Monday, 3 August 2015

Cities of Japan - Takayama

Unique Japan Tours loves Takayama. It's a beautiful city, located high in the Hida mountains (hence why it's sometimes called Hida-Takayama). After the hustle and bustle of modern Tokyo, Takayama is a welcome reprieve. A merchant city famed for it's timber and carpenters, the city thrived under the direct control of the Shogun during the feudal period of Japan's history. But what is it like now?
Unique Japan Tours Takayama Old Streets Flowers
The beautiful streets of Takayamal
Source: JNTO


Located in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, Takayama is most famous for the Sanno-machi Historic District, as well as one of Japan's most beautiful festivals, where beautifully carved, wooden festival floats are put on display throughout the city. But, if you can't make it to the festival, don't worry, as you can see the floats on display in a museum in the city all year round.
Unique Japan Tours Takayama Festival Floats
The Takayama Festival Floats are testaments to the craftsmen of Takayama
Source: Flickr
The floats are very representative of Takayama's history. The carpenters of Takayama were renowned as some of the best in all of Japan, and are said to have worked on the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, as well as having helped build many of the temples and shrines in Kyoto and Nara. The skill of the local craftsmen was so well respected and desired, that the city was put under the direct control of the shogun, which brought unprecedented wealth and prosperity to the town.
Unique Japan Tours Takayama Festival Decoration Night
The streets of Takayama decorated for a festival
Source: JNTO
Takayama is relatively small, and it's excellent infrastructure makes it easy to explore on foot, or by bike. The atmospheric, well preserved old streets, dating back to the Edo period, are only equaled by Kanazawa. Don't let the small size put you off though, you could spend a number of days exploring the city, exploring the nooks, crannies and ancient shops.


Meibutsu is a Japanese term for famous products associated with particular regions. - Wikipedia.

There are two main meibutsu to come from Takayama. First, is Hida-gyu, or Hida beef. There are a number of rules regarding what counts as Hida beef and what doesn't, including the amount of time the animal live in Gifu prefecture, in addition to approval from the Hida Beef Brand Promotion Conference (yeah, it's actually a thing). The most important thing about Hida beef is that it's delicious. The meat is so marbled that it just melts in your mouth. If you're on a budget and don't want to splash out on a Hida beef steak, you can always just enjoy a Hida-gyu-man, a steamed bun filled with Hida beef. 
Unique Japan Tours Takayama Hida Beef Man Bun
A Hida-gyu-man from the Takayama morning marketSource: Flickr
The second meibutsu from Takayama is sake, Japanese rice wine. Takayama is a great location for brewing sake, with the locally grown Hida rice combining with the pure mountain water and the cool mountain air, making Takayama sake full bodied and flavourful. There are a number of sake breweries in the Old Town, each with their own types and varieties of sake. Some of these breweries are hundreds of years old, they know what they're doing!
Unique Japan Tours Takayama Old Streets Sake Shop Brewery
An old sake shop on the streets of Takayama
Source: JNTO
That is Takayama. All of it's amazing points, from the history, to the food and drink, combine to make it a must visit city on the main island of Honshu. Love the sound of it? Takayama is on our Japan Discovered small group tour, or can be added to any self-guided tour. What appeals to you most about Takayama? The food, the sake or the history? Why?

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