Japan // Central Honshu //

Sakurayama Hachiman-gu and Higashiyama Teramachi

Five minutes’ walk northeast of the Kusakabe Mingeikan is Takayama’s main shrine, Sakurayama Hachiman-gū (桜山八幡宮), dating back to the fourth century. Here you’ll find the Takayama Yatai Kaikan, the entrance charge to which includes the Sakurayama-Nikkō-kan, a hall displaying a dazzling one-tenth-scale replica of 28 buildings from Nikkō’s Tōshōgū shrine, where a computer controls the lighting to reproduce sunrise and sunset.

It’s also worth checking out the enjoyable demonstration of automated karakuri puppets in the Shishi Kaikan (獅子会館), on the south side of the shrine. A video of a shishi (mythical lion) dance, common to festivals in the Takayama area, is screened at regular intervals during the day, and you can also see many lion masks and musical instruments used in these dances.

Following the narrow Enako-gawa southeast, towards the hills from the Sakurayama Hachiman-gū, will bring you to the tranquil Higashiyama Teramachi (東山寺町) area, where thirteen temples and five shrines are dotted among the soaring pine trees and linked by a pleasant walk that goes over the river to Shiroyama-kōen. This wooded park stands on the remains of Lord Kanamori’s castle, destroyed over three hundred years ago; you can still trace the donjon’s foundations on the top of the hill. The route is signposted and you can pick up a map from the tourist information office.