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Takayama

A bustling town, characterised by misty mountain views and higgledy-piggledy streets lined with Edo-period buildings.

Ahh, magical Takayama, hidden away in the Japanese Alps. Often compared to Kyoto because of its many shrines, Takayama is in fact only a fraction of the size, but it really packs a punch; it’s a great place to slow down for a few days and absorb the old-world charm, without the hassle of a big city.

Historically, the town flourished with creativity, sheltering Japan’s most skilled carpenters and artisans. Today you can still see evidence of their work in the charming houses along the banks of the Miyagawa River, and the warren of streets in the Sanmachi district remains alive with shops, museums and galleries.

Takayama INFORMATION

Population:  93,000

Highlights:  Hida Folk Village / Takayama's old city / Festival Float Exhibition Hall / Tomenosuke science-fiction movie gallery

Access:  Shinkansen (bullet-trains) from Tokyo and Kyoto will take you to Nagoya, where you change trains on to the JR Hida Limited Express to Takayama - a beautiful two-hour journey. From Hakuba, you can catch the train to Matsumoto, where you change to a local coach.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Takayama

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes. We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

The Grand (Ski) Tour of Japan

Hakuba - Takayama - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Hakone - Tokyo

Duration: three weeks

The ultimate itinerary, for those with the time, an adventurous spirit and a real passion for Japan.

from £3,580 per person, including flights

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Hakuba, With A Side Of Japan

Kyoto - Hakuba - Tokyo

Duration: 11 days

For those with limited time, but still want to pack a Japanese powder punch. The Hakuba valley in a cultural sandwich, so to speak.

from £2,120 per person, including flights

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Ski The Best Of Both Islands

Niseko - Hakuba - Tokyo

Duration: two weeks

Hokkaido's best ski resort, plus Honshu's best ski resort ... with the enthralling capital thrown in for high jinx before you return home.

from £2,544 per person, including flights

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Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

Takayama’s traditional inns or ryokans are delightful, and they provide a perfectly fitting retreat in this historic little town. Designed with calm and comfort in mind, ryokans are very homely, offering a truly authentic experience of the Japanese way of life. Typically you’ll sleep on a futon caringly laid out for you each evening; this will be done after dinner, however, as the Japanese prefer to enjoy their evening meal in the privacy of their room. Ryokan cuisine is enlightening – a painstakingly prepared and perfectly balanced multi-course meal, often featuring fish, meat and vegetables.

Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama

The best ryokan in town, a beautiful traditional style building built with local cypress wood.

It may be a little out of time, but if a stay in a ryokan is one of the experiences at the top of your list, then its well worth the seven-minute drive (free shuttle, whenever you want). This is Japanese hospitably par excellence, featuring traditional Japanese rooms, fine kaiseki dining and onsen baths. Indeed, the higher grade guest rooms, some with Western beds, have private gardens and patios with outdoor hot spring baths.

The lobby is gassho style, which means it is reminiscent of a traditional folk house with a hearth style fireplace and a relaxing courtyard with koi carp swimming in a pond. Dinner is served in your own private dining room and will feature many regional specialties including wild mushrooms, river fish and the famous Hida beef.

Tanabe Ryokan

Mr & Mrs Tanabe own this authentic, charming and friendly ryokan, in the middle of the old town.

Tanabe is a real gem - a little more upmarket than most of Takayama's historical ryokan's even though it has been in business for over 80 years. There are 17 traditional Japanese-style rooms, and each has their own private bath and toilet, as well as TVs, fridges and tea & coffee makers. The highlight of the property is a beautiful shared onsen rock bath and an adjacent elegant cypress wood bath. 

Tanabe Ryokan specialises in serving its guests the best of the local Takayama cuisine - locally grown potatoes, river fish, hoba miso, Hida beef, and home-made pickles. Free coffee is served at the lobby, and a common lounge with an Irori hearth is available for all guests.

Sumiyoshi Ryokan

Overlooking the river in central Takayama, you'll find this affordable and mildly quirky ryokan.

An old merchant’s house dating back to 1912, Sumiyoshi has lovely traditional features and an appealing location on the river bank. The owners have been careful to preserve the great craftsmanship of the original building, and have added to it by introducing furniture and craft-work from various ages. There’s even an old suit of samurai armour in the cluttered lobby!

The 20 rooms have either river or garden views, and shared bathrooms are the norm - with the exception of one en-suite room (hot property, we might add). There is a pretty garden, and dinners are a real highlight – lovingly prepared by your generous hosts, they feature tasty dishes originating from Takayama. 

Excursions

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.