| Centrip Editorial Board
Takayama's Shin Hotaka Ropeway: A Journey into Breathtaking Winter Beauty
Are you looking for a trip to experience the authentic atmosphere of Japan and escape the busy city life? Look no further than Takayama, where you can enjoy the great outdoors and the beauty of each season. In winter, the snow adds an extra layer of charm to the town and creates a magical world. Plus, you can venture further out and witness the spectacular panorama of the Northern Alps and indulge in winter-only activities like snow-viewing baths.
Join us on a two-day, one-night journey to explore the stunning winter scenery of Takayama.
From Central Japan International Airport Centrair to Takayama
On the first day of our trip, we'll start at Chubu Centrair International Airport, the nearest airport to Takayama.
Take the Meitetsu μ-Sky from Chubu Centrair International Airport Station to Nagoya Station, then transfer to the JR Wide View Hida (Limited Express Hida) to reach Takayama Station. The journey takes around three hours and costs under 7,000 yen. If you're interested in other transportation options, check out the article below.
How to get to Takayama from Central Japan International Airport
Other transportation options include the affordable Shoryu Road Pass.
Walking around popular spots in downtown Takayama
Once you arrive at Takayama Station, take a 10-minute stroll to the "Old Townscape."
With remnants from the Edo period (1603-1868), the townscape boasts beautiful scenery with traditional sake breweries and shops lining the streets, accompanied by waterways on either side. The snow adds a magical touch to the already picturesque scene during winter.
The old townscape is also home to various eateries, so you can try out local specialties like croquettes and sushi made with Hida beef, and Gohei mochi to satisfy your hunger.
Let's continue our tour and take a short walk from the old townscape to Takayama Jinya. During the Edo period, Jinya was a term for buildings that local government officials used as their workplaces or residences. Although there used to be around 60 jinyas across Japan, Takayama Jinya is now the only one with the main buildings, such as the front gate and the main hall. Pass through the majestic thatched roof gate, and you'll be transported to a world from 200 years ago.
When you are tired of walking, it's time for lunch.
After touring the historical Takayama Jinya and the old townscape, it's time to satisfy your appetite with local cuisine. There are many restaurants and eateries around the area. Among local delicacies, Hida beef stands out and is popular among tourists. Its balance of lean and fatty meat and soft texture lend it to various dishes such as sukiyaki, steak, hamburger, or any other style that suits your taste buds.
For those interested in unique local gourmet foods, try Hoba Miso and pickled steak. If you want to know more about gourmet food in the Takayama area, you can check out this article.
Sake dispensers for the discerning drinker
Takayama is renowned for its cool climate and pristine subsoil water from the Northern Alps, which provide the ideal conditions for producing excellent sake. The city boasts seven sake breweries with over 100 years of history.
One of the breweries worth visiting is Funasaka Sake Brewery, located in the charming old townscape. The brewery has a unique sake coin server that allows you to sample a variety of sake in small quantities. What's more, the sake they serve is fresh, brewed right next door. It's a paradise for sake enthusiasts!
Move from Takayama city center to Okuhida Onsenkyo
Once you've explored the famous sightseeing spots, take a one-hour bus ride from the city center to Okuhida Onsengo. Major tourist spots like the old townscape or the Nohi Bus Center located next to Takayama Station offer buses to Okuhida Onsengo. Make sure to enjoy the breathtaking scenery along the way.
Rejuvenate at the hot springs
Takayama boasts some of the best hot springs in Japan. One of the must-visit hot spring areas is Okuhida Hotspring Village, which comprises five distinct areas: Hirayu, Fukuchi, Shin-Hirayu, Tochio, and Shin-Hotaka.
After indulging in local delicacies and sake, there's no better way to unwind and recharge for the next day than soaking in these rejuvenating hot springs.
Transfer from Okuhida Hot Spring Village to Shin Hotaka Ropeway
On the second day of the trip, we will start by heading to the Shinhotaka Ropeway for a spectacular view of the Northern Alps. The ropeway is about 40 minutes away from Okuhida Onsengo. You can take a bus from Hirayu Bus Terminal or any major hot spring resort. Click here for a detailed timetable.
Double-decker gondola takes you above 2,000 meters above sea level
Once you arrive at the last stop, HO65 Shinhotaka Ropeway, you will see the ropeway platform, Shinhotaka Onsen Station. Just buy a ticket at the window and get on the ropeway. In just 25 minutes, you will reach an altitude of 2,000m, a world above the clouds.
To reach the summit, you will need to take two ropeways. The first is from Shinhotaka Onsen Station to Nabedaira Kogen Station, and the second is from Shirakabadaira Station to Nishihotakaguchi Station at the summit. While there are many attractions around each station, we recommend heading straight to Nishihotakaguchi Station. More information on why to do so follows.
360-degree panoramic view of the city.
Once you arrive at the summit, Nishihotakaguchi Station, make your way to the rooftop observation deck first. Step onto the deck and you'll be greeted by a breathtaking panoramic view of the 3,000-meter-high Northern Alps. Although the ropeway gets crowded, with a little patience, you may have a spectacular view all to yourself.
Many visitors are eager to capture photos of the snowflakes and towering Northern Alps against the bright blue sky. However, the mountain weather is unpredictable, and it can be difficult to determine the best time to take photos in advance, especially if you have limited time. During our visit, we asked a staff member at the observatory for advice, and she suggested there was a good chance of getting clear skies first thing in the morning. We followed her recommendation and took the first ropeway at 9:00 a.m. (*Operating hours vary seasonally.) to arrive at the observation deck in the morning, where we enjoyed stunning views of the Northern Alps under a blue sky. Keep in mind that clear skies are not guaranteed, so use this as a reference.
While you're here, why not send an air mail to your friends back home or even to yourself from the Yamabiko Post, Japan's highest permanent post box, to commemorate your trip? Postcards and stamps are available for purchase at the store on the 3rd floor.
Take a break while enjoying the spectacular view.
After enjoying the breathtaking view from the observatory, take a break and unwind at the Mount View café on the 4th floor. While savoring coffee, sweets, and light meals made with local ingredients, you can continue to admire the stunning scenery. Afterward, head outside to immerse yourself in the snow.
Snow as far as the eye can see! Go to the world of white and silver!
After the recent renovation in the fall of 2022, the area adjacent to Mount View cafe on the 4th floor, known as "Itadaki no Mori" (forest at the summit), offers visitors an opportunity to experience the great outdoors of the Northern Alps up close. This area features a walking path through the virgin forest of Shirabiso, and during winter, you can marvel at the snow corridor towering at 3 meters high. Get lost in the maze-like fantasy world of silver to your heart's content.
Although closed in winter when there is heavy snowfall, there is a semi-circular observation deck called Yari no Kairou (spear corridor) at the end of the walking trail. The view from the observation deck is unique, offering a different perspective from the one at the observatory.
Planning your trip from November to April? The area around Nishihotakaguchi Station at the summit usually remains covered with snow, providing those traveling in early spring, with a chance to see the snow.
Relax in a footbath at an elevation of 1,300 meters.
As you descend from the Northern Alps, stop at Shirakabadaira Station and indulge in the irresistible aroma that will greet you. Among the many attractions at the station is a must-visit bakery called Alps Bakery, where you can sample their delectable freshly baked bread while taking in the breathtaking scenery. Fortunately, Shirakaba-daira Station offers a fantastic viewing area that is fully heated and has plenty of comfortable seating. It is an ideal location for anyone looking to unwind and soak in the surrounding scenery without feeling rushed.
If you find yourself with time to spare before catching the next ropeway, be sure to step outside of Shirakabadaira Station and dip your toes in the footbath. The natural spring water in the footbath infused with sulfur will leave you feeling rejuvenated after just five minutes of soaking your feet. While you relax in the warm water, take in the incredible views of the mountain range and watch as the ropeway arrives and departs from the station.
Farewell to the spectacular views and return home.
As your adventure comes to a close it's time to say goodbye to the spectacular views and head back home. The return journey begins with a 3-minute walk from Shirakabadaira Station to Nabedaira Kogen Station. From there, take the ropeway back to the starting point at Shin Hotaka Onsen Station. During the approximately 4-minute ride, let your mind wander as you soak in the last views from the ropeway and cherish the final moments of your trip.
Although mountaineering gear is not required for this trip, dress warmly as the temperature is colder than in the surrounding areas. Wearing a hat, gloves, and a thick coat or down jacket is suggested. If you don't have winter wear or it is colder than expected, you can get a coat at Shin Hotaka Onsen Station or Nishihotakaguchi Station at the summit.
Good things to know for travelers
When traveling, heavy luggage can often be a challenge. However, the Shin Hotaka Ropeway makes it easy to enjoy a smooth trip as buses depart and arrive right next to the ropeway station, which has paid lockers for storage. The station also has bus ticket vending machines to head back to Takayama Station, so there's no need to worry about transportation for the return journey.
Moreover, there's an elevator to the observation deck at the top of the mountain that is specially designed for people in wheelchairs and those with physical challenges to enjoy the stunning view. We saw many families spanning three generations taking in the incredible scenery together.
We hope this article has given you a taste of the luxurious and spectacular Takayama area, which you can enjoy in just two days and one night. With its easy accessibility from Chubu International Airport, this itinerary is just right for a two-day visit. We highly recommend using it as a reference for your next winter trip. Come and see the unique beauty of the Takayama region.