A prefecture smack-dab in the middle of Japan’s main island of Honshu. In the Warring States Period, it was said, “control Gifu and you control Japan.”
How to Get There
Gifu Station can be reached via the Tokaido Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo Station. Tokyo is about 2 hours away (and a ticket from there costs around 11,500 yen), while Nagoya is a short 20 minutes. To get to Takayama Station in Gifu’s north takes a little over 2 hours from Nagoya. There are also a few train + hotel packages available, departing from Tokyo.
As with the rest of Japan, trains are the fastest and most convenient method of transportation. The always convenient JR lines travel through the cities of Gifu, Gero (famous for its hot springs), and Takayama. Many local railways also run throughout the prefecture.
Highway buses are the other main way to get around. If you plan to go to Shirakawa-go, these buses are the easiest way to get there since JR lines do not pass through it. Check Japan Bus Online, which also covers buses destined for locations in Gifu from Tokyo and Osaka.
If you choose to drive around in winter, be careful and check the weather and snow conditions in advance.
What to See and What to Do
UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go is one of the most popular attractions. The houses in this picturesque village are constructed in the Gassho-style, characterized by roofs designed to withstand the area’s heavy snowfalls.
Following the earlier Warring States reference, there are 2 major castles in Gifu. One is Oda Nobunaga’s impregnable Gifu Castle. The other is Sunomata Castle, called the “overnight castle” because legend says Nobunaga’s retainer Toyotomi Hideyoshi built it in one night to aid in their assault on Inabayama Castle. To really get into the whole Sengoku thing, stop by the Seki Sword Tradition Museum where on certain days they have live demos of the ancient sword forging style.
Gifu’s historical status as an important crossroads between Japan’s east and west is symbolized by Nakasendo, an old highway running through that once connected Tokyo and Kyoto. The post towns along it have preserved their traditional appearance, and the whole 5-mile trek is a great way to exercise while taking a glimpse into Japan’s history.
Certain seasonal events are also too good to miss. The spring and fall festivals in Takayama are considered 2 of Japan’s 3 most beautiful festivals. The main attraction is the parade featuring beautiful floats. Another popular tradition is ukai fishing, which is performed on the Nagara River every night from May 11th to October 15th. Enjoy the scene from a viewing boat and spend the night in the Nagaragawa Hot Spring area along the river.