Eating in Takayama, Japan

cover photo eating in takayama

As much as Takayama is a beautiful small town, I have to say that the food in Takayama is the real star. Food may be a big reason why I enjoyed my time in Takayama so tremendously.

In this post, I hope to share with you my experiences with the local food and produce over the short course of my stay.

Central honshu '12 (Nagoya + Takayama)

Local produce at the morning markets

I love stopping by the local markets to get a feel of the food, life and culture of the place that I am in. While I was in Takayama, I visited both of its morning markets – Jingya-mae and Miyagawa as I’ve briefly mentioned in my previous travel post on Japan, Winter dreams in Central Honshu.

While you are at the market, why not try their big, crunchy and saccharine sweet apples, and sample some of their tsekemono (Japanese pickles) like the red turnip or other Hida vegetable.

I bought some rice cakes that were made from grains grown in the Hida mountain region. They came in a variety of flavours like almond, nori, green tea and they were fantastic. And they are even better when they are in the form of rice dumplings (dangos) basted in soy sauce and grilled on skewers – Such intense flavour to complement a nice, chewy texture! I have to warn you not to get carried away with the buying of these rice cake products; I bought quite a couple of packets and they turned rock hard by the time I got back to Singapore! Bummer.

Since winter marks the persimmon season, we saw persimmons both fresh and dried being sold. We bought some dried persimmons to eat along the way- they were still very large even after being dried and I can’t begin to describe their sweet intensity!

Take time to look at the local vegetables at the market – you would find an abundance of leeks and red turnips, and a good variety of  Hida vegetables. If I had a kitchen, I would definitely be doing some cooking with those wonderful produce.

Jingya-mae Morning Market
Outside Takayama Jingyae (Old government house), 10 mins walk from JR Takayama station
Opening hours: 6 – 12 noon (7am during winter)

Miyagawa Morning Market
Along the Miyagawa river, East of the JR Takayama Station
Opening hours: 6 – 12 noon (7am during winter)

Central honshu '12 (Nagoya + Takayama)2

Takayama morning market seller

Miyagawa morning market takayama

Miyagawa river takayama

takayama hida beer buns

Street snacks – Hida beef steamed buns

You will never go hungry in Takayama with the variety of snack stalls being set up all over town. One of such snacks is Hida beef steamed buns, a Takayama speciality  The Hida beef steamed buns are made using Hida beef, a particular breed in the region. More on hida beef later.

The hot and steamy bun was particularly welcoming after a long walk in the cold. The filling was minced Hida beef  and finely chopped vegetables and the gravy was enough to keep it moist and flavourful. Worth a try if you ask me.

They can be found in several small shops around the Old town area like the one that I went to.

grilled hida beef

Hida beef (Hida-gyu)

Hida beef ranked very high on my to-try-list while I was planning my trip. I’m a beef lover and after reading up on Hida beef, I was more than excited to try it!

Hida beef is from the black-haired Japanese cattle reared in the Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months. The beef then has to go through stringent grading and certification on the Japanese Grading boards before it can be sold as Hida beef.

We settled down at Bandai Kado store which was highly recommended by many Japanese magazines. It was not too hard to find the place with some help from a local.

I settled for the grilled Hida beef set which I felt was the best way to try the beef. It did not disappoint.

That 200g beef was 200g of beef heaven really. Two types of sauces are served with it: one, a soy based sauce with grated daikon (radish) and two, a soy based sauce with mustard. I can’t decide which sauce I preferred so I alternate the dipping of my beef between the two.

There’s almost little or no preparation for the beef;  just a mini coal based grill stove that allows you to grill the beef before you eat it. The beef simply melts in your mouth and the flavour….it was perfection at its pinnacle, if you can even call it that.

We also tried the Hida beef in the form of sukiyaki. If you like a pot of stew, sukiyaki may be your answer especially during winter nights. Just be sure not to overcook the thinly sliced Hida beef slices as you would still want to allow the beef fats to melt in your mouth.

While you are at Bandai Kado, check out their immensely popular all-vegetable set. This set is beautifully created with colourful vegetables in the mountain regions of Hida. It was unfortunately sold out by the time we got there in the evening.

Bandai Kado Store 萬代角店
Opening hours: 11:00-14:30, 17:00-20:00 (closed irregularly)
(50 Hanakawa-Cho Takayama City Gifu)
Tel: 0577-33-5166

hida beef sukiyaki 2 hida beef sukiyaki

takayama style ramen

Chuka-soba or Takayama style ramen

It may be very confusing to see a ramen shop named Musagosoba. Why soba when it sells ramen? Well, I’ve learnt that ramen is often referred to as Chinese styled Chuka soba in Takayama. So when you order soba in Takayama, don’t be surprised to be served a bowl of ramen!

Takayama style ramen was one of the first things I ate in Takayama. I had mine at Musagosoba.

I read about Musagosoba in a Japanese food guide and got my friendly hotel concierge to help me with the directions. We made a few wrong turns but I’m glad that we found this place because our lunch here really made my day!

This style of ramen served at Musagosoba is very differently from its Tokyo, Sapporo or Hakata counterparts. The first difference you would notice is the colour of the broth – it is a lot darker in colour. You might think that it would mean a too salty broth. I thought so initially but was proven entirely wrong. The broth is not overly salty, surprisingly light but packed full of umami flavour. It was so delicious that I finished almost the entire bowl of it.

The broth is made with dried bonito and soy sauce. The noodles used are thinner than the ones that I’m used to but still springy the way I enjoy noodles. It is served with leeks, char siew (roasted pork) and menma (marinated bamboo shoots).

Though it’s a one-dish meal, it was hearty and warming. We enjoyed the ramen here so much  that we came back the next day only to find it closed (it was a Wednesday).

Musagosoba まさごそば
Opening hours: 11:30 – 18:00, Closed on Wednesdays
(31-3 Uramachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture 506-0013, Japan)

Hoba miso

hoba miso takayama

Lastly, I’m going to introduce one of my favourites in Takayama – the Hoba miso. Hoba miso is a specialty of Takayama. It is miso served on a dried magnolia leave and broiled over a small coal stove. Hoba miso is usually served with Hida vegetables like leeks, straw mushrooms and onions and a bowl of rice. I’m surprised at how much I actually like this simple dish. The flavour of the magnolia leave permeates through the miso paste as it is being broiled. I ate this almost everyday while in Takayama. My only regret is not buying some miso and magnolia leaves to recreate my experience back home.


The food in Takayama may be simple, unpretentious and very much produce-centred, yet it manages to steal my gut and heart so swiftly, and so completely. I hope it captures your heart too!



Takayama bridge

Takayama old town


About jothetartqueen

My first love is eating. A very close second is my love for baking and cooking. I passionately believe that the best form of appreciation of something is almost always through the creation of it. This passion took me on a whirlwind, unforgettable ride through the patisserie diploma course at Le Cordon Bleu (Sydney). Join me on my discovery for the love of food – through the kitchen, through the markets, through experimenting, tasting and loving.
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23 Responses to Eating in Takayama, Japan

  1. I feel inspired to take up some shots around Sendai

  2. That dango that got hard, you should have just reheated and it would become soft again. Reheat it in pan, or boil shortly in water or in microwave (although they can make a mess in the mw if overheated!).

  3. Thank you Jo for taking me to one of my favourite places in the world! I adore Japan and these photos make me “homesick” (although I just lived there for a couple of years, I’m not from Japan). The street food there is so delicious -I don’t think I ever tried one of those beef buns!

    • Oh yes! I almost forgot that you have lived in Japan for a few years! lucky you! I would relish any opportunity to live in Japan! It is such a beautiful place!

      I’ve also not seen those buns in other parts of Japan until my trip to Takayama!

  4. These eateries and beautiful looking quaint towns are fantastic my friend, Japan is such a cultural lovely place 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  5. zenkojitakayama says:

    Reblogged this on Takayama Hostel Guesthouse Zenkoji Temple and commented:
    Excellent post about the various foods to enjoy in Takayama

  6. The food and your photos here captured my heart. What an incredible journey and a feast for our eyes and your tummy! I would love to sample all of those different dishes.. and would love to visit Japan one day! xx

  7. these are truly beautiful photos. i look forward to more posts from you!

  8. There are truly no words for the intense awe, jealousy, and hungry that you’ve stirred up in my with this post. Oh, the things I would give for such an experience! Now I think I need to experiment with making my own hoba miso at least- Never heard of such a thing before, but I feel like i can’t live without tasting it now.

    • I have never heard of hoba miso till the time I was researching for my trip! I think it’s because it’s only eaten this way in the the Gifu region of Japan.

      If you manage to find a way of making it, do share!

  9. Thank you for such a delightful and inspiring tour. I would love to visit Japan someday. My sister-in-law is from Japan and my mother-in-law is from Taiwan. I’ve been lucky to enjoy some wonderful dishes that each has prepared for me.

  10. Bee says:

    I am staying in Takayama for three nights in late March. I will surely be looking out for the steamed beef buns, the grilled beef at Bandai and the noodles!

  11. Pingback: Offline for a Pacific Boat Trip, & Japan Readings - Legal Nomads : Legal Nomads

  12. Alvin says:

    I visited Takayama in 2013 for a (too brief) day or so, and one of my favourite eating places was Center 4 Hamburgers. Absolutely delicious Hida beef burgers, I wrote about it here:

  13. Pingback: Offline for a Trans-Pacific Cruise, & Japan Readings - Where to go

  14. Thanks for sharing on what to eat in Takayama, Japan. I will be visiting Takayama in late April and have already planned to try out Hida Beef at Maruaki (丸明) or Ajikura (味藏天國) (hopefully both if time permits). Now that you are recommending – Bandai Kado Store 萬代角店, I will have to decide again when I’m there. I would definitely try out the Hoba Miso since you had it everyday when you’re there – it must be good!

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  16. Pingback: Eating in Japan – Tsumago, Takayama and Shirakawa-go – Food Porn Journal

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