One of my favorite day trips from Nagoya is to the small city of Takayama located just to the north in Gifu Prefecture. It is off the beaten path, offers uniquely local food, and can serve as a great refresher as life there is opposite to the hustle and bustle of Nagoya.
We start our day in the JR Nagoya Station where we will buy tickets for the JR Hida Express Superview towards Takayama. The train is equipped with large windows to ensure the passengers get the best views of the mountains, rivers and castle you pass along the way.
Tip: The train rides to its first stop, Gifu Station, in one direction; then pulls out in the opposite. If you get motion sickness you will need to either find a seat in the appropriate direction or be ready to swivel your seat around using the small foot lever on the bottom.
After departing Gifu Station we begin to leave the city behind, crossing over the Kiso River where we get a view of one of the 12 surviving castles built before the Edo Era. Inuyama Castle is perched on a hilltop overlooking the river, and an announcement will be made over the loudspeaker of the train in English briefly describing its history.
TIP: Once leaving Gifu Station you want to be sitting on the right hand side of the train. This way you will get the best views of the castle, and fully experience the next part of our journey.
Then we vier left up the canyon as the water shifts from brown to turquoise alongside the Kiso River and see the landscape change from countryside to mountainside. We will pass bridges, dams and small cities as our train continues the journey north.
TIP: Along the way we pass the small onsen town of Gero. Gero is famous in Japan for it’s natural hot springs and onsen culture. If you want to stop here before or after the trip for some relaxation in the spa this is the place to do it.
Upon pulling into the station in Takayama you may feel the drastic change in temperature. When you exit the gates pick up a map from the information center, and then cross the street walking away from the station. This is where the old part of town is located, and on the way we will grab some Takayama Ramen.
Masago Ramen (Located Here) is one of my favorite shops, and is sure to provide you with the small town, local spot vibe. It doesn’t have a menu - you have a choice of big or small size. The open kitchen allows you to watch your meal come to life before your eyes if you sit at the bar. The soy based ramen is delicious so do yourself a favor and order the big size.
With a happy stomach we will now further our journey away from the station and cross the river to get to the old town. Be sure to take some pictures of the bridge, and river below. In spring time it offers great Hanami (or cherry blossom) viewing.
Now we can enter the 16th century old part of town, with its unique craft shops and sake breweries. Stop and get some of the famous Hida Beef, but in a truly unique way - as sushi. There are two shops that offer this, and the lines will be long, but trust me it is a must. Look for Hida Kotte Ushi (飛騨こって牛) and splurge for the sirloin.
Still hungry? Let’s get a nikuman, or hida beef steam bun. They are delicious and double as a handwarmer in the colder months.
All finished with your shopping? Now we can look for dinner! There are many options, from Hida beef hamburgers, to yakiniku, to kushiyaki! I like Center4 Hamburgers as a burger! They are delicious and affordable.
TIP: Most shops will close down around 5 in the afternoon. Try to plan accordingly!
Now that all the shopping is closed it is time to head back down the mountain to Nagoya. Hop on at Takayama station making sure to catch the last express train home at 18:46. Yes there are later options that involve transfers, so don’t panic if you are reading this after 18:46.
You can see the whole experience on my Youtube link here.