Cherry blossoms lit up at night and hanging paper lanterns

Photo:sayo ts

Six Spectacular Cherry Blossom Spots to Visit in Gifu City

Gifu City is a fantastic place to see cherry blossoms on display, and one of the best perks is that you can visit a wide range of gorgeous, easy-to-reach sites for cherry blossom viewing in a single day. Here's an informal one-day itinerary for you to follow the next time you’re swinging through Japan for cherry blossom season.

Inaba Shrine

The first stop is Inaba Shrine. To get here from JR Gifu, you can take the N61 bus from bus stop #12 and off board at Inaba-Dōri. This Shinto shrine has a history going back almost two thousand years, though it has only been in its current location for a quarter of that time. While strolling through the expansive garden and admiring the temple façade, you’ll also have a chance to buy a good luck charm (known as omamori in Japanese). These come in a variety of shapes and sizes and make for a great souvenir.

Once you’re done taking in the sights at the shrine, it’s a twelve-minute walk to Gifu Park. Along the way, you can stop at the Great Buddha of Gifu (located at Shōbō Temple) or the Gifu City Historical Museum.

Gifu Park

Though most people typically come to Gifu Park intent on taking the ropeway up to the top of Kinka Mountain, the cherry blossom trees are primarily located at ground level throughout the park itself. One of the best locations for viewing them is around an artfully arranged pond and Japanese-style gazebo.

Typically during cherry blossom season, you’ll be able to see pink paper lanterns strung up amidst the cherry blossom trees. These will be lit during the evening to allow for what is called yozakura, or nighttime cherry blossom viewing. You might also come across some food stands selling what you might call classic Japanese “carnival” foods, such as yakisoba (fried noodles), takoyaki (breaded octopus balls), and so on. After all, the way that most Japanese people prefer to enjoy cherry blossom viewing (also known as hanami) is by having lunch beneath the flourishing symphony of flowers that comes only once a year.

Nagara River

Those aren’t the only options if you’re getting hungry, however. Curving alongside Gifu Park is Nagara River, which itself is lined with dozens of cherry blossom trees and leads directly to Kawara-machi Historic Street, an avenue of preserved traditional Japanese buildings. Walking down this lane is like stepping back in time, and beside the souvenir shops and food stores are a few cafés and restaurants that will make an ideal stop for lunch.

Once you’re done admiring the architecture, you will find a quaint little park called Kawaramachi located on just the other side of the historic street.

Kawaramachi Park

Though the park itself doesn’t have many cherry blossom trees, it hugs a stream that is lined with them. It’s actually a popular location for bridal shoots because of how picturesque the trees look against the background of the park, their branches hanging over the stream in a graceful arch. If you’re looking for a photo opportunity, this is a great place to stop.

However, if you’re more interested in going for a full authentic Japanese hanami experience – like something you may have seen in any number of Japanese dramas or animes – look no further than a picnic amidst the flowering trees in Kanō Castle Ruins. To get there, simply head over to the bus stop in front of Gifu Park and take the E70 or E76 bus. It will take you past JR Gifu Station and to Jonan-Dōri, which is just a short walk away from the ruins. To complete the picnic experience, don’t forget to bring a lunch box (which you can easily pick up from JR Gifu or any convenience store, located all over the city) and a picnic blanket in case the grass is damp.

Kanō Castle Ruins

For most of the year, Kanō Castle Ruins honestly isn’t much to look at; there are some leftover, crumbling stone walls packed into the hill of a small, valley-like park, and a nice open space for kids to run and kick a ball. The real highlight of this place, however, is that it is surrounded by cherry blossom trees, and becomes an ideal spot for a picnic during spring.

To end the day, board a bus (the N61 if you’re at Kanō Park, or E70/E76 if you’re going straight from Kawaramachi Park) to JR Gifu Station. From there, take a train to Shiminkoen-Mae for a chance to enjoy the cherry blossoms at night along the Shinsakai River.

Shinsakai River

Photo credit: Takashi Hososhima via Wikimedia Commons

This is not a practice often heard of outside of Japan, but native Japanese people love the effervescent glow of the cherry blossoms under a dark night sky. Enjoy this unique, romantic experience strolling under the cherry blossoms illuminated by paper lanterns strung up all throughout the trees’ branches. When you’re ready for a bite to eat, you can enjoy a sit-down dinner at one of the many cafés or restaurants situated near the river before heading back to your hotel for the night.

However you choose to experience the cherry blossom season in Gifu, we hope you enjoy your time strolling through this peaceful city and its annual welcome of spring.

* Please note that due to COVID-19, many cherry blossom-related events have been canceled this year in 2020, including the food stands set up around Gifu Park and the nighttime cherry blossom viewing. It is still possible to go to Shinsakai River at night, but the paper lanterns that are traditionally strung up in the evening to light up the trees will not be there.

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