A Quaint Town in Gifu Worth Visiting: Gujo Hachiman
Gujo Hachiman is a small river town located in Gifu Prefecture.
If you have made plans to visit the world heritage site, Shirakawa-go, and the nearby historic town, Takayama, it will be worthwhile to include Gujo Hachiman into your itinerary. Though it is a two hour drive from Takayama, it is worth it as there are just enough (not too much nor too little) sightseeing spots to be covered for a day trip.
Gujo Hachiman is accessible via the Nagaragawa Tetsudo Train. Alternatively, it would be easier to drive to there. As it is not excessively frequented by tourists, there are no tour buses that offer the route from Takayama to Gujo Hachiman, unlike the countless tour buses that serve the Takayama to Shirakawa-go route. If visiting places that are not overly commercialized is your thing, Gujo-Hachiman is the place to go.
If you are thinking that Gujo Hachiman must be a deserted town, it is not. It is evident from the presence of a tourist information centre and signs placed to guide tourists to the various attractions.
Away from the centre of Gujo Hachiman (i.e. the Gujo Town) is a Buddhist Temple called Jionzenji. From the outside, Jionzenji resembles many other temples in Japan. However, do not be fooled by its outlook, as it has a really pretty interior. Costing 300 yen to enter, you will be greeted by an artfully and picturesquely designed garden.
The garden is very well maintained. It appears that everything (trees, pebbles, stones) has been carefully and strategically placed to enhance the visual space. Though one cannot enter the garden itself, sitting on the tatami in the hall viewing the beautiful garden is enough to let one feel the calmness and serenity of it. It is apparently beautiful throughout the four seasons, each having a different feel.
Gujo Hachiman is famous for being one of the leading centers for production of food replicas, and there are many shops selling food replicas that from afar looked very realistic. Don’t be shocked to find out that the snack you wanted to buy is actually made of plastic!
On the top of the hill is the Gujo Hachiman Castle. It can be accessed via foot or by car. A 20 minute hike will lead you the castle.
The current castle is actually a reconstructed version as the original one was torn down during the Meiji Restoration. The reconstructed castle is known to be oldest reconstructed wood castle in Japan.
The view from the Gujo Hachiman overlooks the Gujo Town and the neighboring mountains, making it quite spectacular. During autumn, the leaves of the trees surrounding the castle will turn red, heightening the beauty of the castle.
As Gujo Hachiman is located in the Gifu Prefecture and near the Hida Region, Hida Beef or any food synonymous with the Hida “brand” or “name” can be found here.
The Gujo town is a nice, quaint place highly suitable for a stroll. There are various souvenirs (omiyage, お土産) and sweets (okashi, お菓子 ) shops in the main shopping district. Take your time, walk into the shops and enjoy the serenity of Gujo Hachiman!