Following In The Footsteps of Samurais – Takayama, Japan

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Takayama, also called Hida-Takayama, has a really unique and cozy atmosphere that we did not experience anywhere else in Japan. Narrow cobblestoned streets lined with charming old wooden houses and a nice and calm river that runs through the city, Ryokans, hillside shrines and temples, Onsens, and several museums makes Takayama a real must-visit place when heading to Japan.

Old town of Takayama
The old part of Takayama
Takayama river
Takayama river

We spent four days in Takayama at the beginning of August, and recommend that you spend two or three days here if you have the time as there is plenty to see and do in the city itself and also in its nearby area with the mountain village Shirakawa-go as the highlight.

Things To Do In Takayama

The Old Town of Takayama

Go for a stroll down the narrow streets of the old part of Takayama, and breathe in the traditional charm of the old ancient wooden houses which makes you feel like you are back in the Edo/Samurai period.

Step into one of the many cozy cafes, restaurants, and shops that are now located in these old houses. Most shops open at 09:00 in the morning and close at 17:00 (5 pm) in the afternoon.

Takayama old town
The old town of Takayama

Sanmachi Suji Area

Sanmachi Suji is Takayama’s famous sake breweries/ restaurant/ cafe area. This is the most photogenic part of Takayama packed with ancient wooden houses. Most of these houses date back to the Edo Period (1600-1868), a time when Takayama was a rich and wealthy merchant city.

Old part of Takayama
A house in the Sanmachi Suji area of Takayama

From Takayama train station, walk down (east) one of the main streets Kokubunji-dori or Hirokoji-dori and cross the beautiful and calm Miyagawa River (about a 10 min walk). On the other side of the river, these streets change the name to Yasugawa-dori and Sanmachi-dori, respectively, and you are right in the center of Sanmachi Suji.

The Sanmachi Suji area is where you will find several of Takayama`s old sake breweries. You will easily spot them as they have sugidama (decorated balls made of cedar branches) in front of their entrances. Sake is one of Takayama’s specialties, and at some breweries, you can buy small samples of sakes to bring back home. The perfect gift to bring back to your loved ones!

sake brewery takayama
A sake brewery and shop in Takayama
sugidama sake takayama
Sugidama outside a sake shop in Takayama

If you get tired of walking, you can always jump on a rickshaw and let someone else do the heavy walking for you. Half an hour guided rickshaw tour for two people cost about 5000 Yen = 45 us$.

rickshaw takayama
You can always jump on a rickshaw in Takayama if you get tired of walking…

Several of the old houses are open to visitors, giving you a glimpse of the Edo Period and how it was inside a typical merchant home. We really enjoyed visiting these three houses:

Takayama Jinya

A beautiful building that used to held Takayama’s government during the Edo Period and is the only remaining office building of the Tokugawa shogunate. It was originally the administrative center of the Kanamori clan and dates back to 1816. The house also has an impressively large storehouse built around 1600 and was the biggest traditional rice storehouse in Japan, a garden, and a torture and interrogation room!

  • Opening hours: 08:45 – 17:00 (till 16:30 Nov – Feb, 18:00 during August)
  • Ticket price: 400 Yen = 4 us$, children free
  • Free English guided tours available
  • Located near the Nakabashi Bridge

Yoshijima Heritage House

This historic building has been in all the respected architectural publications. So if you are into design, you should definitely enter this house. The building has no ornaments and decor, but that’s what is special about this house, as you can admire the simplicity of the spare lines, roof, and skylight. An extra bonus is that you get a cup of delicious Shiitake tea included in the price! Yay! 🙂 In addition to being a home, the building was also a sake brewery.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00 (March – November, and 16:30 Wed-Sun December – February)
  • Ticket price: 500 Yen = 5 us$ adult, 300 Yen = 2,7 us$ for children

Hirata Kinenkan

This house used to be a merchant home of a candle maker. Here you can see various household items and historical documents from the Edo Period.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Ticket price: 300 Yen = 2,7 us$


Takayama has an impressive number of museums for its size. Some of the best in our opinion are:

Takayama Showa-kan Museum

This is a fantastic and fun museum! We loved it! The moment you step through the door you feel like stepping right into the 1950s.

Mickey and Snoopy

The end of the Showa era is what this museum is all about (1955 – 1965), which was a period of great optimism in Japan after the second world war. We loved walking around this corky and kitschy museum among Nikon and Sony gadgets, movie posters, Godzilla action figures, cartoon characters, plastic food, and all the weird Japanese gadgets and specialties from the 50s.

You can even visit an intact old classroom and cinema.

japanese classroom
Me trying out an old 1950is Japanese classroom. The desks are so small!

The highlight for us was the Pachinko machines that still work and that you can play. A hidden gem and a real blast from the past! ♥

Hida Minzoku Kokokan

Also called Hida Folk Archaeological Museum is located in one of the oldest and most intact buildings along Sanmachi-dori Street. The building used to be the home of a former samurai and has specialties like hidden secret passageways as well as a cool old well in the garden. The house and its garden have not been changed since the Edo/Samurai period.

Fuji Folk Museum

Located in a beautiful old building with a lovely gate along Sanmachi-dori Street. It is a rather small museum where you can see various household items from old merchant`s houses, ceramics, and folk craft objects from the Muromachi and Edo periods.

Karakuri Museum

This mechanical doll museum is located at the Hachiman Shrine. Here you will see hundreds of Shishi (lion dance) masks, as well as instruments and drums that are used during the festival dances. The highlight of this museum is the puppet show (shown two times each hour) where you can see the mechanical dolls Karakuri ningyo in real action.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 16:30
  • Ticket price: 600 Yen = 5,4 u$

Kusakabe Folk Crafts Museum

This building, located next to the Yoshijima Heritage House and dating back to 1890, is one of Takayama’s oldest merchant homes that are open to the public. The Kusakabe family that used to live here was successful money lenders. Here you will see a collection of folk art, as well as the impressive craftsmanship of the traditional carpenters Takayama was famous for.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 16:30 (Mar-Nov, until 16:00 Wed-Mon Dec-Feb)
  • Ticket price: 500 Yen = 4,5 us$ adult, 300 Yen = 2,7 us$ children

Takayama Museum of History and Art

Best of all, this museum is free! It has a beautiful location in the middle of a lovely garden. Walk around and admire 14 different themed exhibition rooms and get a glimpse of the local Takayama history, literature, culture, and arts.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 19:00
  • Ticket price: FREE!

Hida Takayama Museum of Art

This is located a bit outside of Takayama city itself, but you can hop on the London Bus shuttle (contact the Tourist Information Office by the Takayama train station to arrange the transport). This museum is huge!! It has artifacts like art glassware, furniture, and different sort of art nouveau. It also has a nice cafe and an incredible glass fountain.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Ticket price: 1300 Yen = 12 us$ adult, 800 Yen = 7 us$ children
  • Webpage

Takayama Walking Path – Temples and shrines

To the east of downtown Takayama is a nice hillside temple town called Teramachi and Shiroyama-koen (park) area. Through this area is a lovely walking path going through Takayama’s temple town Teramachi which contains over a dozen shrines and temples scattered on the hillside, before it goes through the green and lush Shiroyama park and ends up on the top of the hillside where the ruins of the Takayama-jo castle is located.

Soyuuji temple
Soyuuji Temple
Nice view of Takayama city from the hilltop
Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine Takayama
Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

The path is 3,5 km long and is well marked with signs so it is easy to find the route. The walk takes about 2-3 hours in total. The path starts and ends at the Takayama Museum of History and Art (15 minutes walk from Takayama Train Station).

Soyu-ji temple Takayama
Soyu-ji Temple

The Japanese Alps

If you want to see more of the Japanese Alps that surround Takayama, you can take a bus from Takayama Bus Station that takes you up to a point near the summit of Mount Norikuradake. The mountain is a 3028-meter high volcano located east of Takayama. The road up to Norikura Bus Terminal (2700 meters) is closed for private cars, only buses and taxis can drive up there.

Japanese Alps

From Norikura Bus Terminal you can walk for 30 minutes along a service road to a mountain hut, and further (about one hour) on a hiking trail up to Kengamine Peak which is the highest top of Mount Norikuradake. The hike is awesome! It is especially popular during autumn (mid-September till October) as this is the first part of Japan to get autumn colors. It is also popular for skiers.

  • How to get there: Take the bus from Hirayu Onsen via the Honokidaira parking lot up to Norikura Bus Terminal. From mid-May to October buses depart every 1-2 hours from Hirayu Onsen. The bus ride takes one hour and costs 1420 Yen = 13 us$ one way and 2300 Yen = 21 us$round trip. You can also take a taxi up the mountain. The taxi trip also takes one hour and cost about 8000 Yen = 72 us$ one way.
    To get to Hirayu Onsen from Takayama, take the Nohi Bus from Takayama Bus Station. The bus ride takes one hour and costs 1570 Yen = 14 us$.

The Shin-Hotaka Ropeway that takes you up to the mountain is really cool and gives you a spectacular view of the northern part of the Japanese Alps!

The ropeway trip cost 2900 Yen = 26 us$ per adult. You can also go hiking from the top of the ropeway. The landscape is magnificent and the best of all is that you can take onsen (one outdoor and one indoor, men and women separated). The total trip from Takayama does, however, take about 6 hours (the bus ride is about one hour each way), and you can buy a packet for 6990 Yen = 63 us$ including the bus, Onsen Hirayu, and everything.

We took the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which is spectacular! So if you have the time, you should definitely do it.

Takayama Festival

The famous Takayama Festival is held in the old town twice a year – in spring (14th – 15th of April) and autumn (9th to 10th of October). We did, unfortunately, miss it as we visited Takayama in August, but the festival is supposed to be amazing and one of the best that Japan has to offer.

The spring festival is also called Sanno Festival as it takes part in the Hie Shrine or Sanno-sama Shrine (located at the southern part of the old town of Takayama). The autumn festival`s name is Hachiman as it is held in the Hachiman Shrine (in the northern part of the old town).

During the two days festivals, a dozen big floats (yatai) decorated with bright colors and gold are on display in the streets of Takayama. The floats have beautiful decorated mechanical dolls (karakuri ningyo) that are moving and dancing. Karakuri doll shows are also held during the festivals.

If the weather is bad the floats stay in the storage but the storages are open to the public.

Also, a portable shrine (mikoshi) made of gold is carried through the streets starting and ending at the shrine that represents the festival. The shrine that is carried through the streets holds the Shinto gods (called kami) and is only carried out on the streets once a year during the festival.

The highlight of the festival is on the evening of the first day when the floats are carried through the streets of the old town of Takayama in all their glory for a couple of hours. The festivals are extremely popular, both among the locals and foreign and Japanese tourists, so it gets crowded especially when the festival dates fall on a national holiday or weekend.

Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall

If you, like us, are not in Takayama during the actual festivals, you can still have a glimpse of four of the colorful yatai (floats). Only four of the dozen floats are on display at the exhibition hall Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan, although they rotate on which of the floats they put on display.

Some of the floats are really old dating back to the 17th century and are stunning in their many colors and gold decorations.

Close to the hall is also the Sakurayama Nikkō Kan, an exhibit of replicas of Nikkō’s famous Toshogu Shrine.

  • Opening hours: 8:30 to 17:00 (March – November), 9:00 to 16:30 (December – February)
  • Ticket price: 900 Yen = 8 us$

Matsui no Mori Museum

Matsui no Mori is a museum dedicated to the Takayama Festival. Eleven small replicas of the festival floats, about a third of the actual size of the real floats, are on display in the entrance hallway. In the main exhibition room are several replicas put on display that is of the same size as the real ones. You can also see Karakuri dolls and drums that are used during the festival.

  • Location: South of downtown Takayama, a 15-minute bus ride from Takayama Station
  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Ticket price: 1000 Yen = 9 us$

Hida Folk Village

A short ride out of downtown Takayama is the charming Hida Folk Village, an open-air museum containing a dozen traditional Japanese houses. The buildings were originally located elsewhere in the region but have been rebuilt here in 1971 as a little village.

Hida Folk Village Takayama Hida Folk Village Takayama

There is a number of gassho-zukuri farmhouses located here, moved from the Shirakawago village. Although I really recommend that you do a day trip to see the real Shirakawago.

We loved Hida Folk Village, walking around the beautiful little village among the greenish forest and duck pond felt so refreshing. On a good weather day, you can even see the Japanese Alps from here!

Next to Hida Folk Village is the Hida Takayama Crafts Experience Center where you can join workshops and make local handicrafts like beaded key chains, sarubobo dolls, or ceramic cups.

Sarubobo doll Takayama
Sarubobo dolls – a specialty of Takayama

Have you not heard of a sarubobo you say?! Eh, me neither until we visited Takayama. A sarubobo is a bright red faceless doll and is a specialty of Takayama. It is an amulet that was traditionally made by mothers and grandmothers and given to their daughters and granddaughters to ensure a happy marriage and healthy children. Of course, I had to buy some just in case they actually work. 🙂

The workshops take from 15 minutes and up to one hour. The ticket price for a workshop depends on what you make, but it cost from 600 Yen to 1600 Yen to join in, and you don`t have to make a reservation, just show up at the center. The center has opening hours from 10:00 till 16:00 (closed every Thursday).

Hida Folk Village Takayama
One of the many Gasho houses in the Hida Folk Village
  • Location: Hire a bicycle and bike there (like we did), walk (30 min), or take the bus (10 min) from Takayama bus station. You can buy a combined return fare for 930 Yen = 8,4 us$ where admission to the park is included.
  • Opening hours: 08:30 – 17:00
  • Ticket price: 700 Yen = 6,3 us$ for adults, 200 Yen = 1,8 us$ for children

Teddy Bear Eco Village Museum

On your way to the Hida Folk Village is the sweetest and most fluffy museum we have ever been to! It is basically a museum with more than 1000 teddy bears from all over the world.

Teddy Bear Eco Village Takayama
The Teddy Bear Eco Village
Teddy Bear Eco Village Takayama
Fluffy and cuteness overload at the Teddy Bear Eco Village
  • Opening hours: 10:00 – 16:00
  • Ticket price: 600 Yen = 5,4 us$ for adults, 400 Yen = 3,6 us$ for children

Morning Markets

Start the day by joining the locals at the Asa-ichi (morning markets) that are arranged daily.

One of the two mornings markets of Takayama

There are two markets in Takayama: Jinya-mae Morning Market (located in 1-5 Hachiken-machi street) and Miya-gawa Morning Market (located on the east side of Miya-gawa river). The Miya-gawa is the biggest.

Here you can buy different farmers’ products like vegetables, fruits, berries, honey, eggs and so on, as well as local arts and crafts.

  • Opening hours: 07:00 – noon (Nov-Mar), 06:00 – noon (Apr-Oct)

Takayama is such a lovely and charming little city, and there are so many things to do in Takayama including plenty of brilliant museums.

If you want to see this beautiful ancient city with a local guide, join this great small-group/ private walking tour of Takayama.

We ended up staying in Takayama for four nights at an amazing Ryokan and were lucky to take part in the annual firework festival to drive away ill fortunes. It takes place in Takayama every August. The fireworks are set off in handheld bamboo cylinders from a temporary platform on the Miyagawa Riverbank. It was a spectacular show and a great way to end our Takayama stay!

Fireworks Takayama
The annual firework festival at the beginning of August to drive away ill fortunes

Where To Stay In Takayama

Yamakyu Ryokan

The lovely Yamakyu Ryokan

We stayed at Yamakuy Ryokan, and loved it! It is such a nice old Japanese guest house and compared with almost all other Ryokans in Japan actually pretty reasonably priced.

It was the cheapest Ryokan that we could find in Japan. We paid approximately 150 USD for two people, which included a very nice traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast. This Ryokan also has its own private onsen which we could use for free.
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⇒ Read our post about our stay at Yamakyu Ryokan

K`s House
We spent two nights at K’s  House – one of the best guesthouses we have ever stayed at! It is nice, clean and cozy, with excellent service and hospitality from the staff. We had a private room with a private bathroom and paid 75 USD per night for two people. They also have 4-bed dorm rooms for about 25 USD.

It has the perfect location, right in the middle of downtown Takayama so you can walk to all the main sights and museums of Takayama.
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What to see and do in Takayama Japan     What to see and do in Takayama Japan     What to see and do in Takayama Japan    What to see and do in Takayama Japan

Have you been to Takayama? Or do you plan to go? What of these things would you like to see? Please, leave a comment in the comment area below! And if you enjoy this article and find it useful, please share it on social media. Thank you! 🙂

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About The Writer Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.


  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful information about this city of Japan. I would really like to visit this city and want an amazing experience which can be worth share with people.

  2. These are all beautiful photos! SO many of my friends have been going to Japan recently. Definitely must get there ASAP.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thank you so much! Yeah, Japan has become really popular, and for a good reason I would say. It is a fantastic and fascinating country! You should definitely put it on your travel bucket list.

      Happy travels! 🙂


    • Thank you so much, Samantha! Takayama is such a great city, a real must-see when visiting Japan. Happy travels! 🙂


  3. Loved your post! Cool Photos!!
    This is first time I am visiting your website and I find this post very very useful thanks for giving such a great information..
    Keep up the good work…I will love to visit your site again and again….

    • Hi Zinayla!

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you like our blog and our photos! Takayama is such a great city.

      Happy travels!


  4. Takayama is a wonderful place in Japan also known as the Land of samurais. To get in touch with the history, one must visit this place.

    • I totally agree, Takayama is a great place with lots of history, nice restaurants and cosy atmosphere. It is also close to the charming mountain village Shirakawa-go which is awesome.

      Happy travels! 🙂


  5. Amazing, guys! We have some serious travel envy after reading this. We grew up fairly close to Japan and now we live on the other side of the world it’s not easy to get to. We had a trip booked there in 2011 but the Tsunami hit and it was cancelled as a result. This article might be just the kick we need to get Japan back on the top of the to do list…and soon!

    • Hi Bernie & Jess!

      Thanks a million for your nice comment! So cool that you grew up close to Japan! You should definitely head back to this beautiful and interesting country soon. It is one of our favourite countries and I cannot wait to get back.

      Happy travels! 🙂


    • Hi Pamela,

      Thank you so much! Takayama is a great city and there are plenty of nice photo opportunities both in the city but also in the area around like the Shirakawa go village.

      Happy travels! 🙂


  6. WoW I throughly enjoyed reading this post and came across it whilst researching places to visit in Japan, also loved the fabulous photos. Will definitely be visiting Takayama.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much! So glad to hear that you like our post and that it inspired you to visit Takayama. It is such a nice city! I really recommend that you also do a day-trip to the lovely mountain town Shirakawa-go which is just a short bus ride from Takayama.

      Have a great trip to Japan!


  7. Based on your post, I’ve just booked 2 days in Takayama before heading to Nara in April. I can’t wait to experience this gorgeous place 🙂

    • Hi Courtney,

      Wow, cool! You have something to look forward to, Takayama and the nearby Shirakawa-go is awesome! Have a great time in Japan in April and enjoy Takayama!


  8. We went to Hirayu onsen a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wasnt as sold on Shirakawa-go, whilst it is great for photos, I found it to touristy

  9. What are your thoughts on renting a car to explore the alps? With a family of four, the bus and train costs add up. Thinking about a rental car to better explore the area, but not sure on parking or road conditions.
    Also what is your experience with the Pasmo or Suricato cards in Tokyo and Kyoto? Easier for metro tickets and snacks or a hassle?

    Thanks much!

    • Hi Anne,

      We have never rented a car in Japan, but it seems like a good idea! Then you are very flexible and get to see the areas you want.

      A friend of mine from Sweden rented a car at the airport in Tokyo and drove inland to the alps. He said it was a bit difficult to read the signs as most signs are in Japanese only, but the traffic is very well organized and everybody is extremely polite and helpful, so it was not a big problem as long as he had Google Maps on his phone in front of him in the car. They also drive on the left side in Japan, which can be a bit difficult for us Europeans at least. 🙂

      The road conditions are good in the Alps, and as far as I remember there are big parking spots at all the main places to go hiking and exploring like the Alpine Route that we did.

      We did not buy a Pasmo or Suricato card in Tokyo and Kyoto, we only bought separate tickets for the metro and trains, but it seems very convenient and easy to use. You can use it (at least the Pasmo) all over Japan now, and not only to buy train- and bus tickets, but also goods and services from stores that accept electronic money payments. We will definitely get a Pasmo or Suricato card on our next Japan trip.

      Have a great trip to Japan with your family!

      All the best,

  10. Hi Maria, We are really enjoying your travel blog while researching for our trip – Hopefully mid-November – (next month!). We are a family of 4 from Australia (kids 11 & 14).

    We are looking to avoid some of the really touristy places, & would really like to soak up authentic Japanese culture. Planning at this stage 2 weeks… Takayama will be one to definitely visit.

    How long would you suggest to stay for? And do you have any more places you highly recommend & tips for us?


    • Hi Kiri,

      Thank you so much! Wow, great that you are taking your kids on a trip to Japan! They will love this amazing country!

      You should at least stay two nights in Takayama so that you get a full day to explore this beautiful city. I also recommend that you do a day trip (by bus) to the nearby mountain village Shirakawa-go. It is stunning!

      You can find our recommended Japan Itinerary here, with all the highlights of Japan in our opinion. The kids might also like the Japan Alpine Route.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan with your family!



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