Gujo Hachiman ~ A little taste of Kyoto in Gifu
Gujo Hachiman is a riverside town in Gifu Prefecture set amongst the beautiful mountains and Nagara River. It is famous for its pure, natural water and summer obon dance called the Gujo Odori, which has been held for over 400 years. The town was first founded in the middle of the 16th century by Endo Morikazu, a feudal lord who brought the Gujo district under his control. He built a castle on top of Mt Hachiman and the rivers running through the town acted as natural moats to protect the castle town. Today Gujo Hachiman keeps it links to the pristine water which are a symbol of the town and have been designated “the most excellent natural water in Japan”. You can experience the waterways by walking through the town and visiting the many canals and springs that are still in use today. The waterways are used for everyday life including washing rice, vegetables and clothing. The town can easily be explored on foot and most of the main sights are within close distance of each other.
The Must See Places in Gujo Hachiman
Sogisui Spring is a famous spring near the center of the town and is a symbol of Gujo Hachiman. At the spring, pools of water are divided into four different sections. Each section has a distinct purpose. The first section is for drinking, the second for washing rice, the third for washing vegetables, and the fourth for cleaning tools.
There are many small canals lining the roads through-out Gujo Hachiman. The canals represent the strong bond that exists between the town and its clear water. They were originally constructed for fire-prevention purposes, but today are used by the locals in their daily lives. Igawa Lane is one such area, where a 200 meter lane runs along a small water canal in downtown Gujo Hachiman. Here you can see Japanese koi (carp) swim against the current and you can enjoy feeding them along the way.
Jionzenji Temple is a Zen temple founded in the 16th century by feudal lord, Endo Yoshitaka. Jionzenji Temple is famous for its Zen Garden which can be seen from the temple’s main hall. You can sit on the tatami in the hall and view this peaceful and serene garden, which is beautiful throughout the four distinct seasons in Japan. The garden features a pond, waterfall and maple trees. The beauty of the garden and Gujo Hachiman has earned it the nickname of “Little Kyoto”.
Gujo Hachiman Castle
Gujo Hachiman Castle was first built on Mt Hachiman in 1559, when Endo Morikazu ruled the Gujo district. The stone walls were built during the civil war period and the present castle was rebuilt in 1933. The castle is a decent reconstruction as it was re-built with wood rather than concrete as seen in most modern reconstructions. It is one of the oldest wooden reconstructed castles in all of Japan. This year the castle celebrates its 80th anniversary. The views from the top of Mt Hachiman are spectacular and you can see the surrounding mountains and valleys as well as the town. The maple trees surrounding the castle are stunning in Autumn.
Gujo Hachiman is the manufacturing heartland for the plastic food samples that are so common in Japan. Many of the food samples used by Japanese restaurants in their windows are produced here. You can view the samples at several places and even have a go yourself at making them in some of the workshops. There are four workshops including Sample Village Iwasaki and Sample Kobo.
Must Try Food in GujoHachiman
• Kei-chan a local speciality where chicken is marinated in a sauce consisting of miso, soy sauce and garlic and then stir-fried with cabbage and onions
• Ayu (sweetfish) are found in the pristine waters of Gujo Hachiman and are some of the best in Japan. They are grilled with salt on a skewer and can be found through-out the town
• Gujo Hachiman Miso Soft Cream is excellent and has a savoury taste just like caramel
Gujo Hachiman Souvenirs
When in Gujo Hachiman you must pick up one of the famous realistic food samples. You can purchase them as key-rings, phone straps or magnets.
Gujo Odori Dance
Bon-Odori is a traditional Japanese dance held during the summer Obon period. Gujo Odori is considered to be one of Japan’s Three Great Bon-Odori Dance Festivals. It is held over a period of 31 nights from mid-July until the first week of September. The peak is four nights in the middle of August, where the locals dance through the night.
How to Get There
You can take the Shinkansen bullet train to Nagoya and from there either a bus or train to Gujo Hachiman. A bus from Nagoya Meitetsu Bus Centre is the easiest way to reach Gujo Hachiman. The journey takes about 2 hours. You can also take a train from Nagoya JR Station. Get on the Takayama line to Mino Ota and then transfer to the Nagaragawa Railway to Gujo Hachiman. The whole journey from Nagoya takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Best Time to Go
The summer for the famous Gujo Odori which is held from mid-July to early September, or Autumn for the spectacular Fall colours and Momiji Festival and illumination in early to mid-November.