Within reach of all the major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya, Gifu Prefecture is a great location to visit for more than just the unlimited hot springs. The mountainous landscape is very tranquil, and a number of old Japanese houses lined the stone streets. Locals are proud to maintain Japanese customs and crafts here, and they say that Gifu is a distinct destination for those seeking the ultimate “Japanese” experience.
The Places to Go
Gero Onsen – The divine bubbling hot springs are Gifu’s prime feature. There are over 50 resorts and spas around these crazy popular onsen and through the interconnected towns that you can even purchase a special ticket called the Yumeguri Tegata, which gives you access to all the onsen at discounted rates.
Ryujin Fire Matsuri – Happens at the beginning of August and lasts for 3 days in Gero. On the last day, there’s a bunch of fireworks that light up the starry skies.
Mori Hachiman Jinja – This is a holy shrine you can’t miss, simply because it is surrounded by several different types of hot springs. The grounds are big and set amidst a mystical-looking copse of trees. 10 primitive statues of Shinto deities dating back to the 11th century are held at Mori Hachiman.
Hanagasa Shinto Ritual – Happens on February 14th. A Heian-styled Matsuri were people wear straw hats with colored paper and dance.
Shohoji Daibutsu at Shohoji Temple – When going to see one of the greatest Daibutsu in Japan, you will also see the temple and experience a nice walk around the picturesque temple grounds. The Shohoji Daibutsu rivals those seen at Kamakura and Todai-ji; however, this one has some Gifu characteristics the others don’t, like carefully structured wood, dry lacquer and washi paper.
The admission fee for adults is 200 yen.
Address: Gifu-shi, Daibutsu-cho 8
Gifu Park – Though this is a public park and you might assume it’s just another boring collection of trees, you will be surprised with how much you can find at Gifu Park. Of course, the cherry trees and gardens come standard, but there’s so much more! Since it’s at the base of Mt. Kinka, you can access the Mt. Kinka Ropeway, Gifu Castle, the Gifu City Museum of History, the Nawa Insect Museum and the Eizo and Toichi Kato Memorial Art Museum.
In 2001, Oda Nobunaga’s former residence named Senjo-jiki (one-thousand tatami mats) was excavated and open to the public.
From July to August, you can also see the incredible Gifu Park Illumination Event. Then in October to November, the park hosts the beautiful Chrysanthemum Doll and Flower Festival.
Shirakawa-go – Dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, these preserved ancient village is something special. Words can’t describe the beauty of seeing them lit up in winter with their thatched roofs peeking out from the drifts of snow. You can certainly visit throughout the year and even stay in a few of these gassho-zukuri houses. But no matter when you go, it’s a unique and historical experience.
One of the houses to see is the Gassho-zukuri Minkaen. Several houses and farm buildings from Ogimachi have been relocated here to save them from destruction.
Make it more incredible by going to the top of the Shiroyama Viewpoint. To access this observation deck, you will need to go up a short walking trail after taking a quick bus ride from the village’s tourist information center.
Address: Gifu, Ono-gun, Shirakawa Oaza-Ogimachi 2495-3
Sekigahara Town History and Folklore Museum – One of the most pivotal and famous battles in Japanese history is on display here. But that’s not all. There’s artefacts dating back to the Paleolithic and Jomon periods. You can also find adornments from famous samurai shogun like Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ichida Mitsunari. All of the displays and commentary have English translations available.
Address: 503-1522 Gifu, Fuwa-gun, Sekigahara-cho Oaza Sekigahara 894-28
An 8 minute walk from the JR Sekigahara Station.
Phone: (+81) 0584-43-2665
Takayama Historic District – You don’t want to go to Takayama in Gifu merely for the castle, because then you’d be missing these three famous streets that used to bustle with warriors and merchants. You will know you’ve entered the “Sanmachi-dori” district due to the architecture of the shops that has remained preserved. You will find rickshaws, cherry blossoms, traditional sarubobo amulets and the super delicious Mitarashi dango—skewered rice balls slathered in soy sauce and sugar. Sake breweries can also be found everywhere.
Address: Gifu, Takayama-shi, Kamiichino-machi
12 minute walk from the JR Takayama Station
Places to Eat in Gifu
Whatever brought you to Gifu, you won’t be starved. Staying at a ryokan at the onsen generally guarantees decent meals, but if you’re looking for something more, you won’t have to search long to find delicacies, like Hida beef, Ayu Sweetfish, and Mitake Hana-zushi. Here’s a list of some of the best places to eat:
Kitchen Hida – If you want the best wagyu steak, you want to go to the best joint in Hida. Kitchen Hida is renowned for its red meat specialty and timelessly masterful cooking techniques. You can get Hida beef sushi, try fine cuts for shabu-shabu grilling or simply cut your knife through a buttery filet. If you like meat, you’ll love this place.
Address: Gifu, Takayama-shi, Hon-machi 1-66
Mitake-juku Waiwai Event Hall – While this isn’t necessarily a restaurant, you get to eat what you make, and when it’s special sushi from Mitake-cho, it’s definitely a must. Hana-zushi (flower sushi) is a classic from this area in Gifu. The flowers are picked from local areas, like roses from Kani or peonies from the Nakasendo Highway. Every Tuesday, you can attend a hana-zushi experience at the Waiwai Event Hall, where you get to try your hand at both making and eating these beautiful culinary treats.
Address: 502-0192 Gifu, Kani-gun, Mitake-cho, Mitake 1239-1
11:00 am Hana-zushi goes on sale.
1:30 pm The Hana-zushi workshop begins. Reservation is required.
Japanese Restaurant Kairantei – Located at the luxurious Miyako Hotel in Gifu, moments away from the park, this restaurant boasts classic Japanese cuisine that is not just sushi. If you want to sample everything delicious that Gifu has to offer, Kairantei is the best place to go. There’s even a kid-friendly menu. Sushi, tofu, wagyu, tempura—whatever you want, Kairantei has it.
Address: 502-0817 Gifu Prefecture, Gifu, Nagara Fukumitsu 2695-2 Gifu Miyako Hotel