Wishing to see the traditional farm houses of Japan, we visited Takayama on our way back from Osaka to Tokyo. Hida Takayama (as to differentiate from other places with the same name), is a town located in the mountainous Hida region in Gifu prefecture. It still retains the traditional feel of rural Japan especially in the old town area with many beautifully reserved traditional store houses in the old town.
The entire Takayama town is easily covered on foot and the old town was a very pleasant place to walk around. In the early morning, we visited the Miyagawa morning market by the river before starting our day; strolling around the shops selling fresh produces and settled our breakfast. Do watch out for the opening hours and visit the morning markets if you can.
Another reason to visit Takayama is for its close proximity to Shirakawago. It is a World UNESCO heritage site, famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. We went to Ogimachi village, the largest village in Shirakawago. It was in the mid spring and the flowers were blooming beautifully at Shiroyama viewpoint, on our way from Takayama.
It is quite a shame that we wasn’t able to make reservation to do an overnight stay at one of the farmhouses in village and have a slower pace to enjoy the rural farming village. I do recommend staying the night over in Ogimachi and visit the villages in the nearby Gokayama. Those villages are a bit more inaccessible, less developed and also less crowded compared to Shirakawago, you can really experience the whole experience with little modern aspects or the crowds.
Do watch out for the time of the year you are visiting though. As it is in the mountainous region, the winter is bitterly cold and the traditional houses provide little insulation. However, if you do brave the weather, you will be treated with a scene that easily rivals the best of White Christmas postcards.
Hida region is famous for their cows; so when you are in Takayama, you need to try their beef. It is high quality beef with beautiful fat marblings, best have it grilled or seared lightly over the pan. Before visiting Takayama, we were in Osaka and had a mind blowing experience with Matsusaka beef. Whilst Hida beef can’t match Matsusaka beef tenderness but wins over on the fat marblings.