I really have to say that Takayama is one of the hidden jewels in Japan, especially if you are looking for traditional Japan. It’s located in the Gifu prefecture, which is beside my presiding prefecture, Nagano. It’s located right in the Japanese Alps and thus not readily accessible. However, it can be accessed via a limited express train that goes from Nagoya to Takayama, or by bus from Matsumoto. I only found out about this city because my Japanese sensei (teacher) was born there, and highly recommended visiting the city during Hanami (Sakura blooming) season. So that’s what I did, I jumped into a car and went there on a day trip with a colleague.
I thought the city itself is very nice. The city is well-preserved and designed in the whole Edo-style streets. Many of the houses and stores in these streets uses wooden planks for constructions. I would say the only other place that would rival it would be the old parts of Kyoto. In some aspects I would say it’s better because there are less tourists walking around, so the whole feel felt more authentic. The only thing missing were the Geishas.
What made it really nice was that the Sakura (Cherry blossoms) were in bloom. So the pink leaves gave a really nice contrast with the whole rustic appearance of the buildings. There is a particular tree that overhangs a red bridge that made for a nice picture (shown below). It was unfortunate though that we couldn’t coincide our trip with one of their festivals. Takayama is known for their Sanno Matsuri (Spring Festival on April 14-15), and Yahata Matsuri (Autumn Festival on Oct. 9-10) festival. Large yatai (floats) lavishly decorated with lacquer ware, mechanical dolls, curtains, and gold/silver are paraded through the streets.
If you are in the region, you can also sample the Hida beef, which is famous in particularly Takayama. It is known for its fatty tissue and rich flavour, and I would say rivals Kobe beef. But then again, I was traveling on a budget so I never really tried the high-end Hida, or Kobe beef. Another thing to get, and I would say one of the few unique small souvenirs that’s not edible, is the Sarubobo. It’s an amulet, or charm, that is shaped like a human, but is faceless. The idea is to think of the person’s face to whom you want to charm.
SAKE – Bottles and crates of all shape and sizes for the famous Japanese alcohol.
SAKURA – The cherry blossoms were in bloom for only two weeks.
RED BRIDGE – The most photo-ed region of the town. This picture unfortunately does not do it justice to the region.
TORII GATES – It marks the transition from the profane world to the sacred region of the Shinto shrines.
ALPINE WATER – So clean, and so good. Now I’m thirsty…