Denver’s sister city, Takayama, is in the foothills of the Japanese Rockies. It is a 300-year-old samurai-founded city famous for its sake breweries, with a national reputation similar to Coors. It has high mountain spring water, cool weather (it snowed during my recent visit) and the highest quality rice. Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the sister city relationship with Denver. Numerous celebrations are planned in each city. It will be a giant year for tourism as Japan will also be hosting the summer Olympics. Much of Tokyo is now in construction projects with signage, tee shirts and Olympics marketing everywhere.
Takayama is known as “Little Kyoto,” with a historic city center built hundreds of years ago. It has numerous shrines and temples, and one of the county’s most renowned festivals with floats built by leading artisans in the seventeenth century with extraordinary wood work, gold leaf and Japanese mystical imagery.
The city has a host of artisans, with lacquerware the most sought after. One can eat a traditional Japanese meal in the many restaurants, one, the Susaki, has a 200-year pedigree. The ingredients are locally sourced and served beautifully in multi-course meals. Its Ryokans are of high quality, many with hot water spas.
Takayama has a long-serving mayor, Michihiro Kunishima, who, like Mayors Hancock and Hickenlooper, is known to be dedicated to hospitability and encouraging tourism. In a three-hour multi-course meal, he and a team of city officials hosted dinner at Susaki with flights of local sake.
The city attracts many day hikers, backpackers and skiers with its abundant mountains, trails and nearby ski resorts. The rivers run toward both the east and west, with numerous hot springs that attract Japanese, Americans and worldwide visitors.
If you plan a trip to Japan, don’t miss visiting the historic countryside and stay in Takayama. My skilled guide, Nami Tsushima, recommended a high quality Ryokan called Kachoan and a high quality sake brewery, Funasaka.