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Gifu

Hida-Takayama

Traditional town of Takayama in northern Gifu

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About Hida-Takayama

Takayama is the largest city in the northern region of Hida. Though its population is only 92,000, the area is 2,177.67 km2 which is only 10 km2 smaller than Tokyo but with a fraction of the population.

It may not have the night life of Tokyo or even that of southern Gifu but what it does have is a fairly unique cultural heritage and many historical destinations.

Takayama city first took shape in the 16th century and due to its fairly isolated location was able to create its own distinct cultural traits. It has a vast dialect that is easy on the ears but to the well versed foreigner with Japanese skills might be quite confusing. In standard Japanese if you wanted to say “No problem” you would say “Mondai nai” or “kantan da”. But in Takayama, as well as much of the Hida region, you would say “Dosanai!” If you say “Do you want to go to an onsen?” In standard Japanese you would say “Onsen ni ikimasen ka?” But in Takayama you say “Onsen, Ikamaika?”

But a fun example of the macro culture is wedding receptions. I had been to receptions in other places around Japan and thought it couldn’t be too different. But was quite surprised. Usually after the toast is made, family members stand up and visit other tables. They pour drinks and thank the guests for coming. But this did not happen. People poured to their friends at the table and no one moved. It was actually quiet. Then about 20 minutes after the reception started, an old man stood up and started singing! People joined in and sang along glass in hand. After he sat down the party erupted into a massive flow of beer, sake and whatever people wanted to drink. Most Japanese wedding receptions go a nice tidy two hours and are very structured based on the wedding planner. But not in Takayama! This reception went on for four hours, had stage shows performed by guests and anyone who wanted to greet the bride and groom could come off the street and do so. After the main reception is over, there are usually at leas three post reception parties which can last for four or five hours each but could take up to two days to get through.

On top of having a fantastic local culture. Takayama boasts many temples, shrines, historical buildings and old shopping streets of lined with traditional buildings which has helped to give it the nickname of "Little Kyoto". The old city is the main attraction and one can spend hours there looking at local crafts or trying local sake. The Hida-Kokubunji Temple, one of the oldest structures in the city, stands next to a 1200 year old ginkgo tree.

Twice a year on April 14th and 15th and again on October 9th and 10th the people of Takayama host festivals featuring wooden floats graced by marionettes which dance to live festival music being played by locals. These festivals are there to pray for a good harvest and then to give thanks for the harvest. The fall festival is one of Japan’s largest and often attracts thousands of tourists from all corners of the globe.

Besides the downtown's historic downtown, Takayama also is home to Okuhida Spa resort, Norikura mountain pass and the 3200 meter Shin-Hotaka Ropeway offering an exquisite view of the Northern Japanese Alp.

Takayama's history, culture and vast nature help make it the number one tourist destination in Gifu, number one in the Chubu region and a top destination in Japan.

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