Located in the mountainous region of the Gifu prefecture, Takayama is the perfect place to experience a mixture of rural and old Japan. Here are the top five free things to do when you're in Takayama!
Sanmichi, Takayama’s old town, will blast you back hundreds of years to the time when Takayama was a vibrant merchant town. Many of its original wooden houses (built during the Edo Period, which lasted from 1600-1868) still remain, with many of them converted into cafes, eateries, and souvenir shops.
- Make sure to stop by the miso factory along this street as miso from this area of Japan is famous and particularly tasty (the factory has free tastings of its oishii [delicious] offerings!)
Hours: Open all day, but shops are generally open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Takayama Museum of History and Art
The Takayama Museum of History and Art is the perfect place to learn more about Takayama’s storied past. Its 14 exhibits all cover different themes, ranging from Takayama traditional arts to the city’s history to local literature.
- Its small but quaint garden is an excellent place to take a small break. It is open until 9:00 p.m.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (garden until 9:00 p.m.)
Two morning markets occur on a daily basis in Takayama: Miyagawa Market, which takes place along the Miyagawa River close to Sanmichi, and Jinya-mae Market, close to the Takayama Jinya. While this is more of a local-catered market, with many stalls selling items such as vegetables and flowers, there are a few that specialize in local crafts (the stores lining the other side of the street of the Miyagawa Market also sell many souvenirs).
- If in search for a typical Takayama craft, pick up a sarubobo at one of the markets. Sarubobos are human-shaped Japanese amulets which are typically given to children for protection and health, and make for unique souvenirs.
Hours: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Sakura Foot Bath
A ten-minute walk east of the JR Takayama station, Sakura Foot Bath is a great place to rest tired feet on the way back from Sanmichi. You can relax here for a while while appreciating the gorgeous foliage around the bath, especially beautiful in the autumn and during the cherry blossom season.
- Bring a towel with you to wipe off when you’re done. If you can’t carry one with you, the adjacent hotel will sell you one for ¥200.
- For the adventurous eater, the footbath also sells “ongyoku softserve,” which is a mixture of onsen tamago (a very soft-boiled egg) with vanilla soft serve. The result is a custard-flavored vanilla ice cream!
Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Higashiyama Walking Course
For a nature breather, the Higashiyama Walking course
is a great option. The walk brings you through the ruins of Ayuzaki Castle and passes by several small temples and shrines.
- The Higashiyama Walking Couse is also a great chance to see some of Japan’s abundant wildlife as Japanese serows are commonly found close to the trail.
Hours: There are no listed hours for the Higashiyama Walking Course, but due to no lighting along the path, it is better to walk this path only during the daytime.