The Takayama Festival (高山祭, Takayama Matsuri) is ranked as one of Japan's three most beautiful festivals alongside Kyoto's Gion Matsuri and the Chichibu Yomatsuri. It is held twice a year in spring and autumn in the old town of Takayama and attracts large numbers of spectators.
The Spring Festival (April 14-15) is the annual festival of the Hie Shrine in the southern half of Takayama's old town. Since the shrine is also known as Sanno-sama, the spring festival is also called Sanno Festival.
Likewise, the Autumn Festival (October 9-10) is the annual festival of the Hachiman Shrine in the northern half of the old town, and the festival is also known as Hachiman Festival.
The spring and autumn festivals have similar attractions and schedules. Each festival features its own set of about a dozen festival floats (yatai). During the year, the tall and heavily decorated floats are stored in storehouses, which are scattered across Takayama's old town (except the floats exhibited in the Yatai Kaikan). A set of replica floats are, furthermore, exhibited year round at the Matsuri no Mori festival museum.
Main attractions of the Takayama Festival
The Takayama Festival is a very popular event, visited by several hundred thousand people from across Japan and the world. It gets especially crowded if one or both festival days fall on a weekend or national holiday.
As a result, hotels in Takayama get booked out many months in advance, and it is recommended to make hotel bookings as early as possible. Neighboring towns, such as Furukawa and Gero Onsen can also be used as a base for seeing the festival, but going further than that will make it difficult to see the evening festival.