6 Must-See Places in Gifu, Japan

Updated on March 9, 2018
David Balway profile image

David has been living in Japan for close to ten years. He loves reading, history, music, sports, and movies. He lives with his wife and son.

Are you into Japanese nature or history? Then look no further. Gifu is a place full of scenic and historical spots that allow you to experience Japan at its finest. Although Gifu Prefecture is right at the center of Japan, it is not as popular as major tourist hubs like Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto. Even the bustling city of Nagoya, which is just a stone’s throw away, doesn’t get as much attention as its neighbors. But if you have visited Japan multiple times and are looking for something different, or maybe you are into rural Japan, then Gifu is for you. Due to its location, Gifu is bustling with historical places and areas that are a must-see for anyone who visits Japan. Here are six places you wouldn't want to miss.

1. Shirakawa Village

Tucked away deep in the mountains of Gifu, Shirakawa village is without a doubt a must-see if you want to experience traditional Japan at its finest. This World Heritage Site is located at the Northern part of Gifu where you can see unique triangle shaped (gassho) houses that were designed to withstand heavy snowfalls. Some of these houses are now open to tourists and you can experience staying at one of them. For hundreds of years, the village had little to no contact with the surrounding areas due to its isolated location. Therefore, the tranquility and beauty of its surroundings have been preserved.

Night time view of Shirakawa Village
Night time view of Shirakawa Village | Source

2. Gero

Your trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without soaking in their world famous hot springs (onsen) and Gifu arguably has the best onsen that the country has to offer. Popular since the Edo period, Gero’s onsen has maintained its quality and numerous Japanese traditional inns (ryokan) and bath houses now dot the town. Visitors can wear a traditional yukata and walk around the old onsen town and try out the numerous public bath houses that are now available to tourists. This is one place you should definitely visit.

An outdoor onsen in Gero
An outdoor onsen in Gero | Source

3. Gifu Castle

In the history of Gifu, numerous battles have been fought on its grounds due to its central location in Japan. A saying was once said that “whoever controls Gifu, controls Japan” and central to this region was Gifu castle. This castle housed the famous Oda Nobunaga and is said to have been the spot where the famous warlord began his campaign to unite the country.

The castle sits atop Kinka mountain and you can access it by simply making a one-hour hike or by taking the ropeway, though I would recommend the former so you can take in the scenic view up close. From the observation deck, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the area, including the Nagara river and Ise bay. During summer, there is a limited time where the opening times are extended until night time where you can enjoy a night view of the city. There is also a squirrel village at the top for children to enjoy.

The castle is surrounded by trees on all sides
The castle is surrounded by trees on all sides | Source

4. Takayama Historic District

An old merchant town, Takayama is a trip back in time. The town is filled with historic shops and has preserved the “old town” feel where you can enjoy a traditional Japanese atmosphere while strolling through town. Many shops sell old-fashioned sweets, local cuisine, and traditional crafts. The architecture has also been preserved and is a hit with tourists who want to experience how castle towns used to operate in times past.

An old building in Takayama Old Town
An old building in Takayama Old Town | Source

5. Shinhotaka Ropeway

Take a trip above the clouds with this double-decker cable car. It will take you 2,156m above sea level and you will be greeted at the observation deck by a spectacular panoramic view of the Northern Japan Alps. From the snowy peaks to the mesmerizing red leaves of autumn, no matter the season, you are treated to an incredible view. This is a must for nature lovers.

View from the rope way during winter
View from the rope way during winter | Source

6. Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum

Historically known as one of the major sword making centers in Japan, Seki is now a world famous and highly regarded blade-producing area. And in the heart of this city is the Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum where it exhibits the history and tradition of its craft that goes back 700 years. On certain days, you can witness a traditional Japanese sword forging up close and personal. A word of caution though, the demonstration is not held on a regular basis so if you plan to visit, it’s wise to check the schedule first. That said, if you happen to watch the live demonstration, it is a sight to behold.

The entrance to the museum
The entrance to the museum | Source

And there you have it. These six places are a great way to experience Japan, though of course, Gifu has a lot more to offer. It is pretty accessible from major cities because of its central location and should be a must-see destination for anyone visiting Japan.

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