I knew very little about the city before I arrived except what my friend and travel companion had told me. “It’ll be a nice escape from the cities” she had said to me when we were drawing up the plans and potential itinerary. To be honest it’s not hard to persuade me to do things and after looking up a little information about the place I was sold.
We took the Shinkansen from Kyoto but had to change to the slower more traditional style of train to take us up into the mountains. The change of pace reflected well on the experience overall inducing a much more leisurely pace away from the busy cities of Kyoto and Tokyo. The rambling journey through the lush countryside meant every stretch of the way we were met with beautiful views of mountains and lakes.
After several hours we arrived in Takayama a quiet small city tucked away in the Gifu Prefecture in the mountains, a once remote little village now a common spot for skiing enthusiasts and tourists. Much like Kyoto, Takayama is a historic city but felt –to me – much less touristy than Kyoto and much more genuine in its approach.
Although I loved Kyoto greatly it was obvious many of the streets and areas had be developed to adhere to a certain aesthetic were Takayama felt more traditional throughout. It had a very different feel to it and being surrounded by mountains and lakes made this one beautiful little city.
In a similar vein to Kyoto Takayama also had a traditional area which was a pleasure to walk along, as the streets where lined with old wooden houses selling all manner of tourist trinkets along with several Sake houses, it just felt more homely than Kyoto ever did. Maybe this was because we stayed in a wonderful little hostel that really felt like a home away from home.
Hidatakayama Guesthouse Tomaru was a fantastic guesthouse, and is a truly stand-out place for me. It’s run by a friendly couple who made us feel part of the family making this truly a home away from home. Their local knowledge helped us find some great restaurants and sights over our short time in the city helping to make our stay in Takayama truly stand-out.
When you are in Japan a must do item on anyone’s list is to visit a Sake house – or at least it should be – and luckily Takayama was home to several distilleries and a few very well stocked Sake houses. Situated in the traditional area of Takayama the Sake houses provide a great place to unwind of an evening as you get a chance to try many different styles of this ancient Japanese spirit. It was great to see the Sake house offered free samples of a range of their most popular spirits which helped to highlight the breadth of different styles of Sake.
The city still has many traditional houses, several of which had become museums and for a modest fee you were allowed to walk around them. The houses were originally owned by merchants, master carpenters and other rich families in the city and represent the lavish lifestyle they lived.
If you are a fan of traditional Japanese architecture Yoshijima House is a must as you get to explore this beautiful wooden house once owned by a prosperous merchant. The house is wonderfully preserved and is everything you think of when you imagine traditional Japanese houses. Be sure to check back on Thursday when I delve into the more explosive side of Takayama along with the beautiful world heritage village of Shiragawa-go.