One Gifu, Unlimited Experiences

From the mountainous surrounds of Okuhida to the historic streetscapes of Gujo Hachiman and Takayama and lively cities like Gifu, each part of Gifu prefecture offers something different—something special. Here are eight great areas to explore.

Gifu

North

Okuhida

Okuhida

Located in Japan’s Northern Alps, Gifu’s Okuhida area is a gateway to the mountains. In summer, the cool air and breathtaking scenery makes the Northern Alps a hiker’s paradise, while in winter the area offers activities such as skiing and snowshoeing. Year-round, you can take in stunning panoramic views of the mountains from Okuhida’s Shinhotaka Ropeway.

Nestled among this collection of 2,000- and 3,000-meter peaks, Okuhida’s rustic villages are home to traditional ryokan inns, where travelers can stay in tatami mat rooms, enjoy regional cuisine like the local Hida wagyu beef, and soak in soothing hot-spring baths. With the hot-spring villages here having the most outdoor hot-spring baths in all of Japan, bath time frequently comes with stunning mountain views. As well as being just an hour by bus from central Takayama, Okuhida can also be accessed by bus from neighboring Nagano and Toyama prefectures—it’s a one-hour ride from Matsumoto city and two hours from Toyama city. A rental car is another great way to get around this part of Gifu.

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Gero

Gero

Gero is considered to be one of Japan’s three most famous onsen (hot-spring) towns, known for its soothing, mineral-rich water and pristine natural setting.

Located on the Hida River, surrounded by mountains, hot-spring bathing has been documented in Gero for more than 1,000 years. For generations, the clear alkaline water has had a reputation for leaving skin feeling smooth and sleek, a beautifying effect you can experience for yourself at Gero’s collection of open-air public baths for communal bathing. If you are shy about bathing with others, don’t worry; Gero also has several relaxing footbaths dotted around town and lodging facilities normally provide the opportunity to use private baths.

For travelers who want to immerse themselves deep in Gifu culture, Gero is home to dozens of traditional-style hotels with their own mix of indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths. These inns also feature tatami mat guest rooms and multi-dish meals centered on regional cuisine. Gero is also easy to access by train, being 50 minutes from Takayama or 90 minutes from Nagoya.

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Takayama

Takayama

Gifu’s Takayama city is steeped in history. You can see it in neighborhoods lined with old wooden buildings and feel it in Takayama’s 300-year-plus spring and autumn festivals, especially when towering floats are paraded through the old quarter. You can taste Takayama’s history, too, with local sake brewing that has been honed over centuries—tipples that pair perfectly with regional cuisine like Hida wagyu beef.

For travelers who want to take their time in Takayama, the city has a wide range of accommodation options, from mid- to high-range ryokan inns featuring tatami mat guestrooms to budget-friendly minshuku bed and breakfasts. There is also a variety of Western-style accommodations. Takayama can be reached from within Gifu prefecture by JR trains from Gifu Station (2 hours) and Gero (50 mins). It is also connected to Kanazawa and Tokyo via Toyama on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. As a side trip or for an extra night, only 15 minutes by train from JR Takayama Station is Hida Furukawa, which offers its own distinct old quarter and is surrounded by the rural beauty of mountains and sprawling rice paddies.

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Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go

The UNESCO World Heritage-designated village of Shirakawa-go is one of Gifu’s and Japan’s most iconic sights. The steeply thatched roofs of the village’s farmhouses here are especially beautiful when Shirakawa-go is under several meters of snow in winter and the rice paddies are a fresh green in summer.

For a very special experience that will immerse you in Japan’s past, some of Shirakawa-go’s thatched farmhouses provide rustic accommodation for small numbers of guests that features sunken hearths, aged wooden beams and tatami mat rooms. Travelers can also stay in traditional ryokan inns or western-style lodgings.

Located in Gifu’s mountainous northwest, Shirakawa-go is 50 minutes by bus from Takayama city. Travelers can also take buses from Kanazawa (85 mins) and Nagoya (3 hours), both of which can be accessed by the bullet train (shinkansen) from Tokyo.

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Central

Gifu City

Gifu City

From its mountaintop perch, Gifu Castle gazes down over Gifu’s eponymously named largest city. The castle was a base for warlord Nobunaga Oda in the 16th century, and although it’s now a reconstruction, the views are still expansive.

Down below, you see the pristine Nagara River, where every evening from mid-May to mid-October ukai fisherman keep alive a 1,300-year-old tradition of catching ayu sweetfish with cormorants. Nearby is the Kawaramachi district and its collection of historic wood-latticed buildings that today house a range of cafes and stores. Contrasting that, other parts of Gifu city are modern, packed with things to do and places to stay—from Western-style hotels to traditional ryokan inns.

Gifu Station is only 20 minutes from Nagoya by train. Nagoya can be easily reached on the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo (1 hour, 40 mins) and Osaka (50 mins).

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Gujo, Seki and Mino

Gujo, Seki and Mino

Flowing from the Hakusan Mountain Range south through Gifu, the clear water of the Nagara River has helped shape the traditions and culture of numerous historic towns. It provides ayu sweetfish in summer and plays a key role in Mino’s 1,300-year tradition of washi (Japanese paper) making and Seki’s 700-year tradition of sword and knife making.

In Gujo Hachiman, the water runs around town through a 400-year-old system of channels, providing a gentle watery soundtrack. The old streets here are also the setting for Gifu’s Gujo Odori, a dance festival that began in the 1600s and now takes place across 33 nights every summer.

Travelers staying in Gujo, Seki and Mino have the option of traditional ryokan inns, family-run minshuku bed and breakfasts and Western-style accommodation. All three towns can be accessed with the Nagaragawa Railway and by bus services from around the region.

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Southeast

Southeast

Southeast Gifu

Eastern Gifu is rich in tradition. The Nakasendo, a crucial trade and communication route that connected eastern (Tokyo) and western (Kyoto) Japan in the 17th to 19th centuries, passed through numerous post towns here. At Magome-juku, one of the best preserved of these, you really can feel like you are stepping back in time.

Spread across the cities of Tajimi, Toki and Mizunami, the area is also home to Mino ware ceramics. A craft with roots that reach back 1,300 years, Mino ware now comes in a variety of styles—carefully handcrafted and mass produced—and is the most produced of all Japanese ceramics.

Accommodation-wise, Magome-juku and other places along Nakasendo offer chances to stay in carefully preserved lodgings and traditional homes, while the rest of the region has something for everyone—from modern hotels to ryokan inns. The whole area is easily accessed through Nagoya, by JR train lines and bus routes.

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Southwest

Southwest

Southwest Gifu

Gifu was traditionally seen as the intersection of eastern and western Japan, making towns like Sekigahara strategically important for anyone wanting to hold power in Japan. The former post station of Sekigahara-juku, on the vital Nakasendo trade route, was considered to be the halfway point between the now-preserved town of Magome-juku and Kyoto.

As well as experiencing the Nakasendo, visitors here can learn about one of Japan’s most famous and influential battles—the Battle of Sekigahara. In 1600, warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated his western rivals here, paving the way for 265 years of peaceful Tokugawa rule. Today, parts of the battlefield are preserved and a new museum documents how events unfolded.

For more tradition, in mid-May the western part of Gifu is also home to the Ogaki Festival, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage that for more than 350 years has seen large floats paraded in the shadow of Ogaki Castle. By train, Sekigahara and Ogaki are roughly an hour from Kyoto and Osaka and 45 minutes from Nagoya.

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