Momiji Festival at Gujo Hachiman Castle
Now that autumn is finally here in Japan I find myself planning what places I’d like to visit to see the beautiful autumn leaves. One of my favourites that I keep visiting every year is the picturesque town of Gujo Hachiman in Central Japan.
Gujo Hachiman nestled away in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture is a riverside town famous for its Bon Odori dance in summer and for being the ‘Fake Food Capital’ of Japan. The town has also earned the cool nickname of “Little Kyoto” for its stunning beauty and its fantastic collection of temples all accessible by foot from the center of town.
Gujo Hachiman is also an amazing place for koyo or autumn leave viewing in Japan. One of the best spots in town is the famous Gujo Hachiman Castle located just outside of the town center.
The castle is spectacularly perched atop Mount Hachiman and is considered to be one of the best reconstructed castles in all of Japan. You can reach the castle easily after a brisk 15 minute hike up the mountain.
Most castles in Japan are known for their beautiful cherry blossoms in early spring, but Gujo Hachiman Castle is unique as it is better known for its spectacular autumn colours. The castle is surrounded by momiji (Japanese maple trees), which are stunning when ablaze of colour in autumn with greens, yellows, oranges, and reds making it a great spot for koyo. At their peak, the fiery red colours appear to resemble flames engulfing the castle. It is truly a magnificent sight and very different from your usual castle experience in Japan.
Every year there is a Momiji Festival at Gujo Hachiman Castle with a special illumination at night. The maple trees surrounding the castle are spectacularly lit from sunset until 9:00 pm. The festival is a golden opportunity to experience the autumn leaves at night at a traditional Japanese festival. The Momiji Festival runs from early November to November 24th.
The Momiji Festival also features traditional Japanese cultural events such as Japanese tea ceremony and taiko drumming. The highlight for me is always the re-enactment of an Edo period samurai battle fought by the local daimyo (feudal lord) of the castle, Endo Morikazu. For more information and a photo of the event, see the section about "Gujo Hachiman Momiji Festival" on the official website.
The best time to see the beautiful colours is usually from early to late November.
The Momiji Festival at Gujo Hachiman Castle offers you the chance to see some stunning autumn foliage along with one of the best reconstructed castles in Japan. Don’t miss it this autumn! Just remember to bring your camera as you will be in for some magical photo opportunities.
Address: 659 Hachiman-cho, Yanagimachi, Gujo, Gifu Prefecture 501-4212
Hours: The castle is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (November to February)
Special Illumination from sunset to 9:00 pm (from early to mid-November)
Admission: FREE to climb the mountain and 310 yen to enter the castle
From Nagoya take a JR limited express train to JR Gifu Station. At JR Gifu Station change to the JR Takayama Line and take a train to Mino-Ota. Change trains to the Nagaragawa Railway at Mino-Ota to reach Gujo Hachiman. A cheaper option is to take a highway bus from the Meitetsu Bus Center in Nagoya.