One main gateway to Gifu is Nagoya's Central Japan International Airport, where many international lines pass through and which is easily accessible from Gifu. Alternatively, taking the Tokaido Shinkansen Bullet Train, which connects the major cities of Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo, is similarly convenient if coming from elsewhere in Japan (50 minutes from Osaka to Nagoya and 1 hour 40 minutes from Tokyo to Nagoya). From there, Gifu Station is around a 20-minute train ride from Nagoya Station, while Takayama Station is about 2 hours 20 minutes away. Additionally, Toyama Airport and Komatsu Airport are convenient entry points when making your way to Takayama and Shirakawa-go.
～UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go～
Located in an isolated mountainous region that is among the few in Japan to see extremely heavy snowfall, Shirakawa Village with its Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan.
Despite economic upheavals, the village is outstanding example of a traditional way of life perfectly adapted to the environment and people’s social and economic circumstances. People say that Shirakawa-go is a place right out of a fairy tale book, and this is true no matter the season.
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～The Old Quarter of Takayama～
Known by the name “Sanmachi” the old quarter of Takayama consists of three streets in the center of town that preserve much of the look and feel of the castle town as it was hundreds of years ago. Located within a 10 minutes’ walk of Takayama Station, the old quarter is easily accessible and has become one of the must-see destinations in Gifu Prefecture. Old merchants’ houses and sake breweries line both sides of the streets, lending the area a very traditionally “Japanese” atmosphere and architectural style.
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～Town of White-Walled Storehouses along the Seto River～
Furukawa is known as the other old, very traditional town in the Hida region in addition to Takayama. With the stone walls of temples and the great white-walled storehouses in the background, the Seto River is the main highlight of the area. The canals running off the river are home to over 1,000 brilliant carp of many colors, bringing them to life and offering a very different spectacle than Hida's other "Little Kyoto."
Surrounding the river is an old castle town that is very mellow and retains both the feeling and the appearance of old Japan.
～Gero Hot Spring～
Considered one of the three most famous hot springs in all of Japan, Gero Hot Spring is particularly famous for the incredibly smooth quality of the water, which in turn makes the skin of those who soak in it just as smooth! This “water of beauties” attracts people from all over the world, and once they experience the water of Gero, they find it difficult to settle for anything else.
Standing atop Mt. Kinka, Gifu Castle was the home base of one of Japan's great military commanders, Nobunaga Oda, and was said to be unassailable. The Japanese armor and swords exhibited in the castle are very impressive as well.
The castle is accessible from Gifu Park via the Mt. Kinka Ropeway. From the upper room of the keep, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city and beyond. Take your time to savor every bit of the landscape that the ancient rulers used to enjoy!
～Cormorant Fishing on the Nagara River～
Known as Ukai, Cormorant Fishing is an ancient fishing method that has been performed in Gifu for 1,300 years in which the fishing master uses cormorants to catch ayu sweetfish. With Gifu Castle looming in the background, in the dark of night the masters and the cormorants set about their work, guided by the flaming torchlights at the helms of their boats. Though short in duration, this ceremony transports you back in time with its subtle yet profound beauty.
～The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall～
Chiune Sugihara was a diplomat and a native of Gifu who affected the fates of thousands of Jewish refugees attempting to flee Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Torn between his bureaucratic duties and his empathy for the refugees, he ultimately chose to follow his conscience and issued scores of transit visas through Japan, defying his own government. His decision saved thousands of lives.
The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall in Yaotsu Town, built to commemorate his deed and pass it on to future generations, attracts increasing numbers of people from around the world.
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Yama, Hoko and Yatai Float Festivals in Gifu
～UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage～
The Yatai floats of the Takayama Festival, the Okoshi-daiko (wakening drum) of the Furukawa Festival and the Yama floats of the Ogaki Festival are gorgeous works of local culture and craftsmanship, and are on the representative list for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. These traditions have been safeguarded and passed down for centuries, and are the seasonal splendors of the regions.
Premium Hida Beef
Hida beef is a designation awarded to Japanese Black cattle of the highest quality that is bred in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture and that meets the strictest of standards. Recognized as Japan’s best beef multiple times, the name “Hida beef” is synonymous with succulent taste and exquisite, marbled texture. The soft, pink meat will melt in your mouth and can be enjoyed in many forms, from steak to shabu-shabu style, which involves dipping thin slices into hot water for a few seconds to cook them. When eating Hida beef, you can almost taste the time and labor that went into caring for the cattle, resulting in this meat that is among the most delicious foods in Gifu.
Ayu (or sweetfish) is a migratory fish that moves between rivers and the sea over the course of its one year life span. Gifu boasts the largest yield of ayu in the country and it is designated as the prefectural fish. Ayu has been a valuable source of protein and enhances the economy and culture along the basin of the Nagara River.
Gifu Prefecture is surrounded by mountains of the Northern Alps, Haku, Ibuki and Ena, and melted snow from these mountains form bountiful rivers including the rivers of Nagara, Hida, Kiso and Ibi. Riverbed water from these pristine rivers eventually turns into the well waters of each local sake brewery best suited for making flavorful Gifu sake.
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