The Historical Government House Of Takayama

If you have ever been captivated by tales of fierce samurai and feudal warlords, you will love Takayama.

Hida-Takayama is said to be one of few cities in Japan to retain its medieval character, particularly in the timber architecture of the old town that dates back to the Edo* era (1603 -1868). A period when the fragmented country transitioned from turbulence under warring chieftains to centralized imperial rule..

There is no better place than Takayama Jinya, the only surviving regional government office (of the sixty built across Japan at the time), to get a feel for how the representatives of the powerful Shogunate functioned. It also served as the governor’s residence and was in continuous use from 1692 to 1969 when it’s importance as a ‘Historicall National Asset’ was realised.

Come join me on a tour of the Jinya and its many tatami covered rooms.

But don’t forget to take off your shoes before you enter.

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*The word Edo refers to the city of Tokyo.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

79 thoughts on “The Historical Government House Of Takayama

    1. The Japanese are fastidious about hygiene. But here I think it is an absolute necessity with our streets being what they are! Especially during the rains. But most of my friends laugh it off as my OCD 🙂

      1. wanted to chime in here real quick – I miss the custom too – and I heard it is also very healthy wise to remove shoes!! I wish so badly that we would do this at my house – (we allow shoes downstairs – and not up) but I guess we can bring in chemicals, parasites, etc. – so it is not just OCD soothing – ha!

  1. Beautiful photos, Madhu. I like the simplicity and cleanness of lines and environment of Japanese architecture. It seems like it lets a person breathe freely. Thank you for the tour. This brought back memories of that one time when I was in Japan.

    1. I love the minimalist lines as well Imelda. And the fact that everything, even the placement of those mats follow age old rules!

  2. Beautiful and highly educative. I simply marvel at your zest for studying and capturing on camera these heritage national assets. The quality of photos is par excellence which makes wonder whether you are likely to publish a book (or books) on your tours.
    Thank you Madhu and cheers 🙂

    1. Oh thank you so much Dilip. My fascination for such things is probably spurred by my background in the architecture and design field. Haven’t given publishing a book much thought. Perhaps someday 🙂

  3. Great photos, Madhu,What a fascinating place, but I didn’t see any room designed for comfort and relaxation. The torture room doesn’t even bear thinking about.

    1. I noticed that as well Sylvia. The Governors private rooms were sealed off, but even those were just lined with Tatamis. Perhaps they had futons spread out on top! The torture room was grim, even if it was all displayed so prettily.

  4. I’ve always been very fond of Japanese architecture / design and their impeccable simplicity. However this place emanates darkness – probably from the memories of those walls. Beautiful tour! Happy Sunday! 🙂

    1. The torture chamber was probably de rigueur in palaces and administrative centers acoss the world at the time. This ‘elegant’ one made me wonder whether things have really changed or just been pushed to the background. A great week ahead to you Marina 🙂

    1. They had it limited to a small rectangle to give an indication of how it once looked Lyne. Maintaining the entire yard in that pattern would have required an army! 🙂

  5. Th Edo period had always evoked some memories for me – memories that I can’t quite put my hands on. Thank you for these images, Madhu – enlightening.


  6. That is such an authentic representation of Japan. I love the artistic way their homes and surrounds are cared for, and of course the traditional buildings away from the glitz of Tokyo and Yokohama.

  7. I will surly remember to take off my shoes.. some lovely pictures and thank you so much for the tour.. i enjoyed it very much 🙂

    1. One fastidious friend of my sister’s has a shoe rack with cloth slip-ons in her foyer, with a sign that reads “We are Japanese”! Am inclined to get one of those for the few friends that need to be told everytime 🙂

  8. I am sitting here trying to imagine how you would straddle that Edo period toilet. I could be here a while as it looks rather wide to me.

    1. I too admire the effort put into preserving historical architecture Frank. We have scant respect for heritage here in India.

  9. Really fascinating Madhu. Sadly, my attention went to the torture chamber and the examples shown 😦 Makes me happy to live in the the here and now!!

    1. True. But it would be naive to assume that torture chambers don’t exist anymore. They are just better concealed from the likes of us.

  10. To think you covered almost 300 years of history with your beautiful photographs, from detailed decorative touches to the torture chamber. A study in contrasts, as are most periods in time. Interesting post, Madhu.

  11. I also really enjoyed all the lines and the different items in the shots – and the slide show flowed so nicely – had a quiet feel. 🙂

  12. Thanks for your post Madhu. Though I’ve never been to Japan (yet) they seem to me like the epitomy of refinement and civilisation. Everything so delicate. Be good

      1. Another country to add to the list! But India first! 🙂
        (Leaving for Paris in 5 hours! Yeeeeeeeeeessssss!)
        Take care Madhu.
        (I’ll do my best to post pictures! 🙂

  13. Taking shoes off to enter a house isn’t usually done in Australia, or from what I have seen in Italy, but it is the custom in Finland.

    1. Taking shoes off was customary in traditional Indian homes Debra. But urban, anglicised Indians scoff at it. I should get those of my friends who do to read this post 🙂

  14. We too have everyone remove their shoes before entering our home. Hubby didn’t appreciate my fastidiousness initially but has grown accustomed to my ways. 🙂 Thank you for the lovely tour. I hope to visit Japan someday.

  15. I’m not sure I’d fit in well in Japan. I am NOT the minimalist type. These rooms seem so empty. I’m more a collector. I love being surrounded by my books, treasures, pictures, papers, etc. The clutter gets a little out-of-control at times, but I don’t know what to do with myself in empty rooms.

    1. 🙂 I am the complete opposite now Juliann. I did have collections of plates and boxes and what not, that I got rid of when we moved to our present home.

    1. The house was indeed a serene place even if the torture room contradicted that feeling 🙂 Thank you Suzanne.

  16. I love that wave pattern in the gravel, Madhu. I didn’t know it was for luck. I’d have it on my walls any day. What ingenious people they were. Those bunnies! A beautifully ‘choreographed’ piece, Madhu. Many thanks 🙂

  17. It all looks so contemporary, modern and clean but then they did seem to have a good handle on the staff. A wonderful series of shots Madhu!

  18. The life status and classes are very evident to what you’ve shown here. I’ve never seen much about the life of the wealthy, and with power over there, even on TV or even having gone in Okinawa, Japan. So thanks for taking us there. The torture room, I would want to go in there … but as an expectator. Er, maybe not, too harsh to handle. 😀

    1. I hadn’t researched Japan at all before I left and like I am wont to do, and knew little about their culture or lifestyle beyond my Shogun novels! The trip was an eyeopener and left me with a desire to revisit.

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