Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Hida Takayama Travel Guide - Shirakawa-go, Beautiful Views, Onsen, And More!
Indulge in the traditions of Japan at Hida Takayama, Gifu prefecture. Get in-depth information about access, local food, weather in order to have a great time at the World Heritage site Shirakawa-go, castle towns, and hot springs in Gifu.
Written by Sawada Tomomi
What Kind of Place Is Hida Takayama?
Gifu prefecture, located in the Chubu region of Japan, is known for its rich nature and history. The Hida region in northern Gifu is surrounded by the Hida mountain range (also known as the Northern Japanese Alps) and is a popular tourist spot for its beautiful, yet rough scenery.
Takayama city in Gifu prefecture's Hida region is frequently known as Hida Takayama. Only two and a half hours away from Nagoya, it is a great spot for those who wish to go off the beaten path. Here, you will be able to see historic towns, wonderful natural scenery, hot springs, and the World Heritage site Shirakawa-go. This area is rightly one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations.
In the heart of Takayama city, you will be able to see well-preserved castle towns and businesses from the Edo period; the historic town is also referred to as Hida's Little Kyoto. Recently, it has been widely recognized as ”a town with nostalgic Japanese scenery” and many tourists visit from all over. Why not enjoy venturing through Takayama using this guide as a reference!
Table of Contents:
1. What Kind of Place Is Hida Takayama?
2. Access to Hida Takayama
3. Transportation in Takayama City
4. Area Guide to Hida and More
5. 23 Tourist Spots in Hida Takayama
6. Events in Hida Takayama
7. Weather in Hida Takayama
8. Food in Hida Takayama
9. Souvenirs from Hida Takayama
10. Other Helpful Tips During Your Trip
Access to Hida Takayama
First, let’s look at how to get to Takayama Station from Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.
Going to Takayama City from Tokyo Station
From Tokyo Station to Takayama Station, the boarding fee costs a total of 8750 yen. The limited express fee on the Tokaido bullet train from Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station is 4100 yen (for non-reserved seats). From Nagoya Station to Takayama Station, the express fee is 1080 yen (for non-reserved seats) and takes approximately 4 hours in total. Therefore, the total cost is 13,930 yen with the boarding fee of 8750 yen + limited express fee of 5180 yen.
From Tokyo Station to Takayama Station, the boarding fee costs 7880 yen. The limited express fee on the Hokuriku bullet train from Tokyo Station to Toyama Station is 6250 yen (for non-reserved seats). From Toyama Station to Takayama Station, the express fee is 1180 yen (for non-reserved seats) and it takes approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes total. Therefore, the total cost is 15,310 yen with the boarding fee of 7750 yen + express fee of 7430 yen. Both Nagoya and Toyama are popular tourist spots. The prices and times are not too different, so you can decide depending on where you will be stopping by as well.
Going to Takayama City from Shinjuku
Busta Shinjuku - Hirayu Hot Springs - Takayama Bus Center
From Busta Shinjuku to Takayama bus center on the Nouhi bus or Keio bus is 6690 yen (12,040 yen round trip) and takes a total of 5 hours and 30 minutes. Compared to the trains, the bus is quite reasonably priced and recommended for those traveling on a budget.
Going to Takayama City from Nagoya
1. Limited Express Wide View Hida from Nagoya Station - Takayama Station
From Nagoya Station to Takayama Station on the Limited Express Wide View Hida it costs a total of 5510 yen, with the boarding ticket and Express ticket included, and takes about 2 and a half hours.
2. JR Tokai bus, Meitetsu bus, Nouhi bus from Nagoya Station - Takayama Bus Center
From Nagoya Station to Takayama Bus center it costs 2980 yen (5140 yen round trip) on the JR Tokai bus, Meitetsu bus or Nouhi bus. It also takes about two and a half hours.
Time wise, taking either the bus or train does not make much of a difference, so it is best to choose the route that meets your financial needs instead.
Going to Takayama City from Osaka
1. Tokaido bullet train from Shin-Osaka Station - Limited Express Wide View Hida from Nagoya Station - Takayama Station
From Shin-Osaka Station to Takayama Station the boarding ticket costs a total of 6260 yen. The express ticket on the Tokaido bullet train from Shin-Osaka Station to Nagoya Station costs 2480 yen (for non-reserved seats). From Nagoya Station to Takayama Station, the express fee is 1080 yen (for non-reserved seats) and takes approximately 3 hours and 10 minutes total. Therefore, the total cost is 9820 yen with the boarding fee of 6260 yen + limited express fee of 3560 yen.
2. Limited Express Wide View Hida from Osaka Station - Takayama Station
From Osaka Station to Takayama Station, on the Limited Express Wide View Hida it is 7780 yen total for boarding tickets and express tickets. It takes approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes total.
3. Nouhi bus or Kintetsu bus from Osaka Higashi Umeda - Takayama Bus Center
From Osaka Higashi Umeda Station, you can ride the Nouhi bus or Kintetsu bus to Takayama bus center for 4700 yen (9400 yen round trip), which takes approximately 5 hours and 10 minutes.
Transportation in Takayama City
Hida Takayama Tour Bus
The Hida Takayama Tour Bus is great for venturing around and exploring the region. There are two routes called the Machinami bus and the Sarubobo bus. On the Machinami bus, you can tour around the old-fashioned houses and the Takayama Jinya outpost. No matter how far you go on the route, it is only 100 yen for both adults and children (infants may ride for free).
On the Sarubobo bus, the main highlights on this route include the Hida village and the Hida Takayama museum. It costs 210 yen for adults and 110 yen for children.
For those who are planning to use the bus mainly, the 1-Day Free Pass is a convenient pass you can use for both the Machinami Bus and the Sarubobo bus. It is 620 yen for adults and 310 yen for children. Not only can you use it to ride the buses, but it also comes with discounts at 12 facilities within the city.
The 1-Day Free Pass can be purchased at the Nouhi Bus Center near Takayama Station. Please note that this pass is not sold inside the buses.
Takayama Nouhi Bus Center
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Hanasatomachi 6-65
For a different type of exploration, why not tour around the retro streets of Takayama on a bike? In front of the Takayama Station is a Rent-A-Cycle shop (Japanese). For those willing to try biking around the city, be prepared for the many hills in the Hida no Sato area. It is recommended to go there via the Sarubobo bus or by car. Prices begin at 200 yen per hour and 1200 yen for 6 hours or more.
In front of the Takayama Station is a car rental shop as well. If you manage to rent a car, you can easily stop by places that catch your eye. In the winter, it snows pretty heavily in the area, so it is best to be prepared with studless wheels when driving.
Area Guide to Hida and More
In this section, we would like to explain the central area of Hida including Hida Takayama along with the tourist spots of Gifu prefecture.
Hida Takayama Area
Takayama city is located in the northern area of Gifu prefecture and is in the central Hida area and is frequently referred to as Hida Takayama.
Within Takayama city is a sector that is called the Old Quarter. It is widely separated into the central castle town, the upper town, and the lower town that make up the business districts of Takayama. One of the highlights of Takayama is called the Sanmachi Dori, which consists of Kami-san no Machi, Kami-ni no machi and Kami-ichi no Machi old town areas.
Shirakawa-go was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Shirakawa-go is the name of the village by the Sho River in Gifu. What makes Shirakawa-go so special are its many traditional thatched roof houses. The iconic slanted roofs are one of Japan's unique architectural structures.
In the central area of Gifu is the Gero area, a well-known hot spring spot. It is considered to be one of Japan's top three best hot springs along with Arima hot springs in Kobe and Kusatsu hot springs in Gunma.
Popular tourist spots in the area include the Morinashi Hachiman Shrine and the Neo Falls that is designated as one of the top 100 waterfalls of Japan. The Gero area attracts many visitors and hot spring enthusiasts every year who enjoy traditional foods such as the nezushi (*1) and hoobazushi (*2) along with the springs.
*1 Nezushi: a dish with salted trout, daikon radish, carrots, and rice that has been fermented with yeast.
*2 Hoobazushi: a dish with bamboo, salmon, maitake mushrooms, and ginger wrapped with vinegar rice and magnolia leaves.
The famed and fateful Battle of Sekigahara happened at this very location in 1600. While Sekigahara is not located in the Hida area, it is in the South West area of Gifu and is a wonderful spot to also visit if you happen to stop by the prefecture. It has many historical landmarks, famous cultural spots and streets with tasty delicacies as well.
23 Tourist Destinations in Hida Takayama
1. Old Town Area of Takayama City
The Old Town area is the most famous spot in Hida Takayama among travelers from abroad. The Old Town area consists of the central castle town, plus the upper and lower towns that thrived as business districts. Many shops that carry specialty products from Hida Takayama stand side by side and the streets get filled with people who shop and eat as they stroll around. Exploring on a rickshaw is recommended as well!
Address: Gifu, Takayama
Website: Hida Takayama Tourist Guide (Japanese)
2. Hida Village
Within the rich nature of Hida Takayama, a historical village known as the Hida village stands. This retro looking farming village in the mountains consists of historically important houses that have been moved and restored to show what the traditional lifestyle of Hida was like. Seasonal festivities are also held here and you can indulge in this beautiful and authentic spot of Japan.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Kamioka-Motomachi 1-590
Website: Hida Takayama Tourist Guide (Japanese)
3. Kanda House
This is the residence of the Kanda Family that founded the sake production in Hida Takayama. It is said to have been built in 1850, but the structure has a more modern style compared to other thatched roof houses. It is a considered to be a high-quality residence for a structure built during that time.
Address: Gifu, Ono, Shirakawa, Ogi 796
Website: Kanda House (Japanese)
4. Takayama Jinya
A tourist site that represents Hida Takayama is the Takayama Jinya. It is a government outpost from the Edo period that still remains in Japan and is now used as a folk museum. A market is held in the morning where many shops carry local products.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Hachikenmachi 1-5
Website: Takayama Jinya (Japanese)
5. Takayama Castle Remains
Located in Takayama city, the Takayama castle remains are designated as a historical site of Gifu. In the former castle grounds, many trees and plants fill the area. Located only 15-minutes by foot from Takayama Station, it is a great place to stop by.
Address: Hida, Takayama, Shiroyama
6. Hida Matsukura Castle
The Matsukura castle remains are in the Matsukura town part of Takayama city. Currently, like the Takayama castle remains, it is designated as one of Gifu's historical landmarks. Take a step back in history and explore the stone wall remnants as you explore the castle grounds.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Kamioka Honmachi
Shrines and Temples
7. Hida Senkoji Temple
Constructed 1,200 years ago, this ancient temple was built 900 meters above sea level. Within the Kesazan temple grounds is the Enku Buddhist Treasure Hall where you can see a portion of the displays of the sixty-three wooden Buddhist statues made by the great monk Enku. This temple has become a popular tourist spot where nearly 20 to 30 thousand visitors visit each year.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Nyukawacho Shimobo 1553
Website: Senkoji Temple
8. Hida Kokubunji Temple
Another historical temple, built in 741, is the Hida Kokubunji Temple. The massive ginkgo tree that is said to be over 1,250 years old and the only three-tier pagoda in the Hida area are must-see spots when visiting this temple.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Sowamachi 1-83
Website: Hida Kokubunji Temple (Japanese)
9. Shorenji Temple
Tucked away in the back of the old town is the Shorenji Temple. A panoramic garden with a pond in the center creates a peaceful atmosphere around the temple.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Horibatamachi 8
Website: Shorenji Temple (Japanese)
10. Kokaya Yakushido
The Kokaya Yakushido is a temple that was built by artisans of Hida and is the oldest wooden structure in the prefecture. It is also designated as an important cultural heritage site in Gifu.
Address: Gifu, Hida, Kamiokacho Kokaya
11. Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
Sakurayama Hachimangu is a shrine in Hida Takayama. It is a quiet shrine with a torii gate, stone stairs and a beautiful stone path surrounded by massive trees. The Autumn festival of Sakurayama Hachimangu shrine is a well-known festival along with the Hie Shrine's Spring festival. It is known as the Takayama festival and is designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Sakuramachi 178
Website: Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
12. Hie Shrine
With many worshipers, Hie Shrine has been protected and well-maintained by many of the locals for generations. The Sanno Festival celebrates the coming of Spring in Takayama and the regional God (Sanno) of the southern half of the former Takayama castle town and is held at the Hie Shrine. The colossal 1,000-year-old cedar tree standing at 43 meters high is designated as Gifu's natural monument.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Shiroyama 156
Website: Hie Shrine
13. Hida Sousha
Only 15 minutes on foot from Takayama Station is the Hida Sousha Shrine. This shrine is where the 18 Gods of Hida are enshrined and, if prayers are given here, you can be blessed by all 18 Gods at once, right in this spot!
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Kandamachi 2-114
Here, we will give a brief introduction to each hot spring spot along with its surrounding tourist locations.
14. Oku Hida Hot Springs
Right in the heart of the Northern Japanese Alps is the Oku-Hida hot springs area, made up of Hirayu hot springs, Fukuji hot springs, Shin-Hirayu hot springs, Tochio hot springs and Shin-Hotaka hot springs. Along with overnight options, foot baths and one-day hot springs are also available. Staying overnight and spending a relaxing time in all five hot springs is highly recommended. During the autumn, you can enjoy the view of the colorful foliage as well.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Oku-Hida Onsengo Kansaka 710-14
Website: Oku Hida Hot Springs
15. Hirayu Hot Springs
The Hirayu hot spring is known for its historical value within the Oku-Hida hot springs. When the famous warlord Takeda Shingen invaded the Hida area, he spotted an aged monkey curing its wounds in the springs. This is said to be the discovery of the well-known Hirayu hot springs. This hot springs hidden within the lush forests of Oku-Hida is a magnificent sight.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Oku-Hida Onsengo Hirayu
Website: Hirayu Hot Springs (Japanese)
16. Fukuji Hot Springs
In the quaint hot spring town you will find the Fukuji Hot Springs. Not only does it have relaxing springs, but it also has family-friendly activities such as a trekking course for beginners and the chance to eat freshly made rice cakes that are grilled on a traditional irori fireplace every morning.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Oku-Hida Onsengo, Fukuji
Website: Fukuji Hot Springs (Japanese)
17. Shin-Hirayu Hot Springs
In the central area of Oku-Hida hot springs is the Shin-Hirayu hot spring which is conveniently located for tourism. This area is known for the Taruma water in the Oku-Hida springs and also as a Matchmaking Spot from the legend of Princess Taruma. Why not get away from the daily hustle and bustle and ease yourself into the relaxing atmosphere of the hot springs?
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Oku-Hida Onsengo Hitoegane 208-48
Website: Shin-Hirayu Hot Springs (Japanese)
18. Tochio Hot Springs
Serene hot springs located where the Hirayu River and the Gamata river meet is the Tochio Hot Springs. With many small inns, near the Gamata river, you can see beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring and fireflies in the summer.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Oku-Hida Onsengo Tochio
19. Shin-Hotaka Hot Springs
The charm of Shin-Hotaka Hot Springs come from the panoramic scenery of the Northern Japanese Alps right before your eyes. Tucked away in the depths of the Oku-Hida hot springs, you can thoroughly enjoy the seasonal changes here. The most beautiful season to visit is during autumn when the mountains are colored vibrantly with the leaves.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Oku-Hida Onsengo Kansaka
Website: Shin-Hotaka Hot Springs (Japanese)
Natural Sites and More
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are two villages with traditional thatched roof houses which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1995. The iconic ”thatched roof houses” with their distinctive slanted roofs are an architectural feature unique of Japan and what makes Shirakawa-go so striking. The steep tilt on the roof is said to have been made to make removing snow easier and repel water during the rainy season.
For more information about Shirakawa-go, please read Marvel At The UNESCO-Recognized Architecture Of Shirakawa-gō.
Address: Gifu, Ono, Shirakawa, Hagimachi 2495-3
21. Garyu Zakura
Said to be over 1,100 years old, the Garyu Zakura is a historic cherry blossom tree. It once underwent major damages from a typhoon where four large branches and the trunk were struck violently. Despite its injuries, the tree is gaining back its former energy and many flowers have returned to bloom. Its magnificent blossoms can be seen in the spring each year.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Ichinomiyamachi 275-1
22. Utsue Shijuhachi Falls
The valley and falls of the Kokufucho Utsue area are known as the Utsue Shijuhachi falls. It is a perfect spot to go on a stroll during the autumn when the leaves change color. After a walk in the woods, it is great to stop by a hot spring to relax your muscles. The trails contain many rocky paths so good walking shoes are recommended if you plan on visiting this area.
Address: Gifu, Takayama, Kokufucho Utsue
23. Hida Satoyama Office
At the Hida Satoyama Office, you will be able to rent an entire historical house in the beautiful Satoyama area for a limited time. It is great for those who wish to spend their days off with their family or camp out with coworkers or hold a workshop of some sort. How you use the house will be up to you. For those looking for an escape from the busy city and to indulge in traditional houses of Japan, this may be for you. You may be able to experience a wonder you can only find here.
For more information, please read Stay At A 150-Year-Old House: The Satoyama Office In Hida Furukawa.
Address: Gifu, Hida, Furukawacho Ninomachi 8-11
Website: Satoyama Office
Events in Hida Takayama
February: Ice Festival (in Sub-zero Forest and Hirayu Grand Falls)
The Ice Festival is held in two locations, the Subzero Forest and Hirayu Grand Falls. The Sub-zero Forest is a dreamlike world that extends four hectares wide. Not only can you witness a winter wonderland, but you can enjoy fun events such as local performing arts and fireworks.
March and April: Hida Takayama Hina Festival
Spring comes late in the Hida area and therefore they celebrate the Hina Festival one month later than the rest of Japan, holding it on April 3rd. The Hina Festival is a celebration wishing for the good health and growth of girls. Within the city, you can find many types of Hina dolls made of clay or classic dolls on display from March first to April third.
April: Spring Takayama Festival
The Takayama Festival refers to two festivals. One in the spring, also called the Sanno Festival, and the Hachiman Festival in the autumn. The Sanno Festival celebrates the coming of spring and is celebrated at the Hie Shrine which worships the local God of the Southern Half of the former Takayama Castle Town. Every April 14th and 15th, on the southern side of the Yasugawa Street in the Upper Town where the festivities are held, you will find 12 large floats. Among these floats, three of them are unique trick floats that are fun to see. At the festival, many other traditional performances are held that are great to experience!
May: Banryusai Festival (Opening of the Alpine Mountains)
After the long winter season, the Banryusai Festival is held celebrating the opening of the Northern Japanese Alps in the Hida side. This festival is held annually to celebrate the coming of spring, to honor the Banryu people who found the Kasagatake and Yarigatake mountains, and to pray for the safety of the Northern Japanese Alps.
July: Hida Takayama Fireworks Competition
The Hida Takayama fireworks festival is conveniently held right by the Old Town area, which has three Michelin stars to its credit. Not only can you enjoy the view of the retro Japanese townscape, but you can watch various types of fireworks that illuminate the summer skies of Hida Takayama.
July and August: Summer Hida Takayama Light-up
Among the lush greens of the village, the central bridge gets lit up in the summer. You can enjoy the cooling sounds of the river as you feel the refreshing breeze of the evening. Unlike the hot day time, after sundown is a great time to explore the area.
October: Autumn Takayama Festival
As we have already mentioned, the Takayama Festival refers to two festivals. The Hachiman Festival is celebrated at the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine worshipping the local God of the Northern Half of the former Takayama Castle Town. Every October 9th and 10th, on the northern side of the Yasugawa Street in the Lower Town where the festivities are held, you will find eleven large floats.
November and December: Autumn Foliage
Hida Takayama is a well-known spot for autumn foliage that attracts thousands of visitors each year. This is the perfect to go hiking, collect pretty leaves and even enjoy some hot spring. There are plenty of places to see the foliage in Hida Takayama so it is recommended that you do a bit of research before heading out.
December and January: Winter Hida Takayama Light-up
The most popular light-up event in the winter is at the Hida village. Among the deep snow, the illuminated houses create a dreamy feel. Another light-up event created by the frigid weather is held in Oku-Hida called the Aodaru where ice pillars are lit up. This is a must-see for those visiting the Fukuchi hot springs area.
Weather in Hida Takayama
Surrounded by mountains, temperatures in the Hida area drop below freezing in the winter, and this area receives a steady, heavy snowfall each year. From the end of October until April, it gets very cold in the mornings and at night, so it is recommended to be prepared with thick jackets and warm winter clothing.
In addition to that, from the end of November to March, many areas get a lot of snow and frequent delays in transportation can be expected. Please give yourself enough time when traveling during this season. However, this is also a great time to melt away the cold in the rich warm hot springs.
Food in Hida Takayama
When one mentions food in Hida Takayama, many may think of the Hida Beef. While Kobe Beef may be known internationally, Hida beef is just as delicious. There are many restaurants that serve mouth-watering steak and sukiyaki in Takayama.
There is also the famous Takayama ramen that represents ramen in Gifu. The curly noodles in this dish match well with its soy sauce base; most restaurants serve it with scallions, chashu pork and menma bamboo. Other regional delicacies include the Aka-kabura radish, Kei-chan grilled chicken, Hooba miso, and the midarashi dango rice cakes. Why not pick something up as a souvenir?
Souvenirs from Hida Takayama
Sarubobo is the name of a doll that has been made for ages in the Hida Takayama and the Hida area. In the Hida dialect, ‘bobo’ means baby and ‘sarubobo’ is the name used to refer to a ‘baby monkey’. The Sarubobo is used to ward away evil and the red color is believed to keep illnesses away. It is a staple souvenir of Hida Takayama.
Another souvenir of Hida Takayama are the wooden Ichii-Itto Carvings. These unique unpainted wooden carvings are made from the yew wood that grows in the mountains of Hida.
This golden lacquer, called Shunkei paint, emphasizes the natural texture of the wood and is considered to be a specialty craft of Hida. Many people love the beautiful wooden texture and purchase it as a souvenir. This lacquerware is favored for its nice warming texture.
Other Helpful Tips During Your Trip
If you run out of cash, find an ATM with a "PLUS" mark. You will be able to use a foreign cashing service easily.
It is helpful to use simple Japanese phrases when staying at hotels. Here are a few you can use:
In Japan, there are useful Wi-Fi services such as the "Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi". It is recommended to download the app on your phone prior to coming to Japan.
How much does food cost in Japan? Let's set a budget before leaving.