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Takayama Hida Folk Village

If you read this blog at all regularly, you’ll know that I particularly enjoy visiting historic buildings: the more authentic the better. That’s why one of my goals in visiting Takayama, Japan, was to see the Hida Folk Village just outside town.

a pond, with a few houses and a mill next to it, at Hida Folk Village

I took this panorama photo just inside the entrance to Hida Folk Village.

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Hida Folk Village in Takayama

The Hida region around Takayama is mountainous, so the traditional buildings generally have thatched or shingle roofs, peaked steeply so snow won’t build up too much. In the 1970s the region was modernizing rapidly and traditional houses were disappearing. More than 30 of these Hida traditional houses have been moved to form this open-air museum in Takayama.

Set in the foothills, surrounded by forest, it’s easy to imagine this as a living village. Visitors can choose a wheelchair-accessible 15-minute route, a short 30-minute route, a one-hour route, or add a climb up the mountain to see some castle ruins, if they have more time and energy. I chose the one-hour route and thoroughly enjoyed poking around these beautifully-preserved houses.

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Hida Folk Village farmhouses

Most of them were originally farmhouses, but ranged from very basic to more highly-decorated and polished, and they are set up so that visitors can see how each room was used. A small hearth set into the floor in the middle of each living space offered warmth, and the museum keeps some wood burning in each home so that we can more clearly imagine how the home must have smelled.

a typical open hearth in the middle of a room, in Takayama

a typical open hearth in the middle of a room

The ceilings are generally low, except on upper floors, and most the floors are made of polished wood planks, sometimes covered with tatami mats, sometimes bare. As is traditional to this day in Japan, I was expected to take off my shoes on entering each house. In this Takayama museum, I was happy to do so: the old wood I walked on seemed to have personality of its own. I felt the patina with my bare feet, felt the boards that bent under my weight, and heard them creaking with age.

front exterior of a house in Hida Folk Village in Takayama, Japan

This 1809 house comes from the south of the Hida region, where there was less snowfall, which is why it has an exterior corridor.

In general, the houses are unfurnished, though here and there various implements are on display: farm tools or equipment for crafts such as weaving or raising silkworms. In any case, historically they wouldn’t have had furnishings in a Western sense: tatami mats on the floor; futons, which the residents would roll up and put away during the day; cushions to sit on; and perhaps a low table or two would have been all the furnishings. Every house, though, had an altar, usually in a built-in cupboard, some more ornate than others.

a ornate altar in a house in Hida Folk Village in Takayama, Japan

the altar in a wealthier farmer’s house, built sometime in the Meiji period (1868-1912)


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Showcasing traditional crafts in Takayama Hida Folk Village

Part of the goal of this open-air museum is to preserve cultural traditions as well as buildings. In one of the houses an old man worked, weaving straw into sandals. In another, a woman operated a loom. In another, a woman sewed small dolls. Each one greeted me as I entered, but then went quietly back to work. For a price, any craft that was being demonstrated could also be tried out, which would make it a fun museum for children.

a woman operating a loom in one of the houses in Hida Folk Village, Takayama, Japan

a woman operating a loom

While most of the buildings were farmhouses, I also visited a mill building, a temple, and various small outbuildings and storehouses, all saved from destruction or deterioration in the surrounding region. It took me distinctly more than the suggested hour—I would guess about two hours or more—because I was so busy soaking in the atmosphere of the place. That feeling was enhanced by the fact that, while there were other visitors, there were no tour groups with loudspeakers to amplify the tour guide’s voice or generally disturb the peace.

a row of six stone statues, each wearing a red cloth as a sort of bib, in the Hida Folk Village in Takayama, Japan

According to a sign nearby, these are the Rokujizou, each responsible for the Six Paths of Transmigration in Buddhism: Hell, Hunger, Beasts, Carnage, Humans and Heaven. These statues date from about 1740; people worshipped them to ward off suffering and disasters.

It must not be a very popular or well-known place to visit, compared to other sites in Takayama. This museum deserves more attention, but I was glad for its obscurity when I visited.

Visiting Takayama Hida Folk Village

Hida Folk Village is a 20-30 minute walk from JR Takayama train station, or you can take the bus from the bus station next to the train station. That will take about 10 minutes. Open 8:30-17:00. Admission: ¥700 (about €5.50 or $6.25). Alternatively, you can sign up for an all-day tour, incorporating Takayama Hida Folk Village, the living village (and UNESCO site) of Shirakawago, and a bit of shopping.



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Do you enjoy open air museums like this as much as I do? Can you recommend any? Add a comment below! And if you do Pinterest, please share the pins below!

 

 

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24 Comments

  • Frank Lang

    August 29, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Rachel: I agree that these gassho-zukuri are wonderful. I took the bus (public one) through the mountains and visited the towns with these picturesque thatched homes. I also saw the museum which was great for explaining the history and tradition.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      August 30, 2015 at 12:15 am

      If I’d had more time I would have enjoyed traveling through the mountains and seeing what remains of the traditional architecture, as well as the beautiful scenery. But this was a good way to get an idea of it in one day.

      Reply
    • Rachel

      August 31, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Everyone associates Japan with big cities, but there is a lot of countryside and beautiful national parks as well. Visiting Hida Folk Village in Takayama is a nice shortcut if you don’t have time to really explore the surrounding area.

      Reply
  • Donna Janke

    August 31, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Takayama Hida Folk Village looks like the place I love to visit. A look at history and everyday life. The setting is beautiful. I loved your description of the feel of the wood floors.

    Reply
  • noel

    August 31, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I went to Takayama to see the fall harvest festival and it was really amazing. So unfortunately I had to cut out the open air museum and this is also a wonderful experience. THanks for taking us there this morning.

    Reply
  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    August 31, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Rachel – while I’ve been so impressed with the different experiences you chose on your trip to Asia, this might be my favorite. I, too, would have loved to feel the worn wooden patina through my bare feet and inhaled the smoky atmosphere. Such a tranquil spot and the residual energy of those who have gone before contributed greatly, I’m sure. Beautiful.

    Reply
  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    September 1, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Like you, we try to take the longer, slower tours to absorb all the information we can. In a living museum it seems that a lot of the experience comes not only visually but from the textures you described and even the smells. I think this tour would be absolutely fascinating and hope to visit Takayama Hida Folk Village sometime.

    Reply
  • Nancie

    September 1, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    I love the look of these old houses. I see how a person could lose track of time here.

    I like these kind of museums, too. There are a few folk villages in Korea. I haven’t been in a while, but if I remember correctly you can’t actually enter any of the buildings. I think going in actually makes it more interesting and memorable.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      September 2, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Yes, it’s unusual to be allowed to enter the buildings as freely as at this one. Or if you can, it’s only to walk a designated path and the rest is blocked off with ropes, which ruins the view of the rooms.

      Reply
  • Nathalie

    September 2, 2015 at 2:28 am

    Takayama’s Hida Folk Village seems like a great way to learn about these traditional houses. I love visiting these types of places, I find it’s a perfect way to learn about history outside the classroom.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      September 2, 2015 at 8:37 am

      Agreed. I have very little patience for items in glass cases in museums, but set up this way, so that you can form a real image of life in these houses, I can spend hours.

      Reply
  • Suzanne Fluhr

    September 3, 2015 at 12:45 am

    When we visited Japan, I hoped to visit one of these old home open air museums such as Takayama’s Hida Folk Village, but Father Time intervened—and not in a good way. I’ve been to the granddaddy open air museum in the US, Williamsburg, Virginia and we also visited Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. As an unrepentant history geek, I always take longer than the recommended time too.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      September 3, 2015 at 6:56 am

      I grew up in Connecticut, so I went to Sturbridge often as a kid on school trips and such. Maybe that’s where my interest started? And Williamsburg is wonderful as well! I also like Mystic Seaport, which adds the romance of ocean-going ships to the mix .

      Reply
  • Su Yuen

    September 7, 2015 at 12:54 am

    WOW I’m glad you went to this folk village! I went there during the winter when it was covered in snow. You can just sit there all day and stare at the view when it’s covered in snow! 😀

    Reply
    • Rachel

      September 7, 2015 at 7:27 am

      That must be beautiful! But cold! I much prefer sightseeing when it’s warmer than that. Which makes me think that fall would be perfect: not too hot, not too cold, and lovely, with the changing leaves!

      Reply

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