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Nestled in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, Takayama is an ancient city that captures the traditional heart and soul of Japan. Taking a relaxing stroll through the charming streets of the Sanmachi Suji district, Takayama's old town, visitors will discover a collection of beautifully preserved wooden buildings, many of which date back hundreds of years. These quaint lanes, lined with traditional houses, shops, restaurants, cafes and even saké breweries, allow guests to cast off the stresses and strains of everyday life and bask in the beauty of a bygone era. The town’s exquisite ambience is further elevated during the winter months when thick snow carpets the historic streets and surrounding hills to create an enchanting white wonderland. The spring then brings further magic to Takayama as the cherry trees start to blossom. Book now at Best Western Hotel Takayama and discover everything this city has to offer.
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Held twice a year in spring and autumn, the Takayama Festival is considered as one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. Activities are centered on the old town, as dozens of beautiful, decorative floats, or “yatai”, are paraded through the ancient streets. The spring festival, or Sanno Festival, is held every April 14-15 and focuses on the Hie Shrine in the southern part of the old town. The autumn festival, or Hachiman Festival, runs on October 9-10 and celebrates the Hachiman Shrine in the northern part. Guests visiting the city at other times of year can view the floats used in both festivals at the Takayama Yatai Kaikan - an exhibition hall dedicated to the festivals.
The ancient streets of Takayama’s Sanmachi Suji district offer an enchanting escape into a bygone era. Dating back hundreds of years to the Edo Period, this old town lies to the east of the Miyagawa River and comprises just three main streets, all of which are lined with well-preserved dark wooden buildings, traditional houses, craft shops, restaurants, cafes and saké breweries. The buildings were traditionally stained black with soot, as residents wanted to disguise the fact that they were using high-quality wood without permission. But now, to preserve the town’s traditional feel, all buildings in Sanmachi Suji must be black or brown.
Spanning the Miyagawa River in the centre of Takayama, Nakabashi Bridge is an iconic symbol of this alpine city. Painted bright red, the bridge is flanked by trees and provides the perfect spot to view the spectacular sakura (cherry blossom) in the springtime, or the enchanting snow-covered landscapes during winter. Nakabashi Bridge is also on the parade route during Takayama's spring and autumn festivals, making it a popular place for locals and visitors alike to watch the beautiful floats go by. Located close to the main tourist areas and the morning market, Nakabashi Bridge is an unmissable photo spot for all visitors to Takayama.
Hida Kokubunji Temple
Hida Kokubunji Temple was originally constructed in 746 AD by Emperor Shomu, as a place for him to pray for the nation's peace and prosperity. While none of the original buildings remain, the temple's Main Hall dates back to the 16th Century, which makes it the oldest building in Takayama. The impressive three-story pagoda was reconstructed in 1821 during the Edo Period. But the oldest thing in the temple's grounds is a huge ginko tree, which is believed to be more than 1,200 years old. Hida Kokubunji Temple has been designated as a National Historical Site and Important Cultural Treasure, and it remains one of the most outstanding attractions in Takayama.
Thatched village of Shirakawa-go
Located in the mountains approximately 50km from Takayama, the ancient village of Shirakawa-go was cut off from the world for centuries. This isolation allowed the village to develop its own distinct culture, which is most obviously displayed through its architecture. The village’s "gassho-zukuri" houses have steep thatched roofs which help them cope with the heavy snowfalls that hit the region every winter. In both summer and winter, these natural thatched dwellings blend beautifully into their rural, alpine surroundings. This style of house can be found nowhere else in Japan, and the villages of Shirakawa-go and nearby Gokayama have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Hida Folk Village
This open-air museum provides a wonderful insight into Japan's Alpine history and culture. Located just outside the city, this impressive attraction features more than 30 traditional houses from the mountainous region around Takayama. The collection of dwellings, including a village head's house, logging huts, storehouses and farmhouses, includes the thatched "gassho-zukuri" houses which are unique to the region and have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Visitors can enter all the buildings and view traditional tools and utensils, and those seeking a more hands-on experience can even take part in a local handicraft workshop at the nearby Hida Takayama Crafts Experience Center.
About an hour's drive from Takayama, guests can take a dramatic trip up into the mountains on the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway. One of the steepest cable car routes in the country, this ropeway climbs more than 1,000 meters up into the Hotake Mountains. It also features unique double-decker gondolas that provide spectacular views of the dramatic alpine landscape. To reach the observation deck at the summit, guests will need to take two cable cars - a shorter 200 meter climb to the midway point, which features a visitor center and restaurant, followed by an 800-meter ascent to the final station, which sits at 2,150 meters above sea-level.
Things to do in Takayama