travel day.

Visiting Japan? Here are some other articles to check out:

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