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A perfect pitstop

Scenic Gifu prefecture is a rewarding stopping point on the way from Kanto to Kansai.

Known for its thatched-roofed mountain villages, charming merchant towns, and centuries-old traditions, Gifu prefecture is a perfect cultural pitstop on your way between Kanto and Kansai. In summer, traditional cormorant fishing takes place from lantern-lit boats along the Nagara River, while in the winter the old farmhouses of Shirakawa-go look like a Christmassy gingerbread village. Hot spring resorts run along the base of the Japan Alps where there’s hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter; plus a number of entertaining festivals throughout the year.


Shirakawa-go Gifu Prefecture, Japan

The village of Shirakawa-go looks pretty enough to eat.

Gifu City is the unassuming prefectural capital but it makes a good starting point for exploring the region in a loop. From May 11 through Oct. 15, you can witness nighttime ukai or cormorant fishing on the Nagara River. Experience the 1,300-year-old tradition from a wooden boat, as fishermen skillfully guide the cormorant birds to catch fish beneath the water, by the light of roaring fire lanterns.

Northwest of Takayama is the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama (in Toyama prefecture). Nestled in a verdant valley, these collections of old farmhouses are known as gassho-zukuri for their thatched-roofs which look like two hands in prayer. Stay overnight in one of the houses to imagine what Edo mountain life might have been like.

From Shirakawa-go, head east to the Shinhotaka ropeway, one of the longest in Asia. Double-decker gondolas take you to the top of Mount Hotaka (also known as Hotakadake) which offers incredible panoramic views as the “Leader of the Northern Alps”. It’s a popular trip during autumn when you can stay to watch the sunset over the mountains.


Furukawa Gifu

Stroll the picturesque streets of Furukawa.

From Gifu you can make the day trip to Furukawa. The nicely-preserved merchant town features a carp-filled central canal. Travel north to reach the historic castle town of Gujo-Hachiman.

The town is known as a production center for the deceptively lifelike plastic foods you see outside of Japanese restaurants. View the models and even have a go at making one yourself. If you’re there in August and have a lot of stamina, join in the Gujo-Odori, a 32-day dance festival. The event ends with four days of all-night dancing.

Head further up to reach popular Takayama, a picturesque mountain village with a lovely old town lined with sake (rice wine) breweries. Nearby, the Hida Folk Village is an open-air museum of traditional Edo houses preserved from across the Hida region. Pick up a sarubobo baby monkey charm for luck.

Plan your trip to Gifu with the links below!

Places to visit

Sekigahara Museum

Sekigahara Battlefield Museum

Relive one of the most important moments in Japan’s history

Site of reversible destiny art park in Gifu, Japan

The Site of Reversible Destiny

Get lost and found in Gifu’s massive, mind-bending playground.

Fake Food replicas in Japan

Plastic Food Replica Shops in Gujo Hachiman

The birthplace of Japanese plastic food.

Yokokura temple

The Mummy of Yokokura Temple

The mummified remains of an 18th-century monk resides in this peaceful rural temple.

Gifu City

Home to Japan’s most ancient fishing tradition and a historic castle with sweeping sights of surrounding mountains and greenery, this city could be central Japan’s best kept secret.  

Edible Wasp Festival

Discover how locals hunt and cultivate wasps as a hobby and even eat them as a treat. Whoever raises the most wasps is the champion! Stick around to see who wins.

Gujo Hachiman

Local vibes of Ayu sweetfish and all-night dancing.

Traditional street in Takayama, Gifu prefecture


Get ready for your pants to be charmed right off at this picturesque mountain town.

Traditional and Historical Japanese village Shirakawago in autumn season

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Leave modern technology and worries behind, and rediscover a simpler way of life buried in the mountains.

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Maruyama rice terraces at sunset, Mie prefecture


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