"Takayama, the real, traditional Japan" 「高山は伝統的な本物の日本」
Parade chariot of Takayama Matsuri.
Sanmachi-Suji district, Takayama
The baths at Hirayu onsen.
Entrance to a temple of the circuit temples Higashiyama Teramachi under snow.
Kamikochi valley in winter
An interview with Hidekazu Hayashi
We had the honour of having Hidekazu Hayashi, who works as the Director of Strategy for International Relations in Takayama, in our office during his visit on February 10th 2017, to answer our questions about the city and its region.
Hidekazu Hayashi speaks about Takayama from the heart. The strategy director for international relations of the municipality sees in his city as a wonder of Japanese authenticity, and a guardian of Japanese traditions.
Japan Experience: What are the strengths of Takayama?
Hidekazu Hayashi: Takayama is a very old, traditional village. There are buildings dating from the Edo period, built 200 to 300 years ago, and still remained intact. It is also a place of celebration, with the Takayama Matsuri that takes place on April 14th and 15th and on October 9th and 10th. It's a special event: 23 floats line the streets which makes it one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December.
JE: Takayama is nicknamed "Little Kyoto". What do you think of that?
HH: Takayama is completely different from Kyoto! Kyoto is the former capital, but now is a modern city with lots of people, cars, noise... Takayama is calmer, there is almost no traffic. And there are more old houses and nature. This really is the image of the traditional and authentic Japan.
JE: Are there any onsen in Takayama?
HH: Yes, a lot - there are more than 130 onsen in the Takayama region! And there are also rotemburo, which are outdoor hot springs.
"A good introduction to onsen"
In particular there is Okuhida Hirayu onsengo, which is a very relaxing rotemburo. It has private sections, where you can bathe as a couple, or with friends or family, without worrying about others seeing you. It is therefore the perfect place for shy foreigners who want to have the onsen experience.
JE: What is the local cuisine like in Takayama?
HH: The food is very local. Takayama is well known for its beef, which is even better than Kobe beef. It has won a national competition twice, a sort of "beef Olympics" in Japan which takes place every five years. We lost our title last year, but we are determined to win it again this year!
JE: It's almost the cherry blossom season. Can we see it in Takayama?
HH: Of course. Because of the climate, the flowering time is offset from the rest of Japan. The cherry blossoms bloom in the second half of April, a month later than in Tokyo for example. With a little luck, they begin to bloom in time for the Takayama Matsuri.
JE: What is the best way to get around the city?
HH: The best way is to walk. Takayama is a lovely city to explore on foot. You can go across the city center in 10 to 20 minutes, but the best way is to take a day to stroll around the city quietly from Takayama Jinya, stopping here and there in one of the sake breweries or strolling on the Higashiyama Teramachi temples.
JE: What is there to do around Takayama?
HH: You can visit the village of Shirakawago, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located an hour from Takayama by bus.
"The best starting point for trekking"
Kanazawa may also be visited from Takayama. You can also make a detour to Matsumoto and its famous castle. Takayama is also the best starting point for trekking in the Japanese Alps. Visit particularly Norikura and Kamikochi to see some beautiful landscapes.
JE: What is the ideal holiday in Takayama?
HH: The city itself takes a full day to visit. It is recommended to arrive in the evening so that you start your tour the next morning. Go to one of the morning markets where you can buy local fruit and vegetables as the locals do. Visit the rest of Takayama in the afternoon. The next day, head to the village of Shirakawago before returning to Takayama at night. On the third day, take a bath in Okuhida Hirayu Onsen, then head to Kamikochi and Norikura for a hike in the mountains. Return to Takayama at night, before continuing your journey to Kyoto or Kanazawa. So, allow at least three days and four nights for an ideal stay in Takayama.