Scenic Gifu Prefecture is located in the center of Japan, on the nation’s main island of Honshu. It is known for its picturesque historic villages, stunning mountainous terrain, relaxing hot spring baths, fertile plains, and traditional practices.
Shirakawago and Gokayama have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site for their dedication to preserving the distinct Gassho-style architecture. The Gassho-zukuri village is composed of traditional farmhouses (some that are over 250 years old) with thatched roofs, designed to withstand snow in the winter and stay cool in the summer.
Another town that history buffs must visit is Gujo Hachiman, which is renowned for its clear, crisp drinking water and as Japan’s major producer of plastic food replicas. Stunning waterways cross the town, with charming cobblestone streets at every turn, and Hachiman Castle towers over it all, housing a museum of samurai era artifacts.
Those who love the idea of relaxing in the onsen hot springs against a scenic mountainous backdrop should come to Okuhida. The Okuhida Hot Springs provide a variety of bath styles, from rotemburo (open air baths) to public bath houses.
Wondering what to eat in Gifu? Kei-chan chicken is a local dish made of chicken that’s marinated in an aromatic mixture of garlic, miso, and soy sauce, and stir-fried with vegetables like cabbage. It’s usually enjoyed during the summer Obon Festival season and Japanese New Year holiday. For something more luxurious, try Hida beef, a well-marbled brand of kuroge wagyu raised in Gifu Prefecture, and a rival of Matsusaka and Kobe beef.
But the food culture that Gifu is proudest of is their tradition of cormorant fishing, which has been practiced along the Nagara River for over 1300 years. The part of the river that runs through Gujo is particularly conducive to fishing high-quality ayu sweetfish, which are sold to Michelin-starred restaurants. While ayu can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, the simplest preparations are often the tastiest, and the fish is often grilled over an open fire and seasoned with just salt. Gifu also has a sweet treat that’s similar to taiyaki (a sea-bream shaped cake filled with red bean), except that it is made in the shape of ayu and filled with mochi. It’s a perfect dessert following a meal of the local sweetfish delicacy.
Hida beef, winner of the “Wagyu Olympics” in 2002, originates from Gifu. For seafood lovers, ayu (sweetfish) is popular for its flavor, as it can be prepared in different ways.
Gifu Castle offers a beautiful view of the city, which can be reached by various hiking trails or a ropeway. Kiso Sansen National Government Park features pretty winter illuminations, blooming gardens from spring to autumn, and a relaxing ambiance.
There are many spots to see Gifu cherry blossoms, such as Usuzumi Park, Shinsakai Riverside, and Kamagatani Park. Kamagatani in particular has around 300 trees of different varieties.
Gifu is known for its long history and beautiful nature. Different onsen (hot springs) such as Shirakawago no Yu, a registered World Heritage Site, and Okuhida Onsen Village are both notable for their unique characteristics.
Omamori (Japanese amulets) can be found all over Japan, but Gifu offers Sarubobo, a specific charm only found in Takayama. It is a cute doll known to ward off bad luck.