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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
source: japan-guide.com on YouTube
Top 33 Things To Do in Gifu, Japan For Visitors
Gifu, an alluring blend of historical marvels, natural wonders, and cultural experiences, offers a plethora of activities for visitors. From ancient castles to relaxing hot springs, here are 33 must-experience attractions in Gifu:
- Gifu Castle: Start with a visit to this historic castle located atop Mount Kinka. Either hike or take the ropeway. The view from the castle stretches across the city and offers breathtaking panoramas.
- Ukai (Cormorant Fishing): Witness this age-old tradition on the Nagara River, where master fishermen utilize trained cormorants to catch sweetfish.
- Nagara River: Beyond Ukai, the river is perfect for scenic boat rides, picnics, or simply strolling alongside its banks.
- Gifu Park: A serene escape in the city. The park is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season.
- Mount Kinka Ropeway: For those who’d prefer not to hike, the ropeway offers an alternative route to Gifu Castle with mesmerizing aerial views.
- Gifu Great Buddha: Located at Shōhō-ji Temple, this is one of Japan’s great Buddha statues and an architectural marvel.
- Bairin Park: Visit during early spring to see over 1,300 plum trees in full bloom.
- Gifu City Museum of History: Delve deep into the region’s history and understand its transformation over the ages.
- Gifu Lantern Festival: Experience the ethereal beauty of the city illuminated by countless paper lanterns.
- Nagaragawa Onsen: Relax in these hot springs renowned for their healing properties.
- Gifu World Fresh Water Aquarium Aquatotto: Explore a variety of freshwater creatures from local species to those from the Amazon.
- Traditional Crafts Village: Witness Gifu’s traditional crafts, including paper umbrella making and woodworking.
- Gifu City Tower 43: Enjoy panoramic city views from this observation deck.
- Nagara River Ukai Museum: Learn about the history and techniques behind the ancient fishing method.
- Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University Forest: A beautiful expanse perfect for nature walks and relaxation.
- Site of Reversible Destiny: An interactive art site offering unique architectural experiences.
- Yanagase Shopping Street: Shop, dine, and immerse yourself in the city’s urban buzz.
- Kawaramachi Historic Street: A step back in time with well-preserved traditional Japanese architecture.
- Gifu Prefectural Ceramics Museum: Discover the art and history of ceramics in the region.
- Gifu Symphony Orchestra: Spend an evening here for a musical treat.
- Gifu City Culture Center: Engage in various cultural events, exhibitions, and workshops.
- Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon: Participate or cheer runners in this popular city event.
- Gold Panning at Nagaragawa River: Try your luck and skills at gold panning in designated areas.
- Attend the Takayama Festival: Though in the neighboring town, it’s worth the visit. It’s considered one of Japan’s most beautiful festivals.
- Gifu-Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum: Dive into aviation history and marvel at various aircraft exhibits.
- Nigorigo Onsen: Another hot spring spot surrounded by mountains.
- Wine Tasting at Gifu Wine Valley: Explore the local vineyards and savor the region’s wines.
- Nagara River Fireworks: Witness this grand summer spectacle.
- Cycling along the Kiso River: Rent a bike and enjoy the scenic beauty of the riverbanks.
- Visit Seki City: Nearby Seki is renowned for its traditional Japanese knife production.
- Oyada Shrine: An ancient Shinto shrine steeped in history and natural beauty.
- Kasamori Inari Shrine: Known for its unique black torii gates.
- Taste local delicacies: From Hida beef to local sake, indulge in Gifu’s culinary delights.
While this list offers a comprehensive guide to Gifu’s offerings, the city’s true charm lies in its ability to surprise and enchant you at every corner. Each visit promises a mix of discovery, relaxation, and a deep connection to Japan’s cultural heritage.
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 (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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Hida Takayama Ramen Tamura:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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
- 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.
- Gifu Park: Descend and stroll through Gifu Park. Visit the tea houses, and if time allows, explore the Museum of History.
- Bairin Park: Depending on the season, Bairin Park is a great spot for cherry blossom viewing.
- Shoho-ji Temple: Visit this temple, famous for its giant wooden Buddha statue.
- 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
- 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.
- Morning Markets: Browse the Jinya-mae and Miyagawa morning markets for local crafts, snacks, and fresh produce.
- Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato): Discover traditional Japanese architecture and rural lifestyles. Engage in hands-on activities like craft-making.
- Sake Breweries: Takayama is known for its sake. Visit some local breweries for tastings. Some popular options include Harada Sake Brewery and Hirase Brewery.
- 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
- 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.
- Gero Onsen: Head to Gero, one of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns. Soak in public or private baths to relax and rejuvenate.
- Onsenji Temple: Visit this temple, which offers insights into the town’s history as a hot spring destination.
- Riverside Dining in Gero: Dine by the Hida River. Many restaurants offer local delicacies, including Hida beef dishes.
Day 4: Seki & Mino
- Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum: Seki is famous for its blades. Learn about the history and art of Japanese sword-making.
- 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.
- Mino Old Town: Wander through the old streets, enjoying the preserved architecture. Look out for shops selling intricate washi products.
- Suhara Kaido: If time permits, walk this historic route connecting Mino with Takayama, lined with beautiful traditional houses and serene landscapes.
- 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:
Overview: Known for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is a realm of majestic mountains, historical temples, and world-class ski resorts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Overview: The largest freshwater lake in Japan, Lake Biwa offers scenic beauty and various recreational activities.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.