Sanmachi Suji in Hida Takayama

Sanmachi Suji in Hida Takayama

Hida Takayama Sanmachi Street

Sanmachi Suji is a collection of three streets that make up Hida Takayama’s famous historic district. The area located in the center of Hida Takayama served as a bustling merchant town in the past. Today it is easily recognized with its distinctive old architecture and charm.

Hida Takayama is a beautiful part of Japan set amid the northern Alps in central Japan. The area itself is famous for its majestic natural scenery and hot springs. Sanmachi Suji is one of the best preserved Edo period districts in Japan. The natural beauty and charm of these streets, along with Hida Takayama’s many temples have earned the town the nickname “Little Kyoto”.

The narrow streets of Sanmachi Suji are lined with traditional merchant houses, shops selling traditional crafts, restaurants serving local specialties, and sake breweries, with many of the buildings over 400 years old. You can also find a good selection of small museums and galleries as well.

Hida Takayama Sanmachi Sake Brewery

The historic district has been designated an area of important traditional buildings by the Japanese government.

Walking along the beautiful old streets takes you back in time. This is a piece of history that you can actually feel and touch. You can enjoy exploring all the little craft shops, restaurants and sake breweries which use the original historic buildings.
The ambiance is magical when the sun starts to fade and the crowds thin.

The traditional sake breweries are easy to recognize with their sake barrels called sakadaru, outside the shop, or sugidama, special balls made of cedar branches which hang over the entrance.

Keep an eye out for the tall storehouses which house the famous festival floats used during the Spring and Autumn Takayama Festival.

Hida Takayama Official Website

Opening Hours

Sanmachi Suji is always open, but most of the shops will start closing between 4:30 and 5:00 pm.

Entry Fee

Admission is FREE

How to Get There

You can walk to Sanmachi Suji from JR Takayama Station in around 12 minutes.

Address: Kamiichino-machi, Takayama-shi, Gifu-ken

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Sanmachi Suji is first thing in the morning or late afternoon to beat the crowds of tourists.

Tip: Combine a visit to Sanmachi with a visit to the Hida Folk Village (Hida no Sato), an open air museum located just out of town.

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Takashima Castle

The Main Castle Keep at Takashima Castle

Takashima Castle in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture

Takashima Castle on the shores of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. The original castle was built in 1598 on a small island on Lake Suwa (Suwa-ko). The castle was known as “The Floating Castle of Suwa” as it appeared to be floating on top of the lake. It was considered an impregnable water fortress. The castle is famous for being the highest elevated flatland castle ever constructed in Japan.

Most of the original structures were torn down during the Meiji Restoration with the stone walls the only original part remaining. A large restoration process took place in 1970 with the castle keep, kabuki gate and sumi yagura (corner turret) all being fully restored. The area that was the main bailey (honmaru) has been turned into a beautiful public park.

An Overview of Takashima Castle

The main enclosures of the honmaru, ninomaru and sannomaru were arranged in a direct line, which was typical of hilltop castles of the era. The entire fortress was a water castle being surrounded by Lake Suwa and several rivers.

The Honmaru was the main bailey and contained the three-story castle keep. The daimyo (feudal lord) residence and administrative offices were also contained within the honmaru.

The Ninomaru or second bailey contained a residence for the chief retainer as well as staff workroom, rice storeroom, treasury and stables.

The Sannomaru or third bailey contained more residences and offices for staff members.

What to See at Takashima Castle

The Main Castle Keep ~ Donjon

The three-story castle keep (donjon) is located within the honmaru and is approximately 20 meters high. The modern structure is a concrete reconstruction that was built in 1970. I quite like its interesting light-brown colour which is very different from most other castles in Japan. The view from the top of the main keep is spectacular, and on a clear day you can see the iconic Mount Fuji.

Stone Walls and Main Castle Keep

The Kabuki-mon Gate

The Kabuki-mon Gate guarded the main entrance to the honmaru and is reached by crossing the main bridge over the moat. The gate is very beautiful in its simplicity and basically consists of two front vertical pillars with one horizontal cross beam.

The Kabuki-mon Gate at Takashima Castle

The Corner Turret ~ Sumi Yagura

The Corner Turret or Sumi Yagura is located at a strategic point of the castle’s defenses. The turret provided a wide field of view as well as being used as a storehouse for weapons, food and supplies.

The Sumi Yagura Corner Turret

The Kameishi Stone

The Kameishi Stone is located in the garden of Takashima Park. The stone has a legend attached to it that says if you put water on the stone your wish will come true. Apparently when you put water on the stone it has the appearance of a turtle (kame in Japanese). This turtle will grant your wish.

The Kameishi Stone

The Honmaru ~ Takashima Park

The area that was the former honmaru of the castle has been turned into a beautiful park. The park first opened to the public in 1876. It is a great spot to see the cherry blossoms in spring as well as the wisteria in May. The cherry blossoms usually reach full bloom in mid-April.

Takashima Park

History of Takashima Castle

Construction of Takashima Castle began in 1592 by Hineno Takayoshi, a samurai warrior, and member of the clan of Japan’s then ruling lord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Takayoshi was appointed the daimyo (feudal lord) of the Suwa Domain, which was also called the Takashima Domain. Takayoshi was an expert castle builder and within a year of his transfer to the area he had surveyed the land and completed his designs for a castle. Takashima Castle was completed in 1598 and served as the center of the Suwa Domain. At that time the waters of Lake Suwa reached the edges of the castle, making it seem like it was floating on top of the lake. For this reason, the castle was known as “The Floating Castle of Suwa”. The other sides of the castle were protected by several rivers which formed a natural moat and the castle was regarded as being an impregnable water citadel.

After the victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the Suwa Domain was returned to its former ruler the Suwa Clan and Suwa Yorimizu in 1601. The Suwa Clan ruled over the Suwa Domain and Takashima Castle for the next 270 years until the Meiji Restoration.

In 1871, a decision was made to dismantle the castle (a symbol of the old feudal system) by the Meiji Government. The castle keep was torn down in 1875 and the main bailey (honmaru) was turned into Takashima Park and opened to the public. In 1970 many parts of the castle were restored including the castle keep, the kabuki gate, and the corner turret (sumi-yagura). Some of the original stone walls remain.

The Bridge and Main Keep of Takashima Castle

Opening Hours

Takashima Castle is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (to 4:30 pm from Oct 1 to March 31)
Closed the 2nd Thursday in November and from December 26-31

Entry Fee

Admission to the castle is 300 yen for adults and 150 yen for children

How to Get There

Take the JR Chuo line to Kamisuwa Station. The castle is a short walk of about 10 minutes from the Suwa-ko Exit of the station.
Parking is also available if you come via car. The castle is approximately 15 minutes from the Suwa Exit on the Chuo Expressway.

Address: 1-20-1 Takashima, Suwa-shi, Nagano-ken 392-0022


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Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Takashima Castle is in spring for the beautiful cherry blossoms, which surround Takashima Park and the castle. Winter is also spectacular with the frozen moat.

Tip: Make sure you also visit nearby Matsumoto Castle, which is one of the few remaining original castles in Japan, and truly magnificent. .

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Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

The Musaibashi Bridge and Kannon-do at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Kokeizan Eihoji Temple located in Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture was established by the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The temple was founded in 1313 and contains two buildings that are listed as National Treasures. These are the Kannon-do and Kaisan-do. The temple grounds and gardens are breathtakingly beautiful and have been designated as a place of National Scenic Beauty. They include a stunning Zen garden with pond, bridge, and waterfall. Kokeizan Eihoji Temple in my opinion is a hidden gem, and can match the scenic beauty of famous temple complexes such as Ginkakuji Temple in Kyoto and Byodo-in in Uji.

The buildings within the Kokeizan Eihoji Temple complex are very interesting and combine both Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. Kokeizan Eihoji Temple is also ranked one of the best spots in Gifu Prefecture for momiji or autumn leave viewing.

What to See at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Eihoji Temple Hondo (Main Hall)

The first building you see upon entering the temple complex is the large Eihoji Temple Hondo (Main Hall). The original building was destroyed by fire during the Sengoku Period, but the current building is still beautiful, especially with the stone lanterns out front.

The Hondo Main Hall at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Kannon-do Hall

The Kannon-do is a National Treasure famed for its Zen architecture, and the building is where a statue of Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) is enshrined. It was built the year after Muso Kokushi visited Kokeizan in 1314. Muso Kokushi was a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, calligraphist, poet and garden designer, who was the most famous monk of his time. He is credited with creating the amazing Zen garden at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple as well as those in Koke-dera and Tenryuji Temple in Kyoto.

The Kannon-do at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Musaibashi Bridge

This Musaibashi or Endless Bridge is the main attraction at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple and it is very picturesque. Crossing the famous Musaibashi Bridge leads you to the Kannon-do. It is a magnificent looking arched bridge and the journey over it is very spiritual. It is said that crossing the bridge to the Kannon-do symbolizes travelling to a place of enlightenment. Once you have crossed over the bridge to the Kannon-do, you should not cross back over, but walk around it in order to exit.

A Close-up of the Musaibashi Bridge at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Kaisan-do Hall

The Kaisan-do of Kokeizan Eihoji Temple is a National Treasure and valuable Japanese cultural property. It houses the Kenpon Choshoku Senju Kannonzo, which is a National Cultural Asset designated silk fabric rendering of the Thousand Armed Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), as well as calligraphy by the founding priests of Kokeizan Eihoji Temple. It is believed that Ashikaga Takauji built this building in 1352 during the Muromachi Period. This style of building with Chinese influences was popular during the Muromachi Period of Japanese history. Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358) was the founder and first shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate. There is a statue of Muso Kokushi sitting at the rear of the Kaisan-do.

The Kaisan-do at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

The Famous Gingko Tree

Kokeizan Eihoji Temple has a large Gingko tree that is close to 700 years old. The tree is said to have been planted by the founder of the temple, Buttoku Zenji. The tree is 25.3 meters high with a 4.33 meter girth. It is a popular spot for photos during the autumn in Japan.

The Famous Gingko Tree at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Hojuin Temple

Located on top of a small hill, the Hojuin Temple immediately grabs you with its striking red coloured gate that is very impressive. It is a subsidiary temple of the main Kokeizan Eihoji Temple.

Hojuin Temple at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

The Temple Grounds and Gardens

The temple grounds and gardens were designed by Muso Soseki, also known as Muso Kokushi (National Zen Teacher), who was the most famous monk of his time. The grounds and Zen garden include the carp filled pond with the Musaibashi Bridge as well as a spectacular waterfall cascading over rocks. They have been designated as a place of National Scenic Beauty. The picturesque gardens are stunning all year round with beauty in spring with the cherry blossoms, early summer with the wisteria, autumn with the fall colours, and winter with white snow landscapes.

The Pond and Waterfall at Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

History of Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

The historic Zen temple was founded in 1313 during the period of Emperor Komyo. By the Emperor’s decree the temple played an important role of offering prayers for the safety and prosperity of the nation, as well as the Imperial Household. The temple was at its peak during the 14th and 15th centuries, and contained around 30 buildings at the time. Unfortunately, most of these were destroyed by fire during the Sengoku (Warring States) Period. The Kannon-do and Kaisan-do did survive intact and each has been designated as National Treasures.

The Kokeizan Eihoji Temple Complex

Opening Hours

Kokeizan Eihoji Temple is open from 5:00 am to 5:00 pm

Entry Fee

Admission to the Temple Complex is free
Free parking is also available near the temple

How to Get There

It is a 45 minute train ride from Nagoya on the Chuo Line to Tajimi Station. Take the Totetsu Bus from JR Tajimi Station (12 minute bus ride) and get off at the Kokeizan bus stop. It’s about a 7 minute walk from the bus stop to Kokeizan Eihoji Temple. If you come by car, free parking is available near the train line just before the temple.

Address: 1-40 Kokeizancho, Tajimi-shi, Gifu-ken 507-0014

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Best Time to Go

Kokeizan Eihoji Temple is especially beautiful during the autumn with the beautiful changing of the colours. It is also a popular spot for the cherry blossoms in spring.

Tip: The view of the temple complex from the top of the hill near the Hojuin Temple is breathtaking and definitely worth the short climb up to the top.

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Gujo Hachiman Castle

Gujo Hachiman Castle in Gifu Prefecture

Gujo Hachiman Castle in Gifu Prefecture

Gujo Hachiman Castle is a mountain castle located on top of Mount Hachiman in Gujo Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture. The original castle was built in 1559 by Endo Morikazu, but torn down during the Meiji Restoration in 1870. The current castle was reconstructed in 1933 and this year celebrates its 80th anniversary. The main keep and castle was modelled on that of nearby Ogaki Castle. The reconstruction was done with wood rather than concrete as seen in most modern day reconstructions. Gujo Hachiman Castle is in fact the oldest reconstructed wooden castle in Japan. The castle offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and the view from the top of the castle is breathtaking.

The location of the castle on top of Mount Hachiman was important as it offered protection and security. The rivers surrounding the town formed a natural moat for both the castle and castle town below.

View over Gujo Hachiman Castle

What to see at Gujo Hachiman Castle

The Main Keep

The main keep is very impressive and modelled on that of Ogaki Castle in Gifu Prefecture. The main keep has 4 levels and 5 stories.

The Main Keep at Gujo Hachiman Castle

The Original Stone Walls

The stone walls date from the Sengoku Period or Warring States Period (1478 – 1605). The style is called Nozura-zumi and dates from the late 16th century.

Stone Walls and Yagura at Gujo Hachiman Castle

Inside the Castle

The inside of the castle while not original has been done well and has an old look and feel to it. It contains a museum with lots of information about the castle and its history.

Inside Gujo Hachiman Castle

View of the Surrounding Area

The castle provides a lovely view of the castle town below and the surrounding mountains and valleys. The outline of the residential area below resembles a fish.

View from the top of the Main Keep at Gujo Hachiman Castle

Kazutoyo and Chiyo Statue

At the park below Mount Hachiman and Gujo Hachiman Castle is a bronze statue of Kazutoyo Yamanouchi and Chiyo. Chiyo (1556 – 1617) was a daughter of the first lord of Gujo domain Endo Morikazu. She married Kazutoyo and was known as the “wise wife”. She used her considerable abilities to further her husband’s career. Kazutoyo was a lower-class samurai who went on to have a brilliant career and become the first lord of Kochi Castle.

Kazutoyo and Chiyo Bronze Statue

History of Gujo Hachiman Castle

The original castle was first built in 1559, when Endo Morikazu, a feudal lord, brought the Gujo district under his control after the battle of Mt. Todo. He built the stone walls and foundations. The castle was incomplete when Morikazu died, leaving it to his son and heir Endo Yoshitaka. Yoshitaka became a retainer to the warlord Oda Nobunaga and went off to war, after which the control of the castle fell into the hands of Inaba Sadamichi. He was responsible for much of the renovation of the original castle. He built up the main castle keep and most of the supporting structures of the castle. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Yoshitaka returned to rule the castle. The Tokugawa Shogunate officially recognised Gujo Hachiman Castle as a castle when the sixth lord Endo Tsunetomo refurbished and expanded it in 1667. Tsunetomo was responsible for fortifying the castle town below. The Gujo-ikki (The Gujo Rebellion), the most notable and historical uprising in the Edo Period occurred here in 1754 under the Kanamori clan. After its conclusion the Aoyama clan was posted here as the lord of the Gujo district. The castle and supporting structures were torn down in 1870 like many others during the Meiji Restoration. The castle was rebuilt out of wood in 1933 and modelled after Ogaki Castle in Gifu Prefecture.

The Main Gate at Gujo Hachiman Castle

Opening Hours

Gujo Hachiman Castle is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
(June to August – 8:00 am to 6:00 pm)
(November to February – 9:00 am to 4:30 pm)
Note: The castle is closed between Dec 20th – Jan 10th

Entry Fee

Admission to the castle is 300 yen

How to Get There

The castle is accessible via car or on foot and it is only a short hike of around 15 minutes from the base to the top of Mount Hachiman. Parking is free. By train you can take the Nagaragawa line to Gujo Hachiman Station.

Address: 659 Ichinohira, Yanagi-machi, Hachiman, Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture

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Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Gujo Hachiman is during early to late November when the maple trees surrounding the castle at their peak. The colourful Autumn leaves contrast brilliantly against the white structure of the castle. There is also a night time illumination at this time where the trees and castle are lit from sunset until 9 pm, as well as a Momiji (Autumn Leaves) festival.

Autumn Leaves at Gujo Hachiman Castle

Tip: Make sure to check out the town below as Gujo Hachiman is often called “Little Kyoto”.

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Gujo Hachiman

Gujo Hachiman ~ A little taste of Kyoto in Gifu

Gujo Hachiman

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

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.

Sogisui Spring Gujo Hachiman

Igawa Lane

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.

Igawa Lane Gujo Hachiman

Jionzenji Temple

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”.

Jionzenji Temple Gujo Hachiman

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 Castle

Food Samples

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.

Sample Village Iwasaki Gujo Hachiman

Sample Kobo Gujo Hachiman

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

Ayu Sweetfish in Gujo Hachiman

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.

Food Sample at Gujo Hachiman

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.

Street in Gujo Hachiman

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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.

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Hida Takayama

Hida Takayama

Hida Takayama

Hida Takayama is a former castle town and one of Japan’s best preserved old towns. It is beautifully set amid the northern Japan Alps in Gifu Prefecture an area known as the roof of Japan. The Hida region of Gifu Prefecture is characterised by majestic natural scenery and hot springs. Takayama is often called “little Kyoto” and is just as beautiful and spectacular as its bigger brother.

Takayama is famous for its Edo period merchant houses, temples, traditional sake breweries and crafts. I would recommend a stay overnight in a ryokan (traditional style inn) and at least two full days to explore this amazing place. Takayama can be tackled on foot or bicycle and is very easy get around and navigate. Most of the main sights are located around the center of the town and are within easy walking distance from the station.

Takayama was established in the 16th century as a castle town, and has a unique culture that takes influences from both Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) along with its own unique customs and traditions. The Hida Takayama area has long been a center of carpentry and it is believed that carpenters from Hida Takayama worked on the famous palaces, gates and temples in Kyoto and Nara.

The Must See Places in Takayama

Sanmachi

Sanmachi is the old part of town and is lined with traditional shops, restaurants and museums. Many of the buildings and houses date from the Edo Period (1600-1868) and are beautifully preserved. There are several sake breweries here where you can sample the famous sake of the region.

Sanmachi Takayama

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Jinya was originally built in 1615 as the administration center for the Hida area. It contains the remains of several government offices from the Edo Period as well as the only remaining office building of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Takayama Jinya

Takayama Yatai Kaikan

The Takayama Yatai Kaikan houses some of the yatai (floats) which are used in the famous Takayama Matsuri. The floats are spectacular with elaborate carvings, metalwork and lacquerwork. Some of the floats date from the 17th century.

Takayama Yatai Kaikan

Takayama Morning Markets

Takayama is famous for its two morning markets selling all sorts of local farm vegetables, snacks, wood crafts and local souvenirs. The Jinya-mae Morning Market is in front of Takayama Jinya, while the Miya-gawa Morning Market, the larger of the two is in the old part of town. The markets are open all year round and from 6:00am to 12:00pm April – October and 7:00am to 12:00pm November to March.

Takayama Morning Market

Hida no Sato (Hida Folk Village)

Hida no Sato is an open air museum with more than 30 traditional houses from the Hida region of Japan. The houses have been dismantled at their original sites and rebuilt here. I would allow 2-3 hours to fully enjoy this place.

Hida no Sato Folk Village Takayama

Takayama Matsuri

Takayama Matsuri is one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. The first part of the festival called Sanno Matsuri, is held in spring on April 14-15. The second part called Hachiman Matsuri, is held in autumn on October 9-10. Gorgeous floats are a highlight of both events. The 12 floats for the spring festival and the 11 for the autumn festival are all carefully preserved with some dating from the 17th century.

Must Try Food in Takayama

• Hida-gyu a local beef is a must and is considered to be the best wagyu beef in Japan
• Hoba-miso is sweet miso paste mixed with vegetables and roasted on a magnolia leaf
• Takayama Ramen is thin ramen noodles in a miso stock

Takayama Ramen

Takayama Souvenirs

Popular Souvenirs include “sarubobo”, a red hooded baby monkey, which is considered to bring good luck, and the traditional wooden crafts which can be found around the town such as Hida Shunkei Lacquerware.

Sarubobo Ema Hida Takayama

How to Get There

You can easily get to Takayama from Nagoya on the JR Hida Limited Express. The journey takes around 140 minutes and costs 5870 yen (the trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass).

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Gero Onsen

View of the Beautiful Mountains Surrounding Gero Onsen

Gero Onsen

Gero Onsen located in Gifu Prefecture close to Hida Takayama is considered to be one of Japan’s three best onsen towns. The name “Gero” literally means “lower bath” and the town boasts some of the best hot spring resorts in Japan. As you can imagine the thing to do in Gero is soak in the hot springs, which are famous for keeping your skin moist and smooth. The hot spring water here is called “Bijin no Yu” (beauty enhancing hot spring water) and it is very good. There are three public bath houses and several ashiyu (foot spa) dotted around the town, which are free to use and enjoy. There is even a large rotenburo (open air bath) at the south end of Gero Bridge which is also free. You can sample a number of the hot springs at Gero Onsen buy purchasing the Yu-meguri Tegata pass, a wooden amulet sold in Gero for 1200 yen. This pass will allow you access to 3 hot springs of your choice from a selection of over 20.

Gero Onsen is a great place to spend the night before heading further north into Hida Takayama and the Japan Alps. There are many onsen resort hotels as well as ryokan (traditional Japanese style inns). The town is small and compact enough that it can be covered on foot and most of the main sights can be done in a day.

Hida River at Gero Onsen

Places of Interest

Ashiyu Foot Spa

Foot Spa are called Ashiyu in Japanese and there are several dotted around the town that you can soak your tired feet in after all the walking you do. These are free to use and each one is different. Some of our favourite include:

Venus Foot Spa

This European fountain style foot spa is located in front of the public bath house “Shirasagi no Yu”. It was extremely hot so we could only soak our feet for a short time.

Venus Foot Spa at Gero Onsen

Yuamiya’s Foot Spa

This foot spa is located outside the Ryokan Kaikan. There is a café which featured onsen tamago (egg) soft cream sundae.

Miyabi Foot Spa

This foot spa located in front of the Gero Royal Hotel is the newest in Gero. You can enjoy the wood trim, frog statues and surrounding view of the town.

Miyabi Foot Spa at Gero Onsen

Sarubobo Golden Foot Spa

This foot spa is located at the Sarubobo Seven Lucky Gods Shrine and features a golden boat filled with sarubobo dressed as the seven lucky gods.

Sarubobo Golden Foot Spa at Gero Onsen

Souvenir Shops

There are many souvenir shops around the town where you can try a local delicacy or pick up a souvenir of your visit. The most popular souvenir from Gero and the Hida region is a character called “sarubobo”, a red hooded baby monkey, which is considered to bring good luck.

Sarubobo Ema at Gero Onsen

Kaeru Jinja ~ Frog Shrine

You will notice a lot of references to frogs around Gero. This is because in Japanese “gero” is the sound a frog makes, so it is a playful connection to the town. Gero even celebrates this by having a cool shrine called Kaeru Jinja or Frog Shrine. The shrine is filled with all kinds of frogs as you can see in the pictures below.

Small Frog Manhole Cover at Gero Onsen

Kaeru Jinja Frog Shrine at Gero Onsen

Temizu at Kaeru Jinja Shrine at Gero Onsen

Ema at Kaeru Jinja Shrine in Gero Onsen

Gero Onsen Gassho Mura (Gassho Village)

Gero Onsen Gassho Mura is an open air museum of the traditional style gassho zukuri farmhouses, which are famous in the Hida and Shirakawago region of Gifu Prefecture. Gassho zukuri means hands in prayer, and these houses are built with step thatch roofs to withstand the heavy snow falls that happen during the winter. The roof resembles hands folded in prayer and hence the name. There are ten historic gassho style structures in the village which were moved here from the UNESCO World Heritage Shirakawago about 40 years ago.

Gassho Mura at Gero Onsen

How to Get There

You can easily get to Gero from Nagoya on the JR Hida Limited Express. The journey takes around 90 minutes and costs 4500 yen (the trip is covered by the Japan Rail Pass).

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Tejikara Fire Festival Gifu

Tejikara Fire Festival Floats

Tejikara Fire Festival Gifu

The Tejikara Fire Festival is an annual event held every second Sunday in August along the banks of the Nagara River in Gifu. Miniature shrines are carried by men wearing only loincloths underneath a curtain of fireworks falling from 20 meters above. The festival is also held on the second Saturday in April at the Tejikara Shrine and has a history of more than 300 years. It certainly is one of the more spectacular festivals in Japan with all the fire, sparks and gunpowder.

Some Aspects of the Tejikara Fire Festival

Festival Floats (Mikoshi)

The main event of the Tejikara Fire Festival is the festival floats carried by men on their shoulders under a curtain of fireworks. This year’s floats included the Nagaragawa Ukai mascot, Prince Shotoku, Saka-daru (sake barrel), Cars, Chopper from One Piece, an Egyptian Pharaoh and a Deco-tora (decoration truck). The gunpowder stashed away in the floats is ignited by the sparks from the fireworks causing spectacular explosions, and long streams of fire to shoot high into the sky from the floats. The men carrying the festival floats dance wildly with the sound of ringing bells and firecrackers. It is an amazing celebration of both sound and fire and a must see!

Standing Lanterns (Gohei Andon)

The Gohei Andon or Standing Lanterns are hung 20 meters above the ground on bamboo poles. Each pole represents a different neighbourhood in Gifu City and people from that area participate in the performance. The candles inside the paper lanterns are lit one by one by a rocket like flame that is shot off at the lanterns. It is a very spectacular lighting of the lanterns with an explosion of sparks and lights. There is a tradition that the year will be rich in harvest if the lanterns can be lit without any trouble.

Tejikara Paper Lanterns

Hand-held Fireworks (Tedutsu Hanabi)

The hand-held fireworks called Tedutsu Hanabi in Japanese are set off by the festival participants. The grand finale is a spectacular waterfall of hand-held fireworks by the festival participants from a tower.

Tejikara Tedutsu Hanabi

Street Vendors

As with any festival in Japan at the Tejikara Fireworks Festival there are also many street vendors selling all kinds of festival food and snacks. This includes favourites like yakisoba, takoyaki and kakigori.

Tip

Make sure you get there early to reserve your spot and beat the crowds. We arrived at around 5 p.m. and could get a nice spot right in front of the standing lanterns.

Information for the Tejikara Fireworks Festival

Tejikara Fire Festival Information

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Mount Fuji UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mt. Fuji at sunrise from Lake Kawaguchi

Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Mount_Fuji

Mount Fuji UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mount Fuji was officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 22nd 2013. Mount Fuji or Fuji-san as it is known in Japan is the country’s highest peak at 3776 meters and straddles both Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures. It lies about 100 kilometres south-west of Tokyo and is visible from both Tokyo and Yokohama on a clear day. Mount Fuji is a visually beautiful mountain with its perfect symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months of the year. It is a national symbol of Japan and has long been viewed as a sacred site which has nurtured the unique culture of Japan. Over the years it has inspired many great Japanese artists and writers. Mount Fuji was designated a “cultural” site rather than a “natural” site by the UNESCO committee and is registered under the title “Mount Fuji: Object of Worship, Wellspring of Art”.

Mount Fuji becomes Japan’s 17th World Heritage site and joins other icons such as Horyuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkakuji Temple, and Nijo Castle.

The formal announcement is expected to greatly increase the tourist numbers to this popular destination. More and more people will want to climb the mountain now that it has obtained World Heritage status, and it could become the next great destination in Asia. The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is from July 1st to August 31st.

The mountain is divided into 10 stations from the base (first station) to the summit (tenth station). Most climbers start from the fifth station, where there are four major routes to the summit of the mountain. From the fifth station it usually takes 5-6 hours to reach the top.

Note: There will be a 1000 yen climbing fee starting summer 2014.


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Ajisai Matsuri Itadori Gifu

Ajisai along the Hydrangea Road

Ajisai Matsuri in Itadori Village, Gifu

Every season in Japan has a distinct flower to celebrate and June is no exception with the beautiful ajisai (hydrangeas) in bloom during the rainy season. The Hydrangeas can be enjoyed from June until early July here in the Chubu area of Japan with many ajisai matsuri or festivals taking place. Just like the ume (plum blossom) and sakura (cherry blossom) in spring, the ajisai (hydrangea) during the rainy season (tsuyu) is a symbol of June and is part of the culture and seasonal celebrations in Japan. The blooming of the ajisai is dependent on the length of the rainy season, so dates vary slightly from year to year.

Pink Ajisai Hydrangea

The ajisai are very beautiful and come in wonderful shades of blue and purple as well white and pink. Every June, Itadori Village, in Gifu holds an Ajisai Matsuri. Located in the mountains of Gifu in the Mugi District, which is now part of Seki City, the whole area is filled with this beautiful flower, which can be seen as you wind your way up the mountains. It is a beautiful escape from the city and the temperatures are always a few degrees cooler up in the mountains.

Blue Hydrangeas Along the Side of the Road

The Ajisai Matsuri starts at the Ajisai Mura (village) where there are many beautiful hydrangeas to be enjoyed as well as the backdrop of stunning mountains and the Itadori River.

Ajisai Mura

The Itadori River with Mountains in the Background

Lining the Itadori River is the “Hydrangea Road”, which is a 24 kilometer-long stretch of road that contains around 7,000 hydrangea of various colours, that can be seen adorning the side of the road. The whole area has about 10,000 hydrangea flowers and when at full bloom paint a pretty picture. The majority of the hydrangea flowers in this area are a deep purple or blue which is due to an acidic or low pH in the soil causing blueness in the hydrangea.

Ajisai along the Hydrangea Road

This year the Ajisai Matsuri was from June 22th to July 15th with the peak around June 30th.

Information

  • Date: June 22 – July 15
  • Location: Itadori Village, Seki City, Gifu Prefecture


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