Takayama Jinya is an important icon of Takayama’s history, as this local landmark pinpoints the period in which the Edo shogunate gained direct control over this castle town. Originally, the building was a villa for the ancient ruler of the Hida Takayama region, Lord Kanamori, before it became an office for local deputies in the Edo period. Although Takayama Jinya was granted the status of a national historic landmark at the turn of the 20th century, it was still used for government purposes up until 1969 when it opened as a museum.
Enter the Jinya through the purple noren (linen curtains) hung above the entrance and you will be surprised by the impressive size of the property. The building wraps around an exquisite Japanese garden which is best enjoyed on pleasant days from the comfort of the porch. In the warmer months, a light breeze flows in through the open doors, making the museum a peaceful place to escape the harsh sunshine of Japanese summer. There is a lovely view of the front garden from the tearoom where tea was brewed and served to guests straight from the hearth.
As you wander through Takayama Jinya, it feels as if there are an endless amount of rooms used for a multitude of purposes. The size of these rooms is particularly striking, especially the Grand Hall which was traditionally used for ceremonies and theatrical performances. Look out for the 152 rabbit shaped nailhead concealers that decorate the beams along the Jinya's ceilings. A rabbit's long ears symbolize good listening skills and were seen as a reminder to strive for competent governance. Other details to keep an eye out for are traditional artefacts on display around the Jinya such as Edo period kitchen utensils, like the antique rice cookers in the kitchenette or the nagamochi chest of drawers which date all the way back to the 17th century.
English signs and arrows will guide you from room to room through tatami corridors with something to explore around each corner. There is a large kitchen where servants would prepare meals and you can see a small gap in the wall panels that were used for smoke ventilation. Interestingly, these panels were filled with miso paste in the colder months to keep in the warmth.
In the South Court there is an interrogation room where officials used to cross-examine suspected criminals. There are even articles of torture on display such as oshirasu, 40kg stone slabs that were placed on the knees of criminals. As you exit through the South Court, there is a whole other building dedicated to displaying Edo period artefacts, explanations of the buildings complex architecture and other fascinating information to soak up about this iconic attraction.
Takayama Jinya is positioned at the heart of the old district and holds small festivals throughout the year. There is a small entrance fee that helps keep the Jinya so well looked after. The staff are extremely helpful and offer English guided tours of Takayama Jinya free of charge. This amazing service is rather sought after with lots to learn about this historic place so it is advised that you reserve beforehand as tours may be inaccessible on weekends. This cultural landmark is the only remaining building out of the 60 local Edo structures to have been built in this style, and is kept in such impeccable condition it is hard to believe that the building was constructed hundreds of years ago.