By Train -- The easiest way to reach Takayama is by direct train from Nagoya, with about 10 departures daily for the 2 1/4-hour trip that costs ¥5,360 for an unreserved seat. There's also one direct train a day from Osaka via Kyoto, which takes about 4 hours and costs ¥7,560 for an unreserved seat.
By Bus -- Nohi buses (tel. 03/5376-2222; www.nouhibus.co.jp) depart Tokyo's Shinjuku Station four to six times daily spring through autumn, arriving in Takayama 5 1/2 hours later and costing ¥6,500. Reservations are required. There are fewer departures in winter, when snowfall sometimes makes roads impassable. Nohi buses also depart from Kanazawa (tel. 076/234-0123) twice a day for Takayama, passing through Shirakawa-go on the way and costing ¥3,300 for the 2 1/4-hour trip. From Matsumoto, the Highland Express Bus (tel. 0263/35-7400) passes through mountain scenery on the 2-hour and 20-minute trip and costs ¥3,100.
Before departing Tokyo or Narita or Kansai airports, stop by the Tourist Information Center for the "Takayama and Shirakawa-go" leaflet (or download it from JNTO's website at www.jnto.go.jp), which contains maps and sightseeing information. In Takayama, the tourist office (tel. 0577/32-5328; daily 8:30am-6:30pm, to 5pm Nov-Mar) is housed in a wooden booth just outside the main (east) exit of Takayama Station. You can pick up an English-language brochure with a map of the town showing the location of all museums and attractions. You can also use the tourist office's laptop for free Internet access, but you have to stand. A small tourist counter on Sanno-machi street is open daily 10am to 4pm. More information is available at www.hida.jp/english.
Takayama is one of Japan's easiest towns to navigate. Most of its attractions lie east of the train station in San-machi Suji and are easily reached from the station in about 10 to 15 minutes on foot. Throughout the town are English-language signs pointing directions to the many attractions; they're even embedded in sidewalks and streets.
To reach Hida Folk Village, Hida Takayama Museum of Art, or Teddy Bear Eco Village, you'll have to go by Takayama City Circle Bus (Sarubobo Bus), which departs from in front of the train station twice an hour daily from 9am to 4pm. The fare is ¥600 for an all-day pass; a pass that includes admission to the Hida Folk Village costs ¥900. Better yet, ask at the tourist Information Center for the free London Bus (operated by the Museum of Art only for museum customers Apr-Oct), which departs from Takayama Station four times a day. From the museum it's about a 10-minute walk to the folk village.
Alternatively, lots of shops ringing the station rent bicycles, with most charging ¥1,200 or ¥1,300 for the day, including Daily convenience store right beside the station (tel. 0577/35-5377) and Hara Cycling (tel. 0577/32-1657) a few minutes' walk from the station on Kokubunji Dori. Note, however, that it's straight up a very long hill to Hida Folk Village, Hida Takayama Museum of Art, and Teddy Bear museum. Personally, I'd rather walk.