Located in the middle of Japan’s Honshu Island, and roughly 2 hours from Tokyo, or 1 ½ hours from Kyoto or Osaka, Gifu Prefecture is a region of Japan brimming with timeless traditions and breathtaking natural wonders. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the grand outdoors and participate in traditions and culture that have been preserved and lovingly passed down the generations.
Agent Resources – Webinar
To learn more about Gifu Prefecture, please enjoy this 19-minute webinar highlighting just some of the regions destination highlights, experiences and features that showcase why a visit to Gifu Prefecture should be factored into your post-COVID travel plans to Japan.
Takayama is often regarded as one of the most traditional cities in all of Japan. The Takayama Historic District retains most of its original buildings and traditional architecture to this day. The three streets, collectively known as Sanmachi-dori Streets, house the charming and historic centre of old Takayama. Distinguishable by the distinctive, old architecture and shops, the district is home to crafts and sake breweries, as well as food stalls selling local specialties such as mitarashi dango and Hida beef skewers. Other popular places to visit in Takayama include the Takayama Jinya (Historical Government House), the Takayama Morning Market, and the Higashiyama Temple District.
Gifu’s tradition and outdoor beauty combine in the fairy tale like settlement of Shirakawa-go. This UNESCO Heritage listed site, part of Shirakawa Village, is known for its gassho-zukuri style houses, with roofs that are designed to resemble hands that are clasped in prayer. Wander among the rice paddies and beautiful residences, many of which are still lived in today.
Old Nakasendo Road
The South-East corner of Gifu is steeped in history and is home to a large portion of the road that connected Tokyo with Kyoto in the Edo Period. You can wander the old streets of towns lined with traditional Japanese houses and take in the scenery as the road winds through forests and gorges. Tours are available to explore the road by foot and by cycle whilst learning about the area’s medieval history, and are available in either day trip format, or multi-day hiking or cycling experiences.
Gero Hot Spring, considered one of the three most famous hot springs in all of Japan is particularly famous for the incredibly smooth quality of the water found here. Foot baths scattered throughout the town make taking a stroll a pleasure, as you can soak in the hot spring water virtually anytime and anywhere.
Just outside of Gero City is Hida Osaka Falls, a ‘Forest of Water’ that sits at the foot of a live volcano, Mt. Ontake. The oasis is known as the town with the most waterfalls in Japan. Home to 216 waterfalls stretching over 5 metres tall, as well as 14 hiking trails, where visitors can book a selection of tours and guided walks to experience it first-hand.
Okuhida Hot Spring Villages
Located approximately 60 minutes by bus from Takayama – deep in the Northern Japan Alps – are the Okuhida Hot Spring Villages which boast the most open-air hot spring baths of any one area in all of Japan. There are five hot spring villages in total: Hirayu, Fukuji, Shinhirayu, Tochio, and Shinhotaka. Among them, Shinhotaka Hot Spring is particularly popular because of its outdoor hot spring baths located right beside a running river. And whilst some baths are closed in the winter, the region is known for hosting spectacular winter events in each hot spring village featuring Kamakura snow hut festivals, folk performances, and ice illuminations turning the region into a winter wonderland each year.
Reaching 3,026 metres above sea level, Mt. Norikura is located on the Southern edge of the Japanese Alps and is home to the highest road in Japan – the Norikura Skyline. With access by bus (operating mid-May until end October), take the journey to the clouds before trekking 1.5 hours from the end of the Norikura Skyline to Tatamidaira, to the highest peak of Kengamine.
The mystical forests of Goshikigahara
3,000 hectares of forest sprawl across the southern end of Chūbu Sangaku National Park, known as the mystical forests of Goshikigahara. This oasis of calm is unspoiled by human activity, providing explorers with an abundance of wildlife, flowing mountain streams and waterfalls to enjoy. Three walking courses serve up 8-hour hikes, including the Kamoshika (antelope) course that connects seven waterfalls, the Shirabiso (silver fir tree) course that meanders a landscape of water and mossy rocks, and the Gosuwara (lava plateau) course that traverses the primeval forest.
Culture and Tradition Highlights
For 800 years, bladesmiths in the city of Seki have been creating swords, knives and cutlery, a craft and livelihood which has been passed down some families for 25 generations. Sword making is highly regulated and only 10 bladesmiths in Gifu are licensed to create ‘katana’ samurai swords. Visitors can gain an insight into the tradition and life of a bladesmith at Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum or Cutler Sansyu and the Seki Hamono Museum.
Eastern Gifu is home to many Ji-Kabuki theatres for visitors to feel immersed in a cultural institution that has transcended centuries – a grassroots theatre performed by amateur local actors in countryside regions. The performance is characterised by brightly dressed and white face painted performers, with an interactive actor and audience engagement where donations are thrown on stage to encourage the actors. At the Aioi-za Theatre, you can become a ji-kabuki actor yourself, applying the makeup, trying on the outfits, and acting out short scenes on the big stage.
An ancient summer fishing tradition locally named ‘Ukai’, in which fishing masters take out torchlit boats at night with Cormorant birds which are used to catch sweetfish. This method of fishing has existed in Gifu for more than 1,300 years and today this tradition can be seen taking place nightly on the Nagara River (from Gifu City and Seki City locations) between mid-May and mid-October with English guided tours available. On a trip to Japan, Charlie Chaplin came to watch Ukai and loved it so much that he returned to see the tradition again.
Download the complete Gifu travel guide: https://visitgifu.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/072e211f-gifu_thecompletetravelguideweb.pdf
View recommended Gifu travel itineraries: https://visitgifu.com/plan-your-trip/
View and share the “Gifu on Film” series videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrrWcgUNXEoYka-Gu7Kt8IA
Social Media Resources
Sign up for regular updates from Gifu Prefecture and other Linkd Tourism accounts: Click here to subscribe