Takayama, Japan (+ Surrounding Area)
Length of visit: 2 Full “Exploring” Days
Lodging: Rickshaw Inn
This was one of our “splurges” as budget travelers at ~$100.00/night for our room, but it was worth it. This Inn is a centrally located historic home converted into a hotel. Our room had traditional beds and a tatami mat floor, a seating area, and a private bathroom (worth the money). Every receptionist was friendly and helpful and gave us lots of help with customs and recommendations. Bonus: the breakfast that is included is huge and will keep you full all day.
Can’t Miss Sights and Tours
+ Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall – I thought this attraction would be cheesy, but it was amazing. We got very close to the floats and got a full history of how each was made.
+ Takayama Jinya – We visited this site on a whim, but it is the only remaining house/municipal building that was used by the Tokugawa shogunate. Count on this for great regional history and an hour or two of ambling across the tatami floors.
+ Shirakawago Tour – There are several tours that incorporate Shirakawago, a UNESCO village featuring Gassho-zukuri. Find one and go on it – they’re fun, informative, and a great way to get a historical overview from Japanese guides.
+ Heainraku – This little restaurant is located on the main road in Takayama. It’s tiny, but boasts hands-down the best food we had in Japan, and the hosts were marvelous. Furthermore, the amazing food is tremendously inexpensive by Japanese standards. L and I shared an appetizer, sake flight, ume sake, and each had entrees for less than $35.00. Definitely make reservations!
+ Red Hill Pub – Tucked away at the edge of Takayama, this was a favorite for L. It was smoky and filled with tchtochkes, but the bartender made good drinks and even made tasty meals to order!
Takayama is a fantastic small city that you can easily explore on foot. We could probably have spent more days there exploring, but two was enough to see the main sights and still do the UNESCO day tour. For anyone interested in history, charm, and fantastic Japanese hospitality, Takayama is a must-visit.