Gifu Pre­fec­ture

Escape! Malaysia - - Destination -


Takayama is a city lo­cated in the moun­tain­ous re­gion of Hida in Gifu pre­fec­ture. It is home to one of the most pop­u­lar fes­ti­vals in Ja­pan – the Takayama Fes­ti­val. The two-part fes­ti­val, which at­tracts hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors ev­ery year, com­prises of the Sanno Fes­ti­val in spring and the Hachi­man Fes­ti­val in au­tumn. Both fes­ti­vals fea­ture a three-hour long pa­rade of tra­di­tional yatai

floats through the Old Town, along­side folk per­for­mances and pup­pet shows. The floats, adorned with in­tri­cate wood carv­ings and me­chan­i­cal Karakuri dolls that can move and dance, have been passed down for gen­er­a­tions and are tes­ta­ment to the re­gion’s re­pute for qual­ity tim­bre and crafts­man­ship. The Takayama fes­ti­vals were orig­i­nally sim­ple vil­lage cer­e­monies to pray and give thanks to the deities for a boun­ti­ful har­vest. As the city de­vel­oped as a cen­tre for tim­bre pro­duc­tion, the yatai floats be­came more elab­o­rate and gran­diose as a re­sult of the sup­port of the mer­chants and ar­ti­sans who had flocked to the re­gion. This is one fes­ti­val in Ja­pan you do not want to miss!


Apart from the Takayama Fes­ti­val, Takayama City has much to of­fer vis­i­tors for the rest of the year. Its 300-year-old Old Town is one of the few places in Ja­pan where you can see ar­chi­tec­ture dat­ing back to the Edo Pe­riod (1600-1868) and has been ear­marked as a tra­di­tional build­ing preser­va­tion area by the au­thor­i­ties. In par­tic­u­lar, the San­no­machi

Street in the south­ern part of the town makes for an at­mo­spheric stroll with its hand­ful of machiya cafes, restau­rants and sake brew­eries, some of which have been in busi­ness for cen­turies. Also worth a visit is the past ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fice for the Hida area, the Takayama Jinya. It is the only re­main­ing gov­ern­ment of­fice in Ja­pan from the Edo pe­riod.


His­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance aside, the Old Town is also where you can re­ward your taste buds with a range of lo­cal del­i­ca­cies, such as

mi­tarashi dango, sticky balls of rice-flour dough dipped in soy sauce, and the hoba

miso, a re­gional spe­cialty of miso, spring onions and shi­take mush­rooms roasted on hoba leaves over a char­coal bra­zier, best eaten with Hida beef. Be­cause of con­di­tions that fa­cil­i­tate qual­ity rice cul­ti­va­tion – a cold win­ter cli­mate and an ac­cess to pure moun­tain wa­ter – Takayama City also pro­duces some of the best sake in the coun­try. Be sure to in­dulge in a sake-sam­pling ses­sion at one of the tra­di­tional brew­eries in the Old Town for a nom­i­nal fee. Feel­ing peck­ish af­ter a drink? You could join the queue at Hida Kotte Ushi for a de­li­cious slab of A5-grade Hida beef

sushi – one of its kind in the whole of Ja­pan.


If you’re an early riser, do drop by the nearby bustling Miyagawa Morn­ing Mar­ket to soak in the lively sights. Lo­cated right next to the pic­turesque Miyagawa River, the mar­ket has ex­isted for cen­turies as a space for towns­folk to ped­dle goods such as rice, flow­ers and mul­berry. These days, you can buy fresh veg­eta­bles, lo­cal del­i­ca­cies and hand­made crafts at the mar­ket. The lo­cal sellers are known to be friendly and gen­er­ous with their food sam­ples, so do strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with them and try out some of Takayama’s favourite snacks on your visit.


Sou­venirs are aplenty at the Miyagawa Morn­ing Mar­ket as well as in the Old Town, but if you are look­ing for a more per­son­alised me­mento to bring home, a place to check out would be the Hida-takayama Omoide

Taiken Kan (loosely trans­lated as ‘Mem­ory Ex­pe­ri­ence Fa­cil­ity’), where you can make your own sou­venirs by hand. Sit­u­ated op­po­site the Hida No Sato, a folk vil­lage mu­seum show­cas­ing age-old farm­houses in the moun­tains, the fa­cil­ity al­lows vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence Ja­panese cul­ture through hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties. There, you could learn to make the

Sarubobo Doll, a lucky charm unique to the Hida re­gion which mothers tra­di­tion­ally sewed for their daugh­ters to bless them with a happy mar­riage and smooth de­liv­ery. In ad­di­tion to sou­venir-mak­ing, vis­i­tors can also par­take in a va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences at the fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing learn­ing to play Shakuhachi, a tra­di­tional Ja­panese mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing

Kyudo (tra­di­tional archery) and pre­par­ing Hida culi­nary spe­cial­ties.


Set in a land-locked re­gion sur­rounded by high moun­tains, Takayama was a rel­a­tively self-con­tained city back in the days, de­spite its flour­ish­ing trade. Yet, a stone’s throw away from the city nick­named “Lit­tle Ky­oto”, there ex­isted an even more iso­lated com­mu­nity in the deep val­leys along the Shogawa River – the vil­lages of Shirakawago and Gokayama. From its ar­chi­tec­ture to agri­cul­ture, a way of life that is un­like that of the rest of Ja­pan has per­sisted in the vil­lages since the 11th cen­tury. If you’re trav­el­ling to Takayama, a day-trip to the idyl­lic vil­lage of Ogi­machi in Shirakawago is def­i­nitely worth the de­tour. Viewed from the ob­ser­va­tory deck over­look­ing the vil­lage, the clus­ter of 114 tim­ber farm­houses in Ogi­machi is in­stantly rec­og­niz­able by their dis­tinc­tive gassho (‘prayer hands’) con­struc­tion style – steep thatched roofs that are shaped like hands in prayer to al­low snow to slide off eas­ily in win­ter. Since harsh cli­mates in the val­ley made it tough to grow typ­i­cal Ja­panese crops such as rice and buck­wheat, the com­mu­nity re­lies in­stead on the cul­ti­va­tion of mul­berry trees, pro­duc­tion of gun­pow­der, and silk­worm cul­tures for sub­sis­tence and trade. For a first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of life in the vil­lage, you could opt for an overnight stay at one of the many

min­shukus in Ogi­machi.

FROM TOP LEFT The leg­endary beef sushi from Hida Kotte Ushi

We bought six dif­fer­ent flavours of taiyaki from the cheery lady over here and loved ev­ery one of them

FROM TOP Revel in the peace of Ogi­machi vil­lage af­ter the sun goes down and the day-trip­pers have gone

Catch your breath by the idyl­lic Miyagawa River af­ter a hec­tic shop­ping spree

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