Takayama City, located in the northern part of Gifu Prefecture, is generally called "Hida Takayama" because it is the center of the Hida region. The quaint castle and merchant town since the Edo period is called "Little Kyoto of Hida". In the guidebook of Michelin, France, it was introduced as "a city that preserves the original scenery of Japan" and received 3 stars. Let's take a closer look at the charm of Hida Takayama.
History of Hida Takayama
Hida Takayama, in the center of the Japan peninsula, is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and canyons. The mountainous areas were not the best place for agriculture, and they were just small mountain villages with no special products.
The tax system was established in the Nara period, and local regions were forced to pay rice and local specialties to the imperial court. Instead, the poor Hida were imposed to provide labors involved in construction work for palace or temples in the capital. They were called "Takumi of Hida" and prized because of the excellent skills. There are still many skilled craftsmen in the Hida region, and the craftsmanship is inherited.
It was at the beginning of Edo that the idyllic mountain village underwent a major transformation. Nagachika Kanamori, who served Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa during the Warring States period, was recognized for his contributions in the Battle of Sekigahara and became the first Takayama feudal lord with 38,000 goku (1 goku = 150 kg of rice). At the same time as Nagachika built the castle, he started to develop the castle town. He created a grid-like shape of castle town following Kyoto, and also proceeded with the construction of temples and shrines in the Higashiyama area. This is the reason why Takayama is now called "Little Kyoto of Hida". After 1692, Hida Province became a Tenryo (a territory under the direct control of the Shogunate) and developed as a merchant town.
Hida Takayama has a unique culture that has blossomed while incorporating the Kyoto and Edo cultures. Even now, the atmosphere of that time still remains in the cityscape.
Recommended sightseeing spots in Hida Takayama
Old townscape (Sanmachi street)
The main street of Hida Takayama. Machiya (traditional houses) and merchant houses from the late Edo period are lined up, and you can enjoy the charming townscape. It is a popular tourist spot that is crowded with many tourists, with cafes and shops for Japanese miscellaneous goods. There are plenty of gourmet foods such as soy sauce-flavored mitarashi dumplings and Hida beef nigiri sushi.
Morning markets (Miyagawa and Jinyamae morning market)
The morning market in Hida Takayama since the Edo period is one of the three major morning markets in Japan. Currently, there are two morning markets, "Jinyamae Morning Market" and "Miyagawa Morning Market," where fresh vegetables, fruits, and local specialties are sold almost every day. It's fun to hear the pure "Hida dialect" of the locals.
The Jinya is a complex which hosted the government organisms, called Gundai / Daikansho, established by the Edo Shogunate to manage Hida under the direct control. Of more than 60 Jinyas nationwide at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, only Takayama Jinya still has the major buildings remained. “Jinyamae” morning market is open in front of Takayama Jinya square.
Hida Great Limestone Cave
A limestone cave discovered by a local businessman, Tokichi Ohashi, in 1965. Located at an altitude of 900 meters, it is known as a limestone cave at the highest altitude in Japan. Fossils such as of "helictite", of "sea lily", and of "fusulina", which have high academic value, have been discovered.
Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage
If you have visited the land of Hida Takayama, why not visit Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage Site. Shirakawa-go is located in the Shogawa river’s valley, in Gifu prefecture, and is a village dotted with traditional gassho-style houses, showing huge sloping straw roofs. It is a valuable place to preserve the original scenery of Japan. Every season is attractive, but the beauty of the snowy landscape in winter is also exceptional. In January and February, the traditional houses are lit up at night.
Hida Takayama in Gifu Prefecture is an area where the historic cityscape called "Little Kyoto of Hida" remains. You can feel like you have traveled back in time to the Edo period just by walking around the town. Nearby, there are many attractive spots such as Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage Site, and Gero Onsen, one of Japan's three most famous hot springs. We hope you will enjoy the original scenery of Japan and the abundant nature.