Things to Do in Takayama
Each morning the historic city of Takayama hosts two morning markets. The smaller of the two takes place in front of Takayama Jinya and the larger — one of the best morning markets in Japan — takes place on the east bank of the Miya-gawa River in Old Town.
The morning market tradition dates back to the Edo Period, and modern day shoppers will find vendors selling fresh produce, local folk art, souvenirs, sweets, fresh milk and other traditional Japanese cooking ingredients, like miso. And while both markets remain open until around noon each day, they’re best visited around 6 am when they first open, as there’s an added energy in the air as vendors begin setting up their stalls and preparing their wares for the local early shoppers.
Take a walk down Sannomachi St (Kami Sannomachi) in Takayama’s old town, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Edo Period (1600-1868). This well-preserved portion of the historic city features traditional homes, merchant houses, sake breweries, shops and cafes — some of them have been operating for centuries.
Sake has long been an area specialty, and many of Takayama’s oldest sake breweries are congregated along Sannomachi St. Recognizable by the large globes of cedar branches (called sugidama) hung above the doors, these traditional breweries often welcome visitors to step in and sample the iconic Japanese beverage. Other points of interest along the street include the Hida Archeology Museum (Hida Minzoku Kokokan) and the Fujii Art Gallery, where visitors can browse exhibits showcasing folk art objects and household items from the Edo Period.
Each autumn, the historic city of Takayama hosts Takayama Matsuri, ranked as one of Japan’s top festivals. Throughout the remainder of the year, the Yatai Kaikan Hall displays several of the elaborate floats used during the festival. These colorful floats, of which four of 11 are on display at any given time, date back to as early as the seventeenth century and are adorned with intricate carvings, hanging Japanese lanterns and marionettes. Each float is mounted on wheels and requires a team of 20 people to maneuver them through the streets.
While a visit to the hall lacks the theatrics of the actual festival, it’s the next best thing if you can’t make it for the main event.
Located in Takayama City and discovered in 1965, the Hida Great Limestone Cave is unusual for its helictites, limestone formations that curve horizontally rather than vertically like the more common stalactites and stalagmites. The connected Ohashi Collection Kan Museum displays an eclectic array of artifacts from a private collection.