Takayama's main attraction is its old merchants' houses (Furui-Machi-nami), which are clustered together in San-machi Suji on three narrow streets called Ichino-machi, Nino-machi, and Sanno-machi. Be sure to allow time to wander around. In addition to the district's many museums, there are also shops selling Takayama's specialties, including sake, yew woodcarvings, beautiful cypress furniture, and a unique lacquerware called shunkei-nuri.

Be sure, too, to visit the Miyagawa Morning Market, which stretches on the east bank of the Miyagawa River between Kajibashi and Yayoibashi bridges. Held every morning from 7am (6am in summer) to noon, it's very picturesque, with cloth-covered stalls selling fresh vegetables, flowers, pickled vegetables, locally made crafts, and toys. A smaller morning market is held in front of the Historical Government House (Takayama Jinya).

And if you have more free time still, consider the Higashiyama Hiking Course, which leads past a string of 13 temples and five shrines nestled on a wooded hill on the east edge of town in an area called Higashiyama Teramachi. It also leads to Shiroyama Park, site of the Kanamori clan castle until it was torn down in 1695 by order of the Tokugawa shogunate. Parts of its stone foundations still remain. The hiking course stretches 3.5km (2 1/4 miles) end to end, but English-language signs are few and far between and the map provided by the tourist office is hopeless; you could consider getting lost part of the fun.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.