Festivals & Events
Greet the start of a new season with one of the most famous festivals in Japan.
Trains from Nagoya leave every hour, taking about 140 minutes. Takayama is also connected to Toyama and Matsumoto by regular trains and highway buses.
Every April 14th and 15th Takayama turns from a bustling town into festive mayhem as tens of thousands of people descend on the old town for the spring festival. It is regarded as one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. Officially the spring festival is for the Hie Shrine – but like all good parties it has long since spilled out and taken over the town.
The centrepiece of proceedings is the yatai – elaborate floats that are displayed from morning until late-afternoon outside their storehouses. Some of the floats are topped with puppets called karakuri dolls and at set times (usually mid-morning and early afternoon) they perform a traditional dance. During bad weather this all takes place inside the yatai storehouses.
In the evening the huge, heavy yatai are expertly manhandled through the streets by dedicated teams. Smaller mikoshi (portable shrines) also make the journey through the streets. The shouts and grunts of effort, traditional music played on flutes and stringed instruments, and swinging lanterns make for a vivid, exciting experience that each year draws people from all over Japan.
As a result hotels fill up quickly but if you’re lucky enough to be in Takayama for the festival, it’s an experience that will never leave you.