Gifu is a prefecture in the Chuubu area blessed with beautiful nature and a vivid history. Thanks to them, Gifu also has a lot of fun things to do and impressive places to see, especially for those who appreciate a relaxing vacation with excellent greenery, Japanese culture and traditional festivals. If you are seeking to experience the older side of Japan away from the cities, here are my top 15 recommendations of what Gifu has to offer for your next visit!
1. Spending a Night at the World Heritage Site, Shirakawa Village
Topping the list is without a doubt, Shirakawa Village of Gifu. This World Heritage Site, located on the Northern part of Gifu, has a village of uniquely shaped triangle houses that were designed to withstand the heavy snowfall in one of the snowiest areas of Japan. Some of these houses are now accommodations for tourists, where visitors can experience a traditional and rural living style in these hundred-year-old houses, both in summer and winter, at this Japanese fairy-tale-like village.
Yasufumi Nishi on JNTO
2. Get on a Boat to Watch Cormorant Fishing
Ukai, or cormorant fishing in Gifu, is a traditional Japanese fishing method. This 1300-year-old event has the cormorant birds working with the cormorant fishing masters to catch the ayu (sweetfish) in the river. Seeing the flames held by the masters above the Nagara River in the dark attracting the fish and the cormorant birds rapidly diving their beaks into water to catch the target is an impressive sight. Tourists in Gifu City can get on a boat from May to October to watch the masters and birds of this traditional fishing technique at work.
3. Enjoying Top Quality Hida Beef
Japanese beef is famous around the world for its extremely high quality, and Hida Beef is one of the top 3 brands in Japan alongside Kobe and Matsusaka beef. Hida beef, the meat from the black-haired cattle raised in Gifu prefecture is incredibly juicy and tender. Many restaurants offer Hida beef with various ways of cooking: charcoal grilled, shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, pressed sushi, etc. Hida beef cuisine comes with a higher price, but the marble fatty Japanese beef melting in your mouth is a must-try for any food enthusiasts when visiting Gifu.
My personal restaurant recommendation is Bakuro Ichidai. They have a branch in Ginza, Tokyo too!
©Promotion Airport Environment Improvement Foundation / on ©JNTO
4. Relax at the Hot Springs at Gero Onsen Town
Gero is the famous onsen (hot spring) town considered to have one of the best three onsen in the entire Japan since the Edo period. With many bath houses and numerous ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) to stay at, this town is a popular tourist location for a traditional Japanese experience. Many visitors wear the yukata from the ryokan they are staying in and walk around the old onsen town, trying out different bath houses and free footbaths around the city from morning to night. Gero will provide you the relaxing vacation you want.
Photo: かがみ～ on Flickr
5. Travel Back in Time at the Showa Museum in Takayama
Takayama literally translates into “Tall Mountain”, and this city with its high altitude is a popular tourist location for a getaway into the beautiful nature and to experience old Japanese tradition. The climate of the area allows sakura (cherry blossoms) and red leafs to flourish beautifully in spring and autumn respectively, and with winter also comes heavy snowfall. Walking around the traditional shopping street is a trip back in time. To get a better taste of history, visit the Showa Museum for an impressive exhibition. The comprehensive displays there will make you feel as if you have lived through the Showa period yourself!
©Akimasa Yuasa/ on ©JNTO
6. Hike up Mt. Kinka to Conquer Oda Nobunaga’s Gifu Castle
Gifu Park is the historical site of Oda Nobunaga’s palace. With Gifu Castle sitting gracefully at the top of Kinka Mountain, many visitors interested in Japanese history make the short 1-hour hike to witness the place where the great warlord’s ambition of conquering all of Japan began. The mountain has many paths available for hikers of different levels. There is also a ropeway for an easier way to reach the top. From the castle’s observation deck, you can see a 360-degree panoramic view of Gifu City. You should also check out the Squirrel Village also on the top of Mt. Kinka for something less historic but way more adorable.
©Gifu Convention and Visitors Bureau/ on ©JNTO
7. Dance All Night at Gujo’s Odori Festival
Gujo is a city famous for many things: ayu sweetfish, Kei-chan chicken, food replicas, and their pristine waterways flowing through the town. However, by far the biggest attraction of Gujo is the famous Gujo Odori Dance Festival that began 400 years ago. Every Obon season (four nights in mid-August), the Gujo Odori takes place and locals and visitors gather to dance a traditional dance on the streets until 5:00am in the morning. The dance is simple for anyone to join in. The tradition makes quite an impressive scene throughout the night until sunrise.
郡上市観光課 on Wikipedia
8. Walk the Magome-juku of the Nakasendo Walking Trail
Nakasendo, also called the Kisokaido, is a traditional travel route connecting Kyoto to Edo (modern Tokyo). The route was developed around the 7th century, and while most of the streets have been modernized, parts of the route have maintained and been restored to its traditional atmosphere to display the historical walking trail. Magome-juku in Gifu is one of the best sections of the trail to walk, with rows of buildings displaying its beauty of the old days. An old town accompanied by the beautiful nature, the Magome-juku of the Nakasendo Trail is a historical treasure to see and walk for yourself.
SElefant on Wikimedia
9. Enjoy Two Firework Festivals (in a row) at Nagara River
Every year near the end of July and the beginning of August, two major firework events are hosted at Nagara River in Gifu city. The festivals take place on two consecutive Saturdays, each one attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to enjoy. Getting a hotel room with the view will ensure you a clear view of the flames in the comfort of a quiet peaceful room. You can also join the crowd along the riverbank to see the fireworks up close, while enjoying festival food like yakisoba and karaage (fried chicken) from the food stalls. Either way, the spectacular firework festivals are worth visiting if you schedule your trip right.
Photo by a-quila on Flickr
10. Admire the Samurai Sword Craftsmanship at Seki
Seki in Gifu is considered the “City of Blades”. With the huge blade production, many visitors travel to this town to admire the craftsmanship of the swords and knives made from Seki. In October, the Seki Cutlery Festival is hosted with a massive market place selling swords, knives, blades, and even scissors at extremely reasonable prices. You can also watch a traditional sword forging demonstration and witness the sparks flying as the sword-masters hammer on the hot iron. This can be seen in January at the Seki Sword Tradition Museum too, displaying traditional and modern swords and blades, also a place not to miss.
©Okayama-ken Kanko Renmei/ on ©JNTO
11. Shopping for New Pottery in Oribe Hills, Toki
Minoyaki is the popular Japanese ceramic that has over half the pottery market share, and Toki is the concentrated city with the biggest production in Japan. Many whole-sellers established shops here at Oribe Hills to attract customers looking for new table wares for commercial and/or personal use. You can easily find beautiful and detailed Japanese bowls and plates for a faction of the price on the market, especially if you visit around Golden Week in May for the Minoyaki Festival for a big sale. If you have space in your luggage, these Minoyaki ceramic would make the best Japanese souvenir for you to bring home.
デカルトカントショーペンハウエル on Wikimedia
12. Meditate at the Yoro Waterfall
The Yoro Waterfall located in Yoro Park in Yoro Town of the Yoro District (wow, that’s a mouthful) is one of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls. Not only is the fall itself calming and meditative, the park itself with the short hike to the waterfall is a great chance to enjoy Japan’s nature side. Particularly after snowfall, the park on the mountain covered with the white frozen crystals is breath-taking. As a souvenir, try out one of the carbonated ramune and cider made with the water from the fall.
Ray_go on Wikimedia
13. Tasting Kei-chan Chicken
Kei-chan isn’t a name, but rather the name of a dish originated in the Gujo area. This delicious chicken dish requires marinating the meat in soy sauce, garlic and miso before pan-frying it with vegetables. The result is an aromatic, juicy, flavourful and healthy dish that matches perfectly with white rice. Of course, you can try cooking it yourself too, but when you’re travelling around Gifu, why not seek out a restaurant for a genuine taste of the local dish?
Tamago Moffle on Flickr
14. Making Your Own Mino Japanese Paper
Mino Washi (Japanese Paper) is a traditional paper-making craft originating in the 8th century in Mino (now Gifu). The paper itself is rough and atmospheric, and it is used to make many traditional craft products such as fans, umbrellas and lanterns. Mino city also has several workshops for visitors to experience making the paper themselves. Needless to say, these beautiful craft items made from Mino washi are another excellent choice for souvenirs to bring home to your family and friends.
Tomomarusan on Wikimedia
15. Enjoying Ayu Sweetfish in Gujo
The Ayu (sweetfish) is most famous in Gujo, but it is available anywhere in Gifu. Many izakayas offer it, as well as traditional Japanese restaurants. This river delicacy is in season during summer to autumn, and its sweetness is hugely thanks to the beautiful water flowing through the prefecture. The traditional and popular way to enjoy this fish is by covering it with coarse salt then broiling it over an open flame. This process makes the skin of the fish crispy and salty, contrasting with the soft sweet meat. This little fish is shipped to famous restaurants across Japan, so why don’t you give it a taste when you’re in the area?
Tomomarusan on Wikimedia