Ought to You Go to Takayama or Kyoto on Your Journey to Japan?


Typically talking, I’m not a believer within the idea of “overtourism.” I’ll write extra about this because it pertains to Japan in a future article, however the gist of my logic is that sure locations are vacationer traps for a cause. In case you don’t wish to cope with the issues that come together with that, go someplace else.

Now, I’m assuming that since Google led you to me, you have got made peace with the crowds and craziness which can be a crucial a part of visiting each Kyoto, Japan’s historic capital and Takayama, a stunning metropolis within the Japanese Alps. (If not, I invite you to learn my article about Japan off the crushed path.)

Certainly, whereas I’ll briefly contact on the problem of congestion when evaluating Takayama vs Kyoto, my assumption is that if you happen to’ve learn this far, it received’t hassle you to share both (or each) of those cities with 1000’s of different vacationers.

How I Got here to Love Each Takayama and Kyoto

Many bloggers who allow you to resolve between Takayama or Kyoto have a tinge of cynicism of their voices. That’s not the case for me—I like each of those cities deeply. For Kyoto, it was love at first sight—I initially arrived on a transparent, crisp night in April 2014 because the cherry blossoms have been reaching full bloom—however my love has additionally endured: I studied Japanese there in 2021, and have been again over a dozen instances since.

It took me a bit longer (November 2015) to go to Takayama for the primary time; I haven’t been again as typically. Takayama is fairly removed from any worldwide airport (TIP: if you happen to ebook your flight on MyTickets.ae, choose Nagoya Airport, code “NGO”), and isn’t as well-connected by practice both. However whether or not buried in winter snow or alive with the cheers of pageant crowds, Takayama too has received my coronary heart. And plenty of instances, at that.




Methods to Examine Takayama with Kyoto

Points of interest

I prefer to say that Kyoto has extra “particular person” sights—Kiyomizu-dera; Arashiyama Bamboo Forest; Kinkaku-ji—than Takayama, which is basically simply its Previous City. Kyoto additionally has extra neighborhoods: Takayama, in sum, is one thing of an analogue to Kyoto’s Higashiyama space. Alternatively, the truth that there’s much less to see in Takayama means you may higher justify taking your time to see it.

NOTE: Each Takayama and Kyoto host annual matsuri, or festivals. Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri takes place in mid-to-late July, whereas the Takayama Competition happens two instances a yr, in each mid-April and early October.


I discussed I’d contact on this solely briefly—and as promised, my dialogue of crowds in Takayama and Kyoto will likely be transient. The brief reply is that after all each are crowded; Kyoto has many extra individuals, however they’re unfold over a a lot bigger space. The one actual technique to keep away from crowds is to A) go to in the midst of winter or B) begin sightseeing at or earlier than the break of day, however even these methods aren’t foolproof.

Lodges and ryokan

Each Kyoto and Takayama are dwelling to a few of my favourite resorts and ryokan in Japan, from Kyoto’s Lodge the Celestine and Ryokan Karaku, to Takayama’s Machiya Lodge and Ryokan Oyado Kyoto no Yume. As Kyoto is a bigger and extra spread-out metropolis than Takayama, you have got extra choices in each locations. However typically, the locations you keep in each cities are more likely to be among the many greatest locations you keep in Japan.


Relating to eating in Kyoto or Takayama, you’ve acquired choices. Each cities have their very own “native” cuisines: Takayama has Hida beef (together with distinctive “beef sushi”); Kyoto has tofu (and likewise Kyoto-style “pressed” sushi). Whereas Kyoto typically has extra choices (each when it comes to Japanese meals, in addition to worldwide), Takayama is dwelling to top-of-the-line Italian eating places in Japan: Osteria la Forchetta.

Getting there and round—and out

Kyoto sits immediately on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line, and is well accessible from nearly anyplace alongside Japan’s vacationer path. Takayama is farther out: You both have to experience the Shinkansen to Nagoya and take a Hida Restricted Specific practice from there, or to take a bus from someplace else (lower than two hours from Kanazawa; nearly 5 from Tokyo). 

By way of day journeys and excursions, Kyoto has extra—it’s one of many anchor cities of Japan’s Kansai area, in any case. The commonest embrace the Nara (which you’ll pair with Kyoto’s Fushimi district, on the way in which again) and Himeji Citadel, which mixes nicely with Kobe and/or Osaka. From Takayama, in the meantime, the primary day journey is to see the Gassho homes of Shirakawa-go (and different close by villages).




How Many Days Do You Want in Takayama? What About Kyoto?

Takayama’s city middle is comparatively small—you may stroll from east to west in about an hour, and from north to south in a bit greater than that. Assuming you begin within the morning and keep out till sundown, one full day is sufficient to see the core sights. After all, you’ll probably additionally wish to take day journeys, particularly to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. In consequence, I recommend staying a minimal of two nights in Takayama.

Relating to Kyoto, in the meantime, I’d say you undoubtedly want to remain for longer. I normally like to separate at the very least two full days between “core” districts like Higashiyama, Arashiyama and Fushimi; you’ll wish to commit a day every to excursions like Himeji Citadel, Nara and Kyotango; you are able to do Osaka in half a day. In case you can, I recommend spending a minimal of 5 days in Kyoto, or as much as every week within the broader Kansai area.

Different FAQ About Kyoto and Takayama

How do I get to Takayama from Kyoto by practice?

In case you want to journey from Kyoto to Takayama by practice, essentially the most direct manner is to experience a Shinkansen (ideally, a super-fast Nozomi) to Nagoya, then change to one of many Hida Restricted Specific trains, which departs each 1-2 hours. In case you’re touring throughout a busy season, think about going to Kyoto Station a day prematurely to purchase tickets on your journey.

How lengthy does it take to go from Takayama to Kyoto?

In case you can handle to have a comparatively brief connection at Nagoya Station (which is lower than an hour from Kyoto by bullet practice), then your door-to-door time from Kyoto Station to Takayama Station (which is ~2 hours from Nagoya through the Hida Restricted Specific practice) may very well be beneath three hours. Nevertheless, if you happen to do have an extended connection at Nagoya Station, think about strolling subsequent door to the Meitetsu Division Retailer and consuming misokatsu at Yabaton on the ninth flooring.

Can I exploit a JR Move from Kyoto to Takayama?

You need to use a JR Move from Kyoto to Takayama, although after the October 2023 value will increase, I’m undecided that is value it. For one, if you happen to use a JR Move from Kyoto to Nagoya, you’ll have to pay a hefty surcharge to make use of the super-fast Shinkansen Nozomi. For my part, it’s higher simply to purchase your practice tickets outright.

The Backside Line

Evaluating Takayama vs Kyoto isn’t as futile as you may suppose. Whereas each of those cities are historic treasures—and each are packed to the gills with vacationers mainly year-round—there are necessary variations between them. These vary from the supply of lodging and eating, to the convenience of getting there and round, to when the matsuri (festivals) for every metropolis happen and what they entail. In the end, I like to recommend that you just go to each of those locations sooner or later, if you happen to can. Want recommendation about what different spots you need to go in your journey to Japan? Fee a customized Japan itinerary at present!



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