Walkable and laid-back, Takayama is best enjoyed on foot at your own pace. We'll get you there, you get yourself around. If you rise early, you’ll be able to catch the busy morning markets and enjoy a tea or coffee as you soak it all up. In town you’ll find several museums, the main temple, and the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
Aside from the main sights, the Sanmachi District is a picturesque place to while away a few hours, with sake breweries, shops and cafes dotted amongst historic houses; and on the other side of town, the shrines and temples of peaceful Teramachi are linked by tree lined paths often dusted in snow.
The Hida Folk Village is an attractive open-air museum assembled from real thatched-roof gasshō-zukuri houses, that together recreate an entire traditional mountain village. These houses have roofs like hands in prayer to withstand the heavy snowfalls. Not only can you tour the village, but artisans continue to work in many buildings; you can buy their crafts and even try your own hand at a number of activities.
For the geeks amongst you, there is a small gallery not far from the station which just may be the find of your holiday. Totally out-of-place in Takayama is Tomenosuke - a science-fiction movie store where you'll find original movie props - a beast mask from Star Wars, the original robot suit from Spaceballs, and a 1/4 model of the Alien Queen. As we said...only for the nerds.
Hida Folk Village
This fascinating open air museum breathes life into all those beautiful Edo period building you’ve been admiring on your walks around Takayama. Hida is a reproduction of a typical Edo period (1603-1867) village, created using genuine original houses which were relocated from the surrounding area. There are various buildings, including gassho-zukuri farm houses (so named as their thatched roofs resemble hands clasped in prayer – ‘gassho’), storehouses and an authentic village chief’s house – all of which are open to be explored. The fires are lit every morning to create a true-to-life feel, not to mention provide a bit of warmth! There’s also a Crafts Experience Centre where you can learn about traditional past-times such as beading, ceramics and doll-making. Hida is a half-hour walk or 10-minute bus journey from central Takayama, and it provides a valuable insight for anyone interested in the history of the region.
Sukyo Mahikari World Shrine
‘Mahikari’ – or true light – is a modern religious movement said to combine elements of Buddhism, Shamanism and Shintoism. The Sukyo Mahikari sect is an off-shoot whose members follow unique practices and a set belief system, and their headquarters is based in Takayama. You’ll see the glittering golden roof of their World Shrine across the valley from Hida Folk Village, and it’s worth crossing over to meet members of the sect and see their place of worship, as well as browsing the Hikaru Memorial Hall, a museum dedicated to one of the founders of Sukyo Mahikari, Yoshikazu Okada. You’ll be greeted warmly, and given a glass of sake to keep you warm as you leave.