You may wish to skip this post, as well as the next one about Eating in Nagoya. These will not be our usual food blog posts describing our dining experience. The main purpose of these two posts is really just to document events and preserve memories – the first 2 items listed in our earlier article Ten reasons why everyone should have a food blog. You may wish to read that article instead, if you have not already done so. Eating in Takayama is a brief journal of our recent trip to Takayama, Japan.
Takayama (高山) is a city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, Japan, about 225 kilometeres West of Tokyo and about 110 kilometers North of Nagoya. It took about 2.5 hours to travel by train from Nagoya to Takayama. The train journey was comfortable and the route was really quite scenic.
We arrived in Takayama in the early afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we went hunting for food. It was past 2.30 pm and most restaurants were closed. We found a standalone old wooden house still serving ramen and was glad. The couple running the place were happy to see us.
We enjoyed our ramen (750 yen) and chashu rice (350 Yen) at Takayama Ramen Shop – Miyagawaibuki (宮川伊吹). The ramen – with stock made from pork, chicken, fish and vegetables – was served with roasted pork, bamboo shoot and onions. It was a good and cheap meal.
Takayama Ramen Shop – Miyagawaibuki (宮川伊吹)
6-9-3 Hanasatomachi Takayama, Gifu
Tel : 0577-57-7345
Since we had a very late lunch we looked for something light for dinner. We were attracted by the brightly lit modern cafe – Soeur. It was like a typical cafe you might find in Singapore. Free wifi was available.
Besides their usual menu, they had some holiday season specials. We ordered a hot sandwich set which included a cup of coffee (900 yen), a waffle with ice cream (450 yen) and hot latte (450 yen). We enjoyed our light meal at this lovely cafe. This place is recommended if you like good coffee in Takayama or if you want something other than typical Japanese food.
2-35 Honmachi Takayama-shi, Gifu
We stayed at the Best Western Takayama Hotel. Breakfast was at Bijoux Restaurant & Cafe on the ground level.
The buffet spread was a mix of fairly standard Western breakfast items and Japanese breakfast food.
Bijoux Restaurant & Cafe
Best Western Hotel Takayama
6-6 Hanasatomachi, Takayama, Gifu
Takayama is famous for its Hida beef. Hida Beef or “Hida-gyu” is the specific name given to beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed that has been raised in Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months.
We went to Kajibashisoba (鍛冶橋そば) where we could try some Hida beef dishes. We had the Hida beef with rice (1,600 yen), Beef curry rice (605 yen) and a skewer of grilled Hida beef (1,000 yen). The beef was well-marbled and very tender. It had a very pleasant robust flavour.
3-62 Honmachi Takayama, Gifu
There were many shops in Takayama selling what looked liked colourful candies. There were actually rice cakes with different kinds of toppings. You get to choose the toppings and they make it on the spot for you. We bought a stick with 2 different toppings (100 yen + 75 yen) to try. It was quite interesting. The rice cake was soft and slightly chewy but quite neutral in taste. The flavours came with the toppings.
One of the key attractions of Takayama is the Old Town. The small merchant town of few main streets has been beautifully preserved with many buildings and houses dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868). Takayama was spared the bombings during World War II. There are now many shops, coffee houses and sake breweries in the Old Town, some of which have apparently been in business for centuries.
We tried their freshly made hot Hida beef buns. It was really good. The filling was minced beef and vegetables – moist and flavourful.
We also stepped into a charming old dessert house for a tea break. The red beans with rice cakes and chestnuts at 茶の芽 Cha no Me Cafe was delightful. The rice cake was lightly grilled or toasted such that there was a thin crispy outer layer. The red bean stew was served with slices of preserved sour plum on the side. Added to the sweet dessert the sour savoury preserved plum strips added a very interesting contrast to the dessert. The tea break at the charming Cha no Me Cafe was one of the most memorable moment of our visit to Takayama.
茶の芽 Cha no Me Cafe
83 Kamisannomachi Takayama, Gifu
Tel : 0577-35-7373
On our last day in Takayama, we had lunch in a cosy Japanese style French cafe – Tsubaki Cafe. We had a Hida beef curry rice set (1.050 yen) which included a drink, and a pizza (870 yen). The portions were small but the food was good.
4-48 Hanasatomachi, Takayama, Gifu
The morning market along the Miyagawa River has many shops and stalls selling vegetables, fruits, pickles, spices, sweets and crafts. Many locals shop there. There are also many interesting food stalls and small cafes.
Takayama Miyagawa Morning Market
48 Shimosannomachi, Takayama, Gifu
One of the reasons to go to Takayama is that it is a good base to make a day trip to the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The coach ride to the villages from Takayama was about 90 minutes. The villages are remarkable for their unique Gassho-style houses, some of which are more than 250 years old. The remote mountain region where the villages are located is very picturesque, even on a very wet day like the day we were there.
We had a simple bento lunch at Gogoyama. We were introduced to the Hoba-miso, one of the region’s specialty. Miso paste is mixed with vegetables such as leek, shiitake mushroom, pickles, or other ingredients placed on a dried Ho (a type of magnolia) leaf, then heated over a charcoal fire. Hoba-miso can be used as a dip or eaten with rice – absolutely delicious.
We also had the experience of enjoying sake flavoured ice cream in a farmhouse in Shirakawa-go.
We were glad that we had the opportunity to visit Takayama, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. We had not expected much of Takayama. It surprised us with its charm and wide variety of food options. We had very little time there but we did plenty of eating in Takayma. We like to make another trip and spend more time at Takayama – a quiet rustic town with so much to see and eat.