Chances are you are keen to spend your year-end holiday exploring off the beaten places in Japan like Takayama in winter.
Or maybe you want to plan a trip to Takayama during the winter season but you found limited resources on the Internet.
Well, you have come to the right site.
Takayama is a laid-back historical city nestled in the Hida region. Though small, Takayama hosts one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan in autumn and spring.
But if you want to skip the tourist crowd and admire the stunning snowy scenery, visiting Takayama in winter is probably one of the best travel decisions you will make.
So make sure to read this comprehensive article till the end to know must-do things in Takayama in winter, what to eat, getting around Takayama, and unique winter tips before visiting Takayama.
Let’s get into it.
What’s So Special About Winter In Takayama?
Located in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Takayama is surrounded by mesmerising mountainous scenery.
Thanks to the snow and low temperature, this rustic region is popular for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.
Since Takayama is also located near the famous hot spring resort, travellers can enjoy a soothing onsen bath while overlooking the snowy mountains.
Exploring the wonderfully-preserved Takayama town in winter allows one to fully immerse into the local culture without the typical tourist crowds too.
You can expect plenty of pretty winter illuminations held around Takayama in winter, making the festive season more magical and lovely.
What To Do In Takayama In Winter: 14 Fun Activities
1. Have Fun at Ski Resorts
Spend your time having fun skiing or snowboarding in Takayama during winter.
These two ski resorts are the locals’ fav:
- Mont Deus Hida Kuraiyama Snow Park
- Honoki Daira Winter Resort
You can take a bus to Mont Deus Hida Kuraiyama Snow Park and Honoki Daira Winter Resort from Takayama Station.
Both resorts are 40 minutes away from Takayama city.
If you are keen to learn skiing and snowboarding, both ski resorts offer these snow sports for beginners too.
The lessons in Mont Deus Hida Kuraiyama Snow Park are conducted in Japanese only.
Travel tip: Wondering what you should pack for a ski trip? Here’s an article on the Japan ski packing list to help you take out the guesswork and less stress packing.
2. Enjoy A Soak Or Two at The Local Hotsprings
There is no other place that can keep yourself warm and fuzzy in winter.
I think you guessed it correctly- onsen!
Get yourself a soak session at Okuhida hot springs when visiting Takayama in winter.
This popular hot spring area is a 1-hour bus ride away from Takayama.
Okuhida is known for its open-air baths surrounded by magnificent views of the Northern Japanese Alps.
You can have a soak at the public bathhouses or select ryokan as the non-staying guest for 500 yen to 2000 yen.
Here are the famous onsen towns in Okuhida to experience Yukimi-buro:
- Hirayu Onsen (Hirayu no Mori)
- Shin-Hirayu Onsen (Okuhida Garden Hotel Yakedake)
- Shin-Hotaka Onsen (Suimeikan Karukaya)
Travel tip: Different onsen and ryokan have different rules but typically you need to strip naked to enter the gender-segregated onsen.
If this is your first time to Japan, check out my helpful article on tips to know before getting to this interesting East Asian country.
Recommended Tour from Editor: Book this guided Onsen Tour Around Takayama City to dive into the spiritual part of the Japanese and enjoy the open-air soak in natural hot springs.
3. Admire The Beautiful Winter Illuminations
When it comes to winter in Japan, rest assured there are also beautiful winter illuminations lighting up all across the country.
Winter illuminations in Takayama are typically open to visit in early December to mid-February.
You can expect to experience dazzling light shows in a forest, rural side, and even with ice sculptures like igloo.
Here is the list of winter illuminations to visit while in Takayama:
- Nakao Kamakura Festival
- Akigami Onsen Subzero Forest
- Taruma Kanekori Illumination
- Hida Folk Village Light Up
- Nakabashi Bridge Winter Light up
4. Visit Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
The Japanese have a tradition to visit shrines and temples on the first day of the New Year for praying purposes. This practice is known as Hatsumode.
In Takayama, the locals make their way to the oldest shrine, Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine.
If you are at Takayama on 1 January, be sure to stop by this century-old wooden shrine to immerse yourself in the local culture and festive winter season.
Nevertheless, Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine is also a great place to wander around and enjoy its traditional architecture against the mesmerising snow backdrop.
Tripod stand comes in handy especially when you are travelling alone to capture the nice shots of yourself at the gorgeous landmarks in Takayama.
5. Enjoy The Snowy View at Kokubunji Temple
Being the oldest temple in Takayama, Kokubunji Temple is also crowded with the presence of faithful devotees on New Year’s eve for Joya no Kane.
You can join the locals and kickstart your new year countdown by climbing up the black tower and ringing the temple bells 108 times at Kokubunji Temple.
If you reach Takayama in winter after New Year, do not despair.
You can still explore the temple complex and enjoy the snowy view without much noise and distraction from the New Year crowds.
Tip: The gingko tree planted next to the three-storey tower is 1200 years old.
Takayama is part of the stunning Japanese Alps, a popular destination for ski and hiking enthusiasts.
As the snow covers the mountainous landscape, you can enjoy the breathtaking winter scenery on Shinhotaka Ropeway.
The double-decker cable car is also one-of-the-kind in Japan, making the ride even more exciting!
Once you reach the upper station, continue to be awed at the surrounding mountainous views from the observation deck at a 2150 metre high altitude.
You can get to Shinhotaka Ropeway from Takayama Station by bus for US$15 or 2200 yen one-way. The duration is 90 minutes.
Shinhotaka Ropeway cable car ride fee: US$13 or 1900 yen (one-way) or US$23 or 3300 yen (roundtrip)
Operating Hours: 9 am-4.15 pm (December to March)
Book your Shinhotaka Ropeway ticket in advance with this good-deal bundle that includes bus ride from Takayama or Okuhida!
7. Sign Up For Takayama Winter Nombe Festival
If you didn’t already know, Takayama is famous for its sake.
This pretty town was once home to more than 50 sake breweries at one time. Right now, there are about 7 sake breweries left in Takayama.
Every winter, the Takayama Winter Nombe Festival is held from January to March.
Participants can try 2 types of sakes at each of the 6 participating breweries during this fun sake-brewery hopping event.
You can buy the festival ticket for 3000 yen at Nakabashi Tourist Information Centre, Nohi Bus Reservation Centre, or selected breweries.
Tip: Make sure to bring along the sake hopping brochure and get a stamp from each brewery to qualify for a souvenir.
Travel tip: The legal age for alcohol consumption in Japan is 20 years old.
Takayama Winter Nombe Festival ticket price: US$21 or 3000 yen
Sake tasting hours: 10 am-12 pm & 1 pm-4 pm
Your Takayama winter trip (or any trip to Takayama) is not complete without exploring Takayama Old Town.
Immerse in the nostalgic-filled vibe along the streets lined with century-old traditional shophouses is one of the best things to do in Takayama.
One of the must-visit streets in Takayama Old Town is Sannomachi Street.
This lively street features beautifully-preserved old homes, merchant shops, sake breweries, and cafes.
Being one of the off the beaten path places in Japan, you can explore and take shots of this nostalgic town at ease without getting photobombed by tourists.
Travel tip: Be sure to stop by the food stalls to feed your tummy with the deliciously hot beef bun at Old Town.
Recommended Tour from Editor: Book this Guided Takayama Old Town Walking Tour to learn more about the town and its awe-inspiring landmarks history.
9. Wander Around Hida Folk Village
Want to have a closer look at gassho-zukuri houses without making your way to Shirakawago?
Just hop on Sarubobo Bus from Takayama Station for a 15-minute ride to Hida Folk Village.
Hida Folk Village is an open-air museum featuring traditional buildings and items that depict village life in the past.
More than 30 traditional buildings built in Edo Period (1603-1868) were transported from the Hida region, such as Shirawakago, to Takayama.
You can also learn about Japanese crafts at Hida Takayama Crafts Experience Centre, which is a short walk from Hida Folk Village.
Hida Folk Village Entrance Fee: US$5 or 700 yen
Visiting Hours: 8.30 am-5 pm
Sarubobo Bus Schedule: Check here
Recommended Tour from Editor: Spend the day in Takayama watching the captivating live traditional Japanese drum, dance, and lion dance performances.
10. Indulge in Local Cuisine
Every Japanese city and town has unique local cuisines.
This same goes for Takayama.
Traditional Japanese snack lovers need to opt for Takayama’s own Mitarashi Dango and Gohei Mochi.
Read the “What To Eat In Takayama” section of this article to learn other unmissable foods to try in this rustic town.
Recommended Tour from Editor: Sign up for this Special Food Tour in Takayama to learn more about the local cuisine under the friendly local’s guidance.
Tip: Japan is known for its eye-catching, quirky snacks.
If snacking is your second favourite pastime after travelling, check out my detailed snacks in Japan article to learn what Japanese snacks to try while you are in the country.
11. Mingle With The Locals at Miyagawa Morning Market
Miyagawa Morning Market is where the locals hang out and sell their craft and produce to their customers.
You can also get your hands on the Hida Beef skewers and sushi from the market stalls over here to keep yourself warm in winter.
Learn some easy Japanese phrases to interact with the residents for more enriching travel experience.
12. Visit Matsuri no Mori Museum
Takayama might seem like a sleepy town but thousands of visitors flock to this place in April and October annually for the stunning Takayama Festival.
This vibrant festival features a large float procession and Karakuri (dancing dolls) performance along the streets of Takayama Old Town.
Some of the gorgeous replica floats are kept in Matsuri no Mori Museum so visitors can admire the unique float craftsmanship even after the festival ends.
Travel tip: Takayama Festival is one of the 3 beautiful festivals in Japan.
Make sure to get your accommodation book in advance if you plan to participate in this popular festival.
Matsuri no Mori Museum Entrance Fee: US$7 or 1000 yen
Operating Hours: 9 am-5 pm
13. Explore Takayama Jinya
Takayama Jinya is another popular attraction to visit when you are in Takayama in winter.
Located near Nakabashi Bridge, this historical complex used to be the previous local government administration centre.
Visitors are allowed to enter the building and look at the settings of conference rooms, offices, and guest rooms.
Takayama Jinya also exhibits past official reports, past leaders’ belongings, and old maps of the region.
Takayama Jinya Entrance Fee: US$3 or 440 yen
Visiting Hours: 8.45 am-4.30 pm (November to February)
Closing Dates: 29 December, 31 December & 1 January
If you have an extra day or two for a day trip from Takayama, then make your way to Shirakawago.
One of the UNESCO sites in Japan, Shirakawago is popular for its beautifully-preserved traditional house, gassho-zukuri.
The scenery in Shirakawago is absolutely stunning during winter as if there is a snow-white blanket covering the whole town.
Aside from sightseeing, you can consider staying overnight in Ogimachi Village at Shirakawago to experience a unique stay at the traditional Japanese farmhouse.
Travel tip: Ogimachi Village has winter illumination events on selected Sundays in January and February 2023.
Visitors are required to reserve their spot through the lottery system. Check out this official website to learn more about this event.
Getting to Shirakawago from Takayama: Take Nohi Bus at Takayama Bus Station and alight at Shirakawago Bus Terminal
Bus Fee: US$18 or 2600 yen (one-way) or US$31 or 4600 yen (roundtrip)
Duration: 50 minutes (Check the schedule)
Recommended Tour from Editor: Keen to explore Shirakawago & Gokayama in 1 day from Takayama? Sign up for this Shirakawago & Gokayama Private Chauffeur Tour so you can spend more time admiring the mountainous landscape and have stress-free planning.
Other Things To Do In Winter Around Takayama
- Frozen Fall Trekking at Hida-Osaka: Trek with ease into the forest and get mesmerised by the magical snow environment and breathtaking frozen wall scenery. Trekking equipment is provided.
- 1-Day Rural E-Bike Tour in Hida: Explore the village and enjoy the beautiful countryside views on E-Bike. Mingle with the locals and dive into their daily life routine. The tour ends with a delectable lunch.
Where To Stay In Takayama During Winter
If you allocate a small budget for your accommodation in Takayama, then it is best to stay out of the city centre.
Most of the top attractions in Takayama are within walking distance, so you can get to the site without walking too far.
But if you have money to splurge, I would recommend getting a ryokan.
Because a typical ryokan in Japan comes with a private onsen, and you can have a comfortable soak after a long day exploring the place!
Takayama has several accommodation types in, so you can choose according to your budget and preference:
Editor’s top choice: Oyado Koto No Yume
What To Eat In Takayama: Top 3 Dishes That You Should Not Miss
1. Hida Beef
Hida Beef is ubiquitous in Takayama.
Unlike the famous Kobe beef, Hida Beef comes with plenty of marbling. This meat feature makes it juicier and extra tender.
You can enjoy Hida Beef in several ways in Takayama. The meat is typically served in yakiniku style (BBQ), sushi, or steamed bun.
While you can get sushi and steamed buns from the street stalls easily, you can indulge in the grilled Hida Beef at Suzuya Restaurant.
2. Houba Miso
A traditional winter dish, Houba Miso is a simple yet delicious dish to try when visiting Takayama.
This dish is made by cooking chopped onions and mushrooms with sweet miso paste on the Japanese magnolia leaf.
You can even top Houba Miso with Hida Beef for a stronger flavour.
And the best place to enjoy a serving of Houba Miso in Takayama is Hidatakayama Kyoya.
3. Mitarashi Dango
Mitarashi Dango is a traditional savoury Japanese snack in Takayama.
The skewered rice ball is grilled with soy sauce, giving a blackish-brown appearance.
You can easily get your hands on Mitarashi Dango from the stalls at Takayama Old Town.
How To Get To Takayama: 3 Possible Ways
Depending on your location and budget, you can get to Takayama by:
1. By Air
The nearest airport to Takayama is a domestic airport in Toyama, about 80 kilometres away.
You will still need to get a train, bus, or taxi transfer from Toyama to get to Takayama.
Expect to pay US$18 to US$25 (2600 yen to 3700 yen) for a 2.5-hour bus ride from Toyama to Takayama.
Takayama’s nearest international airport would be Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair Airport. The distance between these two places is 180 kilometres.
You can reach Takayama from Nagoya within 3 hours by bus. The bus ride costs US$19 to US$26 (2700 yen to 3800 yen).
Train transfer is typically opted for by visitors to get to Takayama.
If you are coming from Tokyo, you can board the JR Shinkansen to either Nagoya or Toyama first. You need to transfer to the JR Hida Limited express train before reaching Takayama.
A one-way trip from Tokyo to Takayama can cost US$98 (14 500 yen) and US$105 (15 500 yen).
The good news? The transportation cost is covered by JR Pass!
|From Tokyo||First Transfer (JR Line)||Second Transfer (From Nagoya/Toyama to Takayama)||Travel Duration from Tokyo to Takayama||Overall Cost||Covered by JR Pass|
|To Nagoya||JR Tokaido Shinkansen||JR Hida limited express train||4.5 hours||14 500 yen|
|To Toyama||JR Hokuriku Shinkansen||JR Hida limited express train||5.5 hours||15 500 yen|
Travel Tip: You can get Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass instead if you are exploring Hokuriku area.
This regional JR travel pass covers from Kansai Airport to Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Takayama, Gero Onsen, and Nagoya.
3. By Bus
You can get to Takayama from Tokyo directly via two bus operators, Nohi Bus and Keio.
A one-way bus ride is about 5.5 hours and costs at least US$44 (6500 yen).
You can buy the highway bus ticket online through Willer.
How To Get Around Takayama
Most attractions in Takayama are within short walking distance, except for Hida Folk Village and Matsuri no Mori Museum.
The two attractions are about a 10 to 15-minute bus ride away from the Takayama Station.
To get to Hida Folk Village and Matsuri no Mori Museum, you can board the Sarubobo Bus (a tourist bus in Takayama).
Another tourist bus you can take is Machinami Bus.
A ride on any of these buses costs US$0.70 (100 yen). You can get a day pass for unlimited tourist bus rides for just US$3.40 (500 yen).
Takayama Winter Travel: Unique Tips To Know
Takayama in winter is cold and snowy. The temperature can go as low as -5 degrees Celsius during winter months.
Check out my detailed Japan Winter Packing List article for more details on things to bring to keep yourself warm and cosy in winter.
Shoes need to be taken off before entering temples and shrines in Japan.
Opt for convenience when you opt for slip-in waterproof shoes when exploring Takayama during the winter season.
Shinhotaka Ropeway is one of the easiest ways to admire the stunning snowy scenery of the Japanese Alps.
But if the snow condition is bad, the double-decker cable stations might be temporarily suspended or closed.
You can check for any announcement at Shinhotaka Ropeway Facebook Page.
4. Most Businesses Close For Five Days In January
New year celebrations are a big thing in Japan, including Takayama.
Typically, the locals flock to the shrines or temples to pray for prosperity and good health.
Thus, most businesses like restaurants and stores will close from 30 December to 3 January for New Year’s break and praying purposes.
FAQs: Visiting Takayama In Winter
1. Why is Takayama famous?
Located in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture, Takayama is part of the stunning Japanese Alps. This city is famous for the exceptional conservation of the historical hub, Sannomachi, with buildings dating back to the Edo Period (1603-1868).
2. Is Takayama worth visiting?
Definitely! Takayama is crowded with visitors attending Takayama Festival. This lively festival is considered one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. Also, Takayama retains its historical and traditional aspects through the beautifully-preserved merchant houses, sake breweries, and cultural village.
3. Does Takayama have snow?
Yes. Takayama can be chilly and snowy during winter (December to February). The temperature at Takayama can go up to 6 degree Celsius and as low as -2 degree Celsius in winter. Takayama is also one of the great places to enjoy the sight of snow in Japan.
4. What is the weather like in December in Japan?
The weather is cold and dry during December in Japan. The winter weather typically varies in different parts of Japan. The average temperature during winter in Japan is 6 degree Celsius.
Takayama Winter: An One-Of-A-Kind Japan Travel Experience
So here you go- a comprehensive article on travelling to Takayama in winter.
Planning a winter trip to Takayama is no longer a difficult chore with this guide.
With plenty of things to do in winter at Takayama, you are bound to have a great and immersive travel experience in this rustic city.
Getting to Takayama Old Town will make you feel as if you are transported back in time, where the century-old traditional shophouses are still standing tall along the streets.
And as you wander around Takayama, your appetite will be whetted with the savoury aroma of the local cuisine and street snacks.
So it is time to take out your credit card and start booking a flight ticket to Japan and go ahead with your Takayama winter itinerary!
I hope you find this article useful and share it with your family members and friends.
Have a blast at Takayama!