Gifu Travel Guide: Top 33 Things to Do in Gifu City, Japan

Situated in the heart of Japan’s Chubu region, Gifu City boasts a rich history and vibrant culture that beckons travelers from across the globe. An enchanting blend of traditional charm and modern innovation, Gifu City serves as the capital of Gifu Prefecture and is a destination that offers something for every kind of traveler. From the commanding presence of its iconic Gifu Castle to the serenity of its pristine parks, this guide will take you through the many wonders of Gifu City, introducing you to its hidden gems and popular attractions alike.

Gifu cityscape views near the train station in Japan

Historical Significance

Gifu City’s story is deeply interwoven with the fabric of Japan’s history. It played pivotal roles in several key events, particularly during the Sengoku period, with iconic warriors like Oda Nobunaga calling it home. The ancient streets of Gifu echo tales of valor, strategy, and intrigue. As you walk through the city, you’ll feel the weight of history and the stories that have shaped not just Gifu, but Japan itself.

Natural Beauty

Amidst the bustling urban landscape, Gifu City presents numerous pockets of natural tranquility. The Nagara River, a lifeline of the city, is famous for its traditional cormorant fishing or ‘Ukai,’ a spectacle that’s a treat for the eyes. This ancient method of fishing, with master fishermen using cormorants to catch the elusive sweetfish, has been practiced for over 1,300 years. Watching this age-old tradition under the glow of firelight is a truly magical experience.

The city is also framed by mountains, offering stunning vistas and hiking opportunities for those keen to explore the wild side of Gifu. Mount Kinka, in particular, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Not only does it house the Gifu Castle at its peak, but the journey to the top, whether by foot or via the ropeway, offers panoramic views of the city below.

Cultural Richness

A traveler exploring Gifu City will quickly come to realize the depth of its cultural offerings. The Gifu Lantern Festival is an ethereal experience where the night comes alive with thousands of glowing paper lanterns. This festival, combined with the Takayama Festival, is often regarded as one of the most beautiful in all of Japan.

For those passionate about craftsmanship, the city is renowned for its traditional industries, particularly Gifu’s handcrafted paper umbrellas and fans. A visit to one of the local workshops will not only allow you to witness the meticulous artistry that goes into creating these items but also understand the dedication and passion of the artisans.

Modern Amenities

While history and tradition reign supreme, Gifu City doesn’t lag in modern comforts. Contemporary shopping districts, chic cafes, and international cuisines find their place amidst the old-world charm. Efficient public transportation makes it convenient for travelers to navigate the city, and a range of accommodations—from luxury hotels to traditional ryokans—ensures a comfortable stay.

Gifu City, with its harmonious blend of the old and the new, stands as a testament to Japan’s ability to preserve its rich heritage while embracing the future. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, a foodie, or just someone looking for a unique travel experience, Gifu City promises memories that will last a lifetime. As you delve deeper into this guide, prepare to be enchanted by the multifaceted charm of this incredible destination.

Gifu Travel Guide: Things to do in Gifu, Japan For Visitors

Gifu City Guide: A Brief History Of Gifu, Japan For Visitors

Gifu City is a confluence of historical legacies, pivotal battles, and rich cultural traditions. Understanding the depth of Gifu’s past provides a vivid lens through which visitors can appreciate the city’s modern-day attractions. This historical overview offers travelers an in-depth look into the tapestry of events and cultural shifts that shaped Gifu City.

Origins and Early History

The earliest records of Gifu show it as a settlement during Japan’s ancient periods, with some archaeological sites dating back to the Jomon period. Strategically situated along the Nagara River, it became a nexus for trade and communication between eastern and western parts of Japan.

The Sengoku Period: Rise of a Strategic Stronghold

The Sengoku period (1467–1615) was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict in Japan. Gifu’s history during this period is dominated by the figure of Oda Nobunaga, one of the three great unifiers of Japan.

In 1567, Nobunaga captured Inabayama Castle, strategically located on Mount Kinka. He renamed it Gifu Castle and the surrounding town to Gifu, drawing inspiration from a legendary mountain in China’s history where a great unification began. Nobunaga used Gifu as a base from which he launched campaigns to unify Japan.

Cultural Flourishing and Cormorant Fishing

Parallel to its military significance, Gifu developed a reputation for its unique cultural practices, particularly Ukai (cormorant fishing). This fishing method, utilizing trained cormorants to catch ayu (sweetfish), has been practiced in Gifu for over 1,300 years and was patronized by Japanese emperors and samurai lords. Today, it remains one of Gifu’s iconic cultural experiences.

The Edo Period: Peace and Craftsmanship

With the onset of the Edo period (1603–1868), Japan entered a phase of relative peace. While Gifu’s military importance diminished, its cultural and economic significance blossomed. The city became a hub for traditional crafts, most notably Gifu lanterns and handcrafted paper products. The techniques developed during this era form the foundation of Gifu’s renowned paper and woodworking industries today.

Modern Era and Post-war Development

As Japan modernized during the Meiji Restoration, Gifu City transitioned from a feudal domain to a modern prefectural system. The city experienced growth and urbanization, particularly during the Taisho and Showa periods. Like many other Japanese cities, Gifu faced the adversities of World War II. Post-war reconstruction saw the emergence of modern infrastructures, institutions, and a revived spirit of cultural preservation.

In 1986, a significant milestone was achieved when Gifu was officially designated as a “core city” by the Japanese government, emphasizing its significance in regional politics, economics, and culture.

Today’s Gifu City, with its bustling urban centers, serene natural landscapes, and palpable historical aura, stands as a testament to its resilient past. For visitors, understanding this rich history provides a deeper connection to the streets they walk, the sites they visit, and the traditions they witness. From the ramparts of Gifu Castle to the lantern-lit nights of the city’s festivals, the echoes of the past harmoniously blend with the rhythms of the present in this beautiful Japanese city.

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Top 33 Things To Do in Gifu, Japan For Visitors

Here are the top 33 things to do in Gifu:

Gifu Castle in Kankazan, Japan

1. Visit Gifu Castle

Gifu Castle, located atop Mount Kinka, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding city and the Nagara River. Originally built in the 16th century, the castle has a rich history and houses a museum displaying samurai armor and weapons. Visitors can hike up the mountain or take a ropeway to reach the castle. It’s a must-visit for history buffs and those seeking panoramic views of Gifu.

2. Experience Ukai (Cormorant Fishing) on the Nagara River

Ukai is a traditional fishing method using cormorants, practiced on the Nagara River for over 1,300 years. Visitors can watch this unique fishing technique from boats on the river, particularly beautiful at night under the glow of lanterns. The fish caught by the cormorants are considered a delicacy. It’s a cultural experience that offers a glimpse into Japan’s rich traditions.

3. Explore Shōhō-ji Temple and the Great Buddha

Shōhō-ji Temple, home to one of Japan’s great Buddha statues, is a serene spot for reflection. The Great Buddha of Gifu, housed within the temple, stands over 13 meters tall and is made from bamboo and Japanese paper. The temple grounds are peaceful and offer a place for quiet contemplation. It’s a spiritual site that impresses with both its history and craftsmanship.

4. Stroll Through Gifu Park

Gifu Park is a spacious and beautiful park at the foot of Mount Kinka, offering walking paths, traditional tea houses, and stunning cherry blossoms in spring. The park is home to several historical and cultural sites, including Gifu Castle and the Gifu City Museum of History. It’s an ideal place for a leisurely walk or a picnic with family and friends. The park’s Nawa Insect Museum is fascinating for children and adults alike.

5. Visit the Gifu City Museum of History

Located within Gifu Park, the Gifu City Museum of History showcases the city’s rich cultural heritage and history. Exhibits cover everything from the prehistoric age to modern times, including the life and times of the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga. The museum offers interactive displays and traditional craft workshops. It’s an educational experience for visitors of all ages.

6. Ride the Mount Kinka Ropeway

The Mount Kinka Ropeway offers a scenic ride to the summit, where Gifu Castle is located. The ride provides stunning aerial views of Gifu Park, the Nagara River, and the city beyond. It’s the easiest and most picturesque way to reach Gifu Castle. The ropeway operates year-round, offering different scenic views each season.

7. Enjoy the Gifu Great Buddha Illumination

During certain times of the year, the Great Buddha of Gifu is spectacularly illuminated at night, creating a mesmerizing sight. The illumination event draws visitors from across Japan and beyond. It’s an enchanting experience that highlights the beauty and tranquility of the Buddha statue. The surrounding temple grounds also offer a peaceful nighttime stroll.

8. Discover the Nagara River Traditional Industries Hall

This museum is dedicated to the traditional industries of the Nagara River area, including ukai, Japanese paper-making, and ceramics. Visitors can learn about these ancient crafts through interactive exhibits and live demonstrations. The museum also offers workshops where guests can try their hand at creating traditional crafts. It’s a fantastic way to dive deeper into the region’s cultural heritage.

9. Walk Along the Yanagase Shopping Street

Yanagase Street is Gifu’s traditional shopping district, offering a mix of modern and old-fashioned shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The area has a nostalgic atmosphere, reminiscent of Japan’s Showa era. Visitors can find unique local souvenirs, traditional sweets, and enjoy casual dining. It’s a lively place to experience the local lifestyle and find unique gifts.

10. Admire the Kawara-machi Traditional Townscape

Kawara-machi is a preserved area showcasing traditional Japanese architecture and the Edo-period townscape. The area is particularly beautiful in the evening when lanterns light up the streets. Visitors can enjoy traditional tea houses, sake breweries, and artisan shops. It’s a step back in time and a wonderful place to experience traditional Japanese culture.

11. Visit Bairin Park

Bairin Park is renowned for its extensive plum grove, with over 1,300 plum trees blooming in early spring. The park becomes a festival site during the plum blossom season, attracting visitors with its beauty and the sweet fragrance of the blossoms. It offers scenic walking paths and areas for outdoor activities. The plum festival includes cultural performances, food stalls, and tea ceremonies.

12. Take Part in the Gifu Fireworks Festival

The Gifu Fireworks Festival, held along the Nagara River, is one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in Japan. The event takes place in summer and attracts thousands of spectators. Visitors can enjoy the fireworks from the riverbanks or from boats on the river. It’s a dazzling display of color and light that celebrates the season.

13. Explore the Gifu World Fresh Water Aquarium Aquatotto

Aquatotto is one of the largest freshwater aquariums in Japan, showcasing the diverse aquatic life from rivers around the world. The aquarium offers educational exhibits, interactive touch pools, and feeding demonstrations. It’s home to rare species and provides insights into aquatic ecosystems and conservation efforts. Aquatotto is an engaging experience for families and anyone interested in marine life.

14. Visit the Gifu Prefectural Museum

The Gifu Prefectural Museum is dedicated to the natural and cultural history of Gifu Prefecture. Exhibits include archaeological finds, traditional crafts, and displays on the region’s flora and fauna. The museum’s architecture is inspired by traditional Japanese design, blending beautifully with the surrounding parkland. It’s an informative stop for those looking to learn more about the area’s heritage.

15. Relax at Nagaragawa Onsen

Nagaragawa Onsen is a hot spring resort area along the Nagara River, known for its therapeutic waters and scenic views. The onsen town offers a variety of traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) where visitors can experience hot spring baths, exquisite cuisine, and impeccable hospitality. It’s a perfect place for relaxation and rejuvenation. The area also provides stunning views of the river and surrounding mountains.

16. Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Lake Motosu

Lake Motosu, situated in the outskirts of Gifu, offers a range of outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, boating, and hiking. The lake is known for its clear blue waters and serene environment. It’s an ideal destination for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat. The surrounding area offers trails with breathtaking views and opportunities for bird watching.

17. Experience the Tejikara Fire Festival

The Tejikara Fire Festival is held at the Tejikara Shrine and is one of Gifu’s most dynamic and thrilling events. Participants carry large, flaming torches as they parade around the shrine, invoking blessings and good fortune. The festival includes traditional music, dance, and food stalls. It’s a vibrant celebration of local customs and a unique cultural experience.

18. Stroll Through the Gifu Kinkazan Observatory

The Gifu Kinkazan Observatory offers panoramic views of the city, the Nagara River, and the surrounding mountains. It’s especially beautiful at night when the city lights illuminate the landscape. The observatory is easily accessible and provides a peaceful setting for viewing the sunset or the stars. It’s a romantic spot and a favorite among photographers.

19. Visit the Heartful Square Gifu

Heartful Square Gifu is a cultural and commercial complex that offers shopping, dining, and entertainment options. It features local products, crafts, and gourmet foods unique to the Gifu region. The complex also hosts events, workshops, and exhibitions promoting local culture and arts. It’s a great place to find souvenirs and enjoy local flavors.

20. Participate in the Gifu Chrysanthemum Doll Exhibition

The Gifu Chrysanthemum Doll Exhibition is an annual event showcasing intricate dolls and figures made entirely from chrysanthemum flowers. Held in Gifu Park, the exhibition displays skilled craftsmanship and the beauty of this traditional art form. Visitors can admire a variety of scenes and characters created with flowers. It’s a colorful and fragrant experience that celebrates the autumn season.

21. Explore the Nobunaga Residence Historical Park

This historical park is a reconstructed residence of the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga, offering insights into his life and the Sengoku period. The park includes replicas of traditional buildings, gardens, and a museum with artifacts related to Nobunaga’s era. It hosts historical reenactments and cultural events, allowing visitors to step back in time. The park is a tribute to one of Japan’s most influential figures.

22. Discover the Gifu City Tower 43 Observation Deck

The Gifu City Tower 43 is one of the tallest buildings in the city, with an observation deck that offers stunning 360-degree views. From the deck, visitors can see major landmarks, the Nagara River, and, on clear days, distant mountains. The building also houses restaurants and shops, making it a popular spot for both sightseeing and dining. It’s a modern contrast to the historical attractions of Gifu.

23. Wander Through Masuda-no-Ie

Masuda-no-Ie is a preserved Edo-period merchant house that offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of wealthy merchants in historic Japan. The house is beautifully maintained, with traditional tatami rooms, a garden, and a storehouse. It’s a rare opportunity to see the interior of a traditional Japanese home. The house also hosts cultural events and traditional tea ceremonies.

24. Visit the Gifu Castle Archives Museum

Adjacent to Gifu Castle, the Gifu Castle Archives Museum delves deeper into the history of the castle and its significance in Japanese history. The museum houses documents, maps, and models, including detailed information on castle construction techniques. It’s an informative complement to a visit to Gifu Castle, offering context and historical background. The museum also features exhibits on the flora and fauna of Mount Kinka.

25. Attend the Gifu Lantern Festival

The Gifu Lantern Festival lights up the city with thousands of paper lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere. The festival honors the spirits of ancestors and celebrates the beauty of light. Visitors can enjoy traditional performances, lantern-making workshops, and a lantern parade. It’s a picturesque event that combines tradition, art, and community spirit.

26. Enjoy Seasonal Beauty at Sena Park

Sena Park is known for its seasonal flowers, including cherry blossoms in spring and colorful foliage in autumn. The park offers walking paths, picnic areas, and a peaceful lake. It’s a popular spot for outdoor activities and photography. The park’s changing beauty throughout the year provides a reason to visit again and again.

27. Experience the Sotaro Festival

The Sotaro Festival is a traditional event celebrating the life and achievements of Sotaro Yasui, a local hero and educator. The festival includes parades, traditional dances, and educational exhibits. It’s held in the historical district, adding to the charm of the celebration. The festival emphasizes the importance of education and community values.

28. Kayak on the Nagara River

Kayaking on the Nagara River offers a unique perspective of Gifu’s natural beauty and landmarks. Various rental shops provide kayaks and guided tours for all skill levels. It’s a refreshing way to explore the city’s scenic waterways. Paddling down the river, visitors can enjoy peaceful views of the mountains, forests, and cityscape.

29. Explore the Gifu City Science Museum

The Gifu City Science Museum features interactive exhibits on physics, biology, and space, making science fun and accessible for all ages. The museum includes a planetarium with regular shows exploring the universe. It’s an educational and entertaining destination for families. The hands-on approach encourages curiosity and learning in a creative environment.

30. Relax at Hana Festa Memorial Park

Hana Festa Memorial Park is a vast floral park featuring thousands of flower species, including a remarkable collection of roses. The park is beautifully landscaped, with themed gardens, greenhouses, and walking trails. It hosts flower shows and gardening workshops. It’s a paradise for flower enthusiasts and a colorful retreat for visitors seeking tranquility.

31. Discover the Iwamura Castle Ruins

The Iwamura Castle Ruins, located on a hill overlooking the city, offer a historical journey and stunning views. Once a formidable fortress, the ruins include stone walls, gates, and a well-preserved castle town. The site is particularly beautiful during cherry blossom season. It’s a favorite spot for hiking and exploring Japan’s feudal history.

32. Visit the Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University Botanical Garden

This botanical garden, part of Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University, is dedicated to the conservation of plant species and environmental education. The garden features a variety of ecosystems, including a traditional Japanese garden, medicinal plants, and a tropical greenhouse. It’s a living laboratory for students and a peaceful spot for visitors. The garden’s diversity offers a fascinating look at plant life from around the world.

33. Take a Cultural Class at Gifu International Center

The Gifu International Center offers cultural classes and workshops for visitors interested in learning about Japanese arts and traditions. Classes include tea ceremony, calligraphy, kimono wearing, and Japanese cooking. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and learn new skills. The center also provides information and resources for exploring Gifu and the surrounding region.

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube

What To Eat and Drink in Gifu, Japan

Gifu Prefecture, with its varied landscapes ranging from snowy mountains to fertile valleys, is home to a rich culinary culture. The confluence of nature, history, and local ingenuity has given rise to a plethora of dishes and beverages that delight both the palate and the eyes. Let’s delve deep into the gastronomic journey that awaits in Gifu:

Hida Beef On A Skewer In Gifu, Japan

Hida Beef (Hida-gyu):

  • Overview: Hida beef is one of Japan’s top-quality wagyu brands, right alongside the famed Kobe beef. The marbling on this meat is exquisite, leading to a melt-in-the-mouth experience.
  • Serving Styles: Whether grilled as steaks, served as sushi, or included in hot pots (sukiyaki or shabu-shabu), Hida beef is a must-try.

Gohei Mochi:

  • Overview: A simple yet delicious snack, Gohei Mochi is made from pounded rice coated in a sweet and savory walnut-based sauce or a miso-based sauce and then grilled.
  • Where to Try: Available widely across Gifu but particularly popular in the mountainous regions.


  • Overview: Originally from the Yamagata region of Gifu, Keichan is a hearty dish of chicken marinated in a mix of miso, soy sauce, garlic, and other ingredients before being stir-fried with vegetables.
  • Pairing: Best enjoyed with a cold beer.

Sweetfish (Ayu):

  • Overview: The clear streams of Gifu are perfect for sweetfish. This small fish is often grilled with salt and eaten whole.
  • Special Mention: Ayu jelly, a sweet made using the essence of the fish, offers a unique taste experience.

Miso Dengaku:

  • Overview: Tofu or konnyaku skewers grilled and then coated with a rich miso paste.
  • Trivia: The miso in Gifu is deeper in flavor due to the region’s cold climate, making this dish particularly flavorful.

Hearty Soups:

  • Hoba Miso: A warm dish where miso paste with ingredients like mushrooms and green onions is spread on a dried magnolia leaf and then grilled.
  • Hida Furusato Soup: A hot pot dish with Hida beef and local vegetables.


  • Overview: A sweet confection made from candied chestnuts and sweet potatoes, often associated with the New Year.

Local Sake:

  • Overview: Gifu’s climate and pure water sources make it ideal for sake production.
  • Notable Breweries: Takayama’s Hirase Brewery and Watanabe Sake Brewery in Hida are great places to sample and learn about the brewing process.

Gero Onsen Eggs:

  • Overview: Eggs slow-cooked in the hot spring waters of Gero, resulting in a unique texture with a slightly custardy yolk.

Waraji Katsu:

  • Overview: A local take on the popular tonkatsu, where the pork cutlet is shaped to resemble a straw sandal (“waraji”).


  • Local Beers: With the craft beer boom in Japan, Gifu has seen the rise of several local breweries. A visit to a local izakaya will often yield a variety of Gifu-brewed beers to try.
  • Gifu Coffee: The region has developed its coffee culture, with numerous cafes offering locally roasted beans and unique blends.
  • Matcha and Green Tea: Given its proximity to areas renowned for tea production, Gifu offers excellent quality matcha and other green teas.

The culinary scene in Gifu is a direct reflection of its rich natural bounty, historical influences, and the innovative spirit of its people. From upscale restaurants serving premium Hida beef to local stalls offering skewered Gohei Mochi, Gifu promises a feast not just for the stomach, but for the soul. When you pair these meals with the pristine beauty of the region, every dining experience becomes a cherished memory.

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube

Top Restaurants In Gifu, Japan

Gifu’s culinary landscape is as diverse as its cultural and natural heritage. From restaurants serving the renowned Hida beef to those offering traditional Japanese kaiseki experiences, Gifu is a gastronomic delight for travelers. Here’s a guide to some top restaurants that encapsulate the rich flavors of the region:

Onsen eggs in a basket in Japan

  1. Maruaki:

    • Specialty: Known for its Hida beef dishes.
    • Ambiance: Simple yet elegant with wooden interiors.
    • Recommended Dish: Order the Hida beef steak or yakiniku (grilled meat) to savor the melt-in-mouth goodness of their premium beef.
  2. Banya:

    • Specialty: One of the best places to experience the traditional Ukai (cormorant fishing).
    • Ambiance: Riverside setting provides a tranquil backdrop. Evening reservations allow diners to watch cormorant fishing while enjoying their meal.
    • Recommended Dish: Ayu (sweetfish) dishes, especially grilled ayu.
  3. Kanako:

    • Specialty: A high-end spot for kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese meal.
    • Ambiance: Luxurious interiors with private tatami rooms, overlooking serene Japanese gardens.
    • Recommended Dish: Their seasonal kaiseki menu which changes according to the fresh produce available.
  4. Gifu Miyako Hotel Restaurant:

    • Specialty: Offers both Japanese and international cuisines.
    • Ambiance: Upscale setting with views of the Nagara River.
    • Recommended Dish: The buffet offers a broad range, but their Hida beef dishes are particularly exquisite.
  5. Hida Takayama Ramen Tamura:

    • Specialty: Hida Takayama ramen, known for its rich soy-based broth.
    • Ambiance: Traditional ramen shop vibe with counter seating.
    • Recommended Dish: Their classic ramen bowl, best paired with gyoza.
  6. Yoshidaya:

    • Specialty: Specializes in dishes made from local river fish.
    • Ambiance: Traditional Japanese setting with options to dine overlooking the river.
    • Recommended Dish: Sashimi platter which offers a variety of fresh river fish.
  7. Cafe de Corazon:

    • Specialty: Western-Japanese fusion dishes.
    • Ambiance: Quaint and cozy with rustic wooden interiors.
    • Recommended Dish: Pancakes topped with Hida beef and local vegetables.
  8. Horumon Dojo:

    • Specialty: Yakiniku restaurant focusing on offal.
    • Ambiance: Casual and lively, typical of yakiniku spots.
    • Recommended Dish: Their assorted offal platter allows you to taste various cuts.
  9. Soba Kura Yasube:

    • Specialty: Buckwheat soba noodles.
    • Ambiance: Traditional wooden interiors with counter seating to watch the chef at work.
    • Recommended Dish: Cold soba with tempura on the side.
  10. Sushi Takehana:

  • Specialty: Fresh sushi and sashimi.
  • Ambiance: Simple and elegant sushi bar setting.
  • Recommended Dish: Omakase set where the chef chooses the day’s best offerings for you.

Each restaurant in Gifu carries a story of its land, traditions, and the meticulous craftsmanship that Japanese cuisine is renowned for. Whether you’re indulging in the luxurious marbling of Hida beef, sipping on local sake, or discovering the delicate flavors of mountain vegetables, dining in Gifu becomes an immersive journey through its history and culture. When visiting, it’s always recommended to make reservations, especially for the more upscale or popular establishments.

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube

Tours For Visitors To Gifu, Japan

Gifu, with its intricate mix of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and local charm, offers a plethora of touring experiences that can cater to various interests. Joining a guided tour often provides deeper insights into the local culture, traditions, and hidden gems of the region. Here’s an extensive guide to some of the best tours visitors can embark upon in Gifu:

Takayama covered in snow bridge views in Japan

  1. Hida Takayama & Shirakawa-go Day Tour:

    • Overview: Explore the ancient town of Takayama, with its preserved wooden houses and local markets, and then venture into the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go, known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses.
    • Highlights: Takayama’s morning market, Shirakawa-go’s picturesque village view, and local sake tasting.
  2. Ukai (Cormorant Fishing) Evening Tour:

    • Overview: Witness the age-old tradition of cormorant fishing on the Nagara River.
    • Highlights: Watching the master fishermen skillfully use cormorants to catch sweetfish, followed by a riverside dinner featuring the freshly caught fish.
  3. Hida Beef Culinary Tour:

    • Overview: Dive into the savory world of Hida beef, exploring its history, production, and culinary applications.
    • Highlights: Visiting a local farm, understanding the grading system, and indulging in a gourmet Hida beef meal.
  4. Gifu Castle & Mount Kinka Hiking Tour:

    • Overview: Start with a hike (or ropeway ride) up Mount Kinka, culminating in a tour of the historic Gifu Castle.
    • Highlights: Panoramic views of Gifu city, artifacts in the castle museum, and the history of Japan’s warring era.
  5. Gifu Traditional Crafts Tour:

    • Overview: Explore Gifu’s rich craft heritage, including paper umbrella making, pottery, and woodworking.
    • Highlights: Hands-on workshops, meeting local artisans, and shopping for authentic souvenirs.
  6. Onsen Hopping in Gero:

    • Overview: Experience the therapeutic waters of Gero, one of Japan’s top three onsen towns.
    • Highlights: Soaking in various public and private baths, foot baths around the town, and traditional ryokan stays.
  7. Seki Knife Factory Tour:

    • Overview: Seki city is renowned for its blade craftsmanship. Delve into the world of traditional Japanese knife production.
    • Highlights: Watching master craftsmen at work, understanding the forging process, and purchasing a knife as a keepsake.
  8. Gifu Nightlife and Local Izakaya Hop:

    • Overview: Experience Gifu’s nightlife by hopping between local izakayas (Japanese pubs) and tasting regional dishes.
    • Highlights: Sampling local drinks like sake and shochu, trying out Gifu’s bar snacks, and mingling with locals.
  9. Nagara River Cycling Tour:

    • Overview: Rent a bike and embark on a guided tour along the scenic banks of the Nagara River.
    • Highlights: Visiting landmarks along the way, enjoying local picnic spots, and taking in the serene river views.
  10. Cultural and Historical Walking Tour of Gifu City:

  • Overview: Explore the main cultural and historical sites of Gifu City on foot.
  • Highlights: Visits to shrines, temples, historical landmarks, and understanding the rich tapestry of Gifu’s past.
  1. Agricultural Experience in the Gifu Countryside:

  • Overview: Spend a day in the rural areas of Gifu, learning about Japanese farming practices and participating in agricultural activities.
  • Highlights: Planting or harvesting seasonal crops, understanding traditional farming techniques, and enjoying a farm-to-table meal.
  1. Sake Brewery Tours:

  • Overview: Gifu’s clear waters and climate make it suitable for sake production. Tour local breweries to understand the brewing process.
  • Highlights: Guided tour of the sake-making process, sake tasting sessions, and insights into the rich history of sake in Gifu.

Tours in Gifu offer an immersive experience into the region’s natural wonders, cultural treasures, and gastronomic delights. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, foodie, or someone seeking relaxation, Gifu has a guided experience waiting to unfold its stories and mysteries to you. When booking tours, especially those that are popular, it’s recommended to make reservations in advance to ensure availability.

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube

Gifu Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Gifu, a prefecture blending the serenity of nature with rich historical landmarks, offers a variety of accommodations catering to different budgets, preferences, and experiences. Whether you’re after a luxurious onsen resort, a historical ryokan, or a budget-friendly hostel, Gifu has you covered. Let’s explore the diverse accommodation options available:

Gifu city urban buildings in Japan

Luxury Hotels & Resorts:

Gero Onsen Yunoshimakan:

  • Overview: An elite onsen resort established in the late 19th century, it offers luxurious rooms and top-tier hot spring baths.
  • Amenities: Multiple indoor and outdoor onsen baths, gourmet dining featuring local specialties, and traditional tatami rooms.
  • Location: Nestled in the famous Gero Onsen town.

Takayama Ouan:

  • Overview: A modern luxury hotel that blends contemporary comforts with traditional aesthetics.
  • Amenities: Rooftop onsen, Japanese-style rooms, buffet breakfast with regional delicacies.
  • Location: Conveniently situated in the heart of Takayama, making exploration easy.

Traditional Ryokan:

Ryokan Tanabe:

  • Overview: A classic ryokan experience, offering an intimate glimpse into Japan’s age-old hospitality traditions.
  • Amenities: Traditional rooms with tatami flooring and futon bedding, local kaiseki meals, and on-site onsen facilities.
  • Location: Close to Takayama’s old town.

Ryokan Yamagataya:

  • Overview: Established in the Edo period, this ryokan offers a taste of history along with its hospitality.
  • Amenities: Riverside onsen baths, seasonal kaiseki cuisine, and cultural experiences like tea ceremonies.
  • Location: Located in the Gero Onsen area, overlooking the Hida River.

Budget Accommodations & Hostels:

J-Hoppers Hida Takayama Guesthouse:

  • Overview: A popular choice for backpackers and solo travelers, offering a mix of dormitory and private rooms.
  • Amenities: Shared kitchen, common lounge, free Wi-Fi, and cultural exchange events.
  • Location: A short walk from Takayama Station.

Guesthouse Ant Hut:

  • Overview: A cozy and intimate guesthouse with friendly hosts and a communal atmosphere.
  • Amenities: Shared kitchen, terrace garden, bicycle rentals, and a small library.
  • Location: Situated in Takayama, in close proximity to many local attractions.

Unique Stays:

Shirakawa-go Terrace:

  • Overview: Stay in a traditional gassho-zukuri house in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go.
  • Amenities: Tatami rooms, local meals, and a unique opportunity to experience life in these historic farmhouses.
  • Location: Set within the picturesque village of Shirakawa-go.

Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato):

  • Overview: While primarily a museum showcasing traditional architecture, it also offers limited accommodation options for an immersive experience.
  • Amenities: Traditional wooden houses, historical ambiance, and proximity to the village’s attractions.
  • Location: Just outside Takayama’s city center.

Business Hotels:

Dormy Inn Gifu:

  • Overview: A chain known for combining business amenities with comforts like onsen baths.
  • Amenities: Modern rooms, communal onsen baths, and a complimentary breakfast buffet.
  • Location: Located centrally in Gifu City, making it accessible for business travelers.

Hotel Route-Inn Gifu:

  • Overview: A practical choice for business travelers, offering basic amenities and a convenient location.
  • Amenities: Free Wi-Fi, in-house restaurant, and daily housekeeping.
  • Location: Proximity to Gifu Station and major business hubs.

The range of accommodations in Gifu ensures that every traveler, whether on a leisurely holiday, a cultural exploration, a business trip, or a backpacking journey, finds a place that feels like home. Along with comfort, many of these accommodations provide a deep dive into Gifu’s traditions, culture, and local life, making your stay not just a mere stopover but a rich and integral part of your Japanese experience. Always remember to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure the best spots and deals.

Gifu countryside views with rolling hills in Japan

Gifu 3-4 Days Travel Itinerary

Immerse yourself in the cultural richness and breathtaking natural beauty of Gifu over a span of three to four days. This itinerary will guide you through some of the region’s most iconic spots and hidden gems, ensuring a holistic experience of Gifu’s charm.

Day 1: Gifu City & Surroundings


  1. Gifu Castle & Mount Kinka: Start your day with a visit to Gifu Castle. Either hike up Mount Kinka or take the ropeway. Enjoy panoramic views of Gifu City and learn about the region’s history at the castle museum.
  2. Gifu Park: Descend and stroll through Gifu Park. Visit the tea houses, and if time allows, explore the Museum of History.


  1. Bairin Park: Depending on the season, Bairin Park is a great spot for cherry blossom viewing.
  2. Shoho-ji Temple: Visit this temple, famous for its giant wooden Buddha statue.


  1. Ukai (Cormorant Fishing) on Nagara River: Witness this age-old fishing method. Book in advance to ensure a riverside dinner where you can taste the freshly caught sweetfish.

Day 2: Takayama & Hida


  1. Takayama Old Town: Explore the preserved streets of Takayama’s old town. Visit the Takayama Jinya, which served as a government outpost during the Edo period.
  2. Morning Markets: Browse the Jinya-mae and Miyagawa morning markets for local crafts, snacks, and fresh produce.


  1. Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato): Discover traditional Japanese architecture and rural lifestyles. Engage in hands-on activities like craft-making.
  2. Sake Breweries: Takayama is known for its sake. Visit some local breweries for tastings. Some popular options include Harada Sake Brewery and Hirase Brewery.


  1. Takayama’s Local Izakayas: Delve into local nightlife. Sample regional dishes at local izakayas and mingle with the locals.

Day 3: Shirakawa-go & Gero Onsen


  1. Shirakawa-go: Take a bus to this UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the iconic gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Consider visiting the Shiroyama Viewpoint for panoramic village views.


  1. Gero Onsen: Head to Gero, one of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns. Soak in public or private baths to relax and rejuvenate.
  2. Onsenji Temple: Visit this temple, which offers insights into the town’s history as a hot spring destination.


  1. Riverside Dining in Gero: Dine by the Hida River. Many restaurants offer local delicacies, including Hida beef dishes.

Day 4: Seki & Mino


  1. Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum: Seki is famous for its blades. Learn about the history and art of Japanese sword-making.
  2. Mino Washi Museum: Head to Mino, renowned for its traditional paper, washi. Here, learn about the paper-making process and even try your hand at it.


  1. Mino Old Town: Wander through the old streets, enjoying the preserved architecture. Look out for shops selling intricate washi products.
  2. Suhara Kaido: If time permits, walk this historic route connecting Mino with Takayama, lined with beautiful traditional houses and serene landscapes.


  1. Return to Gifu City & Last-Minute Souvenir Shopping: Head back to Gifu City for any last-minute shopping. Look for local crafts, foods, and sake as mementos.


  • Always check opening hours of attractions and book tickets in advance where necessary.
  • Consider buying a regional transport pass if one is available.
  • Take weather conditions into account, especially if planning hikes or outdoor activities.
  • Local eateries are a treasure trove of regional flavors. Don’t hesitate to try something new!

This 3-4 days itinerary offers a balanced exploration of Gifu’s cultural, historical, and natural landmarks. Remember, travel is as much about the journey as the destination, so soak in every moment, engage with locals, and let Gifu’s spirit enchant you. Safe travels!

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Gifu?

After exploring the stunning landscapes, historical wonders, and cultural treasures of Gifu, you may wonder where to set your sights next. Given Gifu’s central location in Japan, it’s well-positioned as a springboard to various other enriching destinations. Here’s a detailed guide on some places you might consider venturing to after your Gifu sojourn:

Nagano city at dusk from a high vantage point in Japan


Overview: Known for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is a realm of majestic mountains, historical temples, and world-class ski resorts.

  • Highlights:
    • Zenko-ji Temple: A significant pilgrimage site, housing a revered Buddhist image.
    • Snow Monkey Park: Watch Japanese macaques relax in natural hot springs.
    • Hakuba: A top destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Travel Tip: The journey from Gifu to Nagano by train is direct and takes about 2 hours.


Overview: The ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto is the heart of traditional Japanese culture, brimming with temples, shrines, and geisha districts.

  • Highlights:
    • Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): A Zen temple covered in gold leaf, reflecting elegantly over a pond.
    • Fushimi Inari Taisha: Famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates.
    • Gion District: Experience the world of geishas and traditional wooden machiya houses.

Travel Tip: Kyoto is accessible from Gifu by train, typically involving a change at Nagoya or Maibara. The journey takes around 2 hours.


Overview: Often dubbed “Little Kyoto”, Kanazawa is a blend of rich cultural heritage and modernity, famous for its districts, art museums, and regional handicrafts.

  • Highlights:
    • Kenrokuen Garden: One of Japan’s top three gardens, renowned for its beauty across all seasons.
    • Nagamachi Samurai District: Explore the former samurai district with its earthen walls and historical residences.
    • Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art: An innovative space displaying global contemporary artworks.

Travel Tip: From Gifu, the journey to Kanazawa can be accomplished by train with a transfer at Nagoya, taking about 2.5 hours.


Overview: Toyama boasts a dramatic coastline, deep mountain valleys, and the stunning Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

  • Highlights:
    • Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route: Marvel at the “Roof of Japan” and its towering snow walls in spring.
    • Kurobe Gorge: Enjoy scenic train rides and hot springs in this dramatic ravine.
    • Toyama Bay: A beautiful coastal area known for its fresh seafood.

Travel Tip: Toyama is directly accessible from Gifu by train, taking approximately 2 to 3 hours.


Overview: A bustling metropolis, Osaka is famous for its modern architecture, vibrant nightlife, and delectable street food.

  • Highlights:
    • Osaka Castle: A historic fortification surrounded by a picturesque moat and park.
    • Dotonbori: Dive into Osaka’s entertainment heart with its neon lights, theaters, and eateries.
    • Universal Studios Japan: Experience the magic of movies in this globally recognized theme park.

Travel Tip: The journey from Gifu to Osaka by train typically involves a transfer at Nagoya and takes about 2 hours.

source: Samuel and Audrey on YouTube


Overview: As Japan’s first permanent capital, Nara is replete with historical treasures, including ancient temples and freely roaming deer.

  • Highlights:
    • Todai-ji Temple: Home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue.
    • Nara Park: Interact with hundreds of friendly deer that hold cultural significance.
    • Isuien Garden: A serene Japanese garden, perfect for quiet reflection.

Travel Tip: Nara is easily accessible from Gifu by train, with a transfer at Nagoya or Kyoto, taking around 2 to 2.5 hours.


Overview: Located in the Mie Prefecture, Ise-Shima is known for its sacred shrines and beautiful rias coastline.

  • Highlights:
    • Ise Grand Shrine (Ise Jingu): Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine and a major pilgrimage site.
    • Ago Bay: A scenic bay with pearl farms and islands.
    • Meoto Iwa (Wedded Rocks): A symbolic and picturesque rock formation off the coast, representing a pair of married deities.

Travel Tip: From Gifu, you can reach Ise-Shima by train with a transfer at Nagoya, taking about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Lake Biwa

Overview: The largest freshwater lake in Japan, Lake Biwa offers scenic beauty and various recreational activities.

  • Highlights:
    • Cruising: Enjoy the lake’s serenity on a leisure cruise.
    • Shiga’s Otsu City: Explore the historical sites and temples around the lake’s southern tip.
    • Chikubu Island: A religious site home to significant temples.

Travel Tip: Lake Biwa is easily accessible from Gifu by train via Maibara, taking around 1.5 hours.


Overview: Famous for its vast sand dunes, Tottori offers a unique landscape compared to other parts of Japan.

  • Highlights:
    • Tottori Sand Dunes: Experience the desert-like landscape with camel rides and paragliding.
    • The Sand Museum: Displays stunning sand sculptures.
    • Misasa Onsen: A therapeutic hot spring with a history of over 850 years.

Travel Tip: Tottori is reachable by train from Gifu with a transfer in Himeji or Okayama, taking around 4 to 5 hours.


Overview: Nestled in Nagano Prefecture, Matsumoto is famed for its castle, art scene, and nearby natural attractions.

  • Highlights:
    • Matsumoto Castle: One of Japan’s most beautiful original castles, known for its black exterior.
    • Nakamachi Street: A historic shopping street lined with old merchant houses.
    • Kamikochi: A highland valley within the Northern Alps offering scenic hiking opportunities.

Travel Tip: Matsumoto can be directly accessed from Gifu by train, taking approximately 2 to 2.5 hours.


Overview: A city known for its historical significance during World War II, Hiroshima has since transformed into a beacon of peace and resilience.

  • Highlights:
    • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: Visit the A-Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to understand the horrors of nuclear warfare and the city’s message of peace.
    • Miyajima Island: Home to the iconic Itsukushima Shrine with its floating torii gate. You can also hike up Mount Misen for panoramic views.
    • Shukkeien Garden: A historic Japanese garden perfect for relaxation and reflection.

Travel Tip: From Gifu, Hiroshima can be reached by shinkansen with a transfer at Shin-Osaka or Okayama, taking around 3.5 to 4 hours.


Overview: Known as the “Land of Sunshine”, Okayama offers picturesque gardens, a historic castle, and rich folklore.

  • Highlights:
    • Korakuen Garden: One of Japan’s three great gardens, it offers a serene setting with ponds, tea houses, and scenic viewpoints.
    • Okayama Castle: Also known as “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, it stands in contrast to the white “Heron Castle” of Himeji.
    • Kurashiki: A historic town with a preserved canal area, lined with museums and old merchants’ houses.

Travel Tip: A direct shinkansen ride from Gifu will get you to Okayama in approximately 3 hours.


Overview: A cosmopolitan port city, Kobe is renowned for its culinary delights, especially Kobe beef, as well as its cultural sites.

  • Highlights:
    • Kobe Harborland: A shopping and entertainment district with a mesmerizing nighttime view of the illuminated port.
    • Arima Onsen: One of Japan’s oldest hot spring towns, nestled in the mountains behind Kobe.
    • Ikuta Shrine: A historic shrine in the heart of Kobe with a lush, forested backdrop.

Travel Tip: From Gifu, Kobe can be reached by train with a transfer at Osaka, taking about 2 to 2.5 hours.


Overview: The prefecture containing Nagoya, Aichi offers a blend of urban attractions and historical sites.

  • Highlights:
    • Nagoya Castle: A historic castle known for its golden dolphin-like ornaments (kinshachi) on the roof.
    • Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology: Discover the evolution of Japan’s automobile industry.
    • Osaka Castle: Explore this famous historic site, especially beautiful during cherry blossom season.

Travel Tip: Aichi, particularly Nagoya, is very close to Gifu and can be reached within 30 minutes to an hour by train.


Overview: Positioned between Tokyo and Nagoya, Shizuoka is home to the iconic Mount Fuji and offers both coastal and mountainous attractions.

  • Highlights:
    • Mount Fuji: Though the mountain is shared with Yamanashi, the Shizuoka side provides unique views and hiking opportunities.
    • Miho no Matsubara: A scenic coastal area with views of Mount Fuji and a UNESCO World Heritage pine grove.
    • Shizuoka Sengen Shrine: A complex of multiple shrines with a rich history.

Travel Tip: Shizuoka can be reached from Gifu by shinkansen, taking about 1.5 to 2 hours.

Whether you’re seeking further immersion in history, eager for urban adventures, or craving serene landscapes, the regions surrounding Gifu offer an array of experiences. Remember to consider factors like travel time, personal interests, and seasonality when picking your next destination, ensuring your Japanese journey continues to captivate and inspire. Safe travels!

Gifu City views from a high vantage mountain point in Japan

Gifu Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Tucked away in the heart of Japan, Gifu Prefecture is a testament to the age-old adage that great treasures are often hidden in plain sight. From its commanding mountains to its tranquil rivers, from its historical narratives to its modern-day zeal, Gifu stands as an emblem of Japan’s enduring spirit, offering travelers an immersive dive into the country’s very essence. As we conclude our journey through this enchanting region, let’s reflect on its multifaceted allure and what it means for the discerning traveler.

The Cultural Repository

Gifu has a distinctive tapestry of historical and cultural experiences. The city’s legacy is deeply rooted in the tales of warlords and samurai, especially the iconic figure, Oda Nobunaga, whose impact on Japanese history is palpable as you walk the streets of the city. From the heritage-rich Gifu Castle to the meticulous craftsmanship displayed at the Gifu Lantern Festival, every corner of the city seems to whisper tales of yesteryears.

Moreover, the age-old practice of Ukai (cormorant fishing) on the Nagara River is not just a testament to Gifu’s cultural preservation but also symbolizes the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. Such traditions allow visitors to bridge the temporal gap and connect with a Japan that once was.

Nature’s Embrace

But Gifu isn’t just about history and culture; it’s equally a celebration of nature’s bounty. The Northern Alps touch the region, granting it dramatic landscapes, therapeutic onsen towns, and unparalleled hiking trails. The prefecture is a mosaic of scenic beauty, from the mesmerizing Seki waterfalls to the rustic charm of the historic village of Shirakawa-go.

The Hida region, in particular, offers a taste of the alpine wonders of Japan. Winter transforms this region into a snow-clad paradise, while spring and summer bring forth verdant landscapes and autumn sets the forests aflame with vibrant hues. It’s nature’s theatre in its most unfiltered form.

Gastronomic Delights

Gifu’s culinary offerings are a mirror to its cultural and natural diversity. The region’s distinct climate and terrain impart a unique flavor palette to its produce. Whether it’s the renowned Hida beef, known for its marbled texture and rich flavor, or the freshwater delicacies from the clear streams and rivers, Gifu offers a culinary journey that can satiate even the most discerning of palates. And let’s not forget the sake, brewed meticulously using pristine waters, reflecting the craftsmanship that Gifu takes pride in.

The Unspoken Appeal

Beyond the tangible experiences, there’s an intangible charm to Gifu. It’s in the hospitality of its people, who wear their traditions with pride yet embrace the modern with zest. It’s in the quiet moments – perhaps watching the sunset from Gifu Castle or listening to the murmurs of the Kiso River. It’s the fusion of the old and the new, where centuries-old practices coexist seamlessly with contemporary lifestyles.

Gifu, in its quiet, unassuming way, offers a holistic Japanese experience. It reminds travelers that beyond the neon-lit streets of Tokyo or the iconic temples of Kyoto, there’s a Japan that’s raw, authentic, and waiting to share its tales. As you leave Gifu, you don’t just carry memories of places visited but also stories of a time gone by and a renewed appreciation for the seamless blend of tradition and modernity.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Japan or a seasoned traveler, Gifu leaves an indelible mark, beckoning you to return, explore deeper, and continue your dialogue with this ever-evolving yet timeless part of the world.

Gifu prefecture flag in Japan

Whispers of the Heartland

In Gifu where mountains touch the skies, And ancient rivers tell timeless ties, Where lanterns glow and samurais once tread, History and nature seamlessly wed.

Hida’s embrace, a snow-kissed delight, Shirakawa’s rooftops under moonlight, The cormorant’s dance on Nagara’s stream, Gifu, a land where past and present dream.

Onsen mists rise, secrets they unveil, As cherry blossoms in the springtime sail, The taste of Hida beef, a story untold, In every bite, a legacy unfolds.

Travelers seek, in Gifu they find, A journey of heart, soul, and mind, For in its valleys and atop its crest, Whispers of the heartland never rest.

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