Around ten minutes’ walk from the station, on the east bank of the Miya-gawa, is the San-machi Suji (三町筋) area of dark wooden merchant houses dating from the mid-nineteenth century. The quarter’s main three narrow streets are most evocative at dusk, when the crowds have thinned. During the day, you’ll have to negotiate your way through rickshaws and tourists pottering in and out of craft shops, cafés and sake breweries.
Before you cross the Miya-gawa, drop by the town’s feudal-era government complex, Takayama-jin’ya (高山陣屋), at the end of Hachikenmachi-dōri, five minutes’ walk southeast of the station. This small-scale palace, originally built in 1615 and the only building of its kind left in Japan, was the seat of power for the Hida area’s governor, appointed by the shogun. Most of the buildings seen today, including a torture chamber and a rice storehouse, date from reconstruction in 1816, and the best way to explore them is to go on one of the free guided tours in English (around 45min).
San-machi Suji has a plethora of small and generally uninteresting museums. The best is the handsome Kusakabe Mingeikan (日下部民芸館), the home of the Kusakabe family, dating from 1879, and an outstanding example of Takayama’s renowned carpentry skills. In the shaded courtyard between the main home and the storehouses, now stocked with folk crafts, you’ll be offered a refreshing cup of tea and a rice cracker.