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Snippets: 5 things to do in Takayama, Japan | Including a day trip to Shirakawa-go!

Takayama, Japan – one of those quaint Japanese towns which has always been on our to go list for the longest time. Located in Gifu prefecture less than three hours away from the bustling Nagoya, it is a nice deviation from the likes of Osaka or Kyoto if you are looking to visit a different city in Japan. Back to Takayama, it is a small town, which can be fully explored in one to two days if you plan it well. In fact, is is often the gateway to get to another popular destination, Shirakawa-go, where you can also travel onwards to Kanazawa.

Here is our list of the top 5 things to do if you are planning a visit to Takayama!

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1. Visit the Morning Markets

There are two daily morning markets in Takayama, Jinya-mae Market and Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River, which opens from around 7am to noon. The Miyagawa Market is definitely more interesting as there are more vendors selling local products, souvenirs and food stands. You will find a few stalls selling Hida-beef buns and skewers, which you should try if you love beef. Jinya-mae Market, on the other had, is located right in front of the Takayama Jinya, with only a handful of local vendors selling mainly local food produce.

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2. Take a stroll along the old town (Sanmachi Suji District)

Dubbed as one of the most beautiful and preserved old streets in Japan, the old town in Takayama is lined with houses from the Edo period from the 1600. We were amazed at how well-preserved these houses are, even though there is no denying that most of the houses has become commercialised shops, particularly noticeable along Sanno-machi Street. Still, it was nice to hop from one shop to another, checking out the exquisite souvenirs. Don’t miss the chance to try some Japanese sake in the sake specialty shops, famous in this region.

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Do not miss out trying some of the famous Hida-beef sushi along Sanno-machi Street. It is easy to spot a queue for this “snack” while shopping, be warned that the portions are petite.

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3. Enjoy a Hida Beef Yakiniku meal

You need to try Hida-beef in Takayama, a special breed of cattle raised in the Gifu prefecture, famous for its well-marbled meats. There are many restaurants serving Hida beef in Takayama, one of the famous one being. It was great having Hida beef in yakiniku style, where you can fully appreciate its full flavours. This is one breed of Japanese beef which we rarely see in Singapore, or even in other parts of Japan outside Takayama.

Our recommended Yakiniku restaurant in Takayama is Maruaki, which is quite popular amongst the locals. The well-marbled Hida Beef was memorable, well worth the considerable waiting time. Private rooms are available for bigger groups. 

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4. Make a day trip to Shirakawa-go

Takayama is a good layover stop to travel to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO world heritage site located about an hour away by bus. Shirakawa-go is a picturesque village well-known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, particularly popular during winter where all the farmhouses are beautifully covered with snow. From Takayama, there is a local bus terminal right next to Takayama station where you will be able to purchase a return day trip bus ticket (with tour guide or without tour guide) to Shirakawa-go, which is only accessible by road at the moment. The return ticket package with a local guide is very popular, so do reserve well in advance. Once in Shirakawa-go, it is relatively easy to navigate around by foot as it is a small town. One of the highlights here is the viewpoint area where you can get a bird’s eye view of the entire Shirakawa-go. Do budget some time to visit the local farmhouses, where a handful are opened for touring to visitors.

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5. Stay in a Ryokan

A traditional Ryokan stay is something I always look forward to whenever I am out of Tokyo, as it is a nice respite from the usual hotel stays. Ryokans are typically family run businesses, where you typically get to choose from a Western or Japanese style room. I will typically go for a Japanese style tatami experience, which is surprisingly quite comfortable. The ryokan I stayed in Takayama is Ryokan Asunaro which is about a ten-minutes’ walk from Takayama station. There is an onsen within the ryokan, my usual ritual before my meals. The best part of staying in a ryokan is undoubtedly the dinner, which is typically a eight to ten course kaiseki meal to showcase the local ingredients. More often than not, Hida-beef is served in the ryokans in Takayama.

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