Takayama – The Old Town with Good Food
Takayama is a city near the Hida Region in the Gifu Prefecture. It acts as the gateway to the nearby World Heritage site, Shirakawa-go.
What is there to eat at Takayama?
For those beef lovers, Japan is heaven. The priciest and the highest grade of Wagyu originated from Kobe, Japan. Coming next in the “Japan’s top three Wagyu” is the Wagyu brand from Mie Prefecture and Shiga Prefecture. While these brands of Wagyu are certainly famous and delicious, there are other beefs that are very popular amongst locals.
The Gifu prefecture is well known for Hida Beef, a specific type of black-haired Japanese cattle that has been raised in Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months. Based on the Japanese beef grading system, the Hida beef hovers around yield grade A or B, and firmness and texture of 3, 4 or 5. The highest grade that a beef can obtain is the A5 rank. Judging from the criteria, the Hida Beef ranks relatively high on the scale.
Coming to Takayama, a must-eat is the Hida Beef. It comes in many different variations, as most restaurants will try to differentiate themselves to survive in this steep and competitive beef market. Even if you did not manage to read much about Takayama cuisine before visiting, a walk around the Takayama old town will somehow make you question the countless amount of “Hida Beef” banners hanging on the shop front.
When I was there, I did manage to try a few variations of the Hida Beef, be it in the form of a burger, a bibimbap (a Korean dish), a sushi, a croquette or even in a bun.
“You get what you pay for” – this phrase applies heavily to the Hida Beef. Most of the restaurants carry decent Hida Beef so if you are willing to fork out the money, it is likely that the Hida Beef will impress your tastebuds.
Another famous dish of Takayama is the Takayama Ramen. Almost every region in Japan has a slightly different style of ramen and the Takayama Ramen highly resembles the Chinese style Ramen. The most obvious difference that makes the Takayama Ramen stand out from the other variations of ramen is the noodles. The noodles are thin and springy, but not as thin as the Hakata ones. The soup dark coloured as it is cooked from bonito flakes and soy sauce. Try it if you have the chance!
The Hoba Miso is another famous dish. The Hoba miso (as its name suggest) is miso or fermented soybean paste that is used to season food and then served on top of a magnolia leaf, cooked over a hot stove. The toppings include leek and mushrooms, and occasionally meat or tofu.
Takayama has two morning markets – the Jinya-mae Market and the Miyagawa Market. Both are located within walking distance of the train station and are opened on a daily basis. Most of the stalls sell their own produce, such as vegetables, fruits and pickles.
The fruits are really fresh and tasty.
Takayama is a small city and therefore there are not many choices of food shops. But this means that competition is stiff and you can be assured that each restaurants serves up decent food that represents the unique Takayama cuisine.