Best Things to Do in Gifu – Traditional and Rural Japan

Shirakawago Chubu

Gifu is a mountainous prefecture located in the Chubu region of Japan. Gifu is known to be a more rural area and not as developed compared to other urban cities, though it boasts a number of attractive spots that are worth a visit. In addition, it is a perfect place for (foreign) tourists who are interested in Japanese culture and history. In this article, we will introduce the recommended tourist attractions in Gifu!

1. Shirakawago

Shirakawago is a small, traditional village located in the north of Gifu, showcasing a building style known as gasshō-zukuri. The village is, together with Gokayama in Toyama, a designated UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. The entire village is dotted with traditional Japanese buildings with a unique architectural style called gassho-zukuri; thatched-roofs which look like two hands in prayer to prevent the roofs collapsing under the heavy snow in winter. The historical houses are said to be built centuries ago, and the oldest one is 400-year-old! The impressive scenery has been preserved with significant effort and support from local people. Some houses are currently used as a guest house that offer accommodation for tourists! This is exactly where you can immerse yourself into a true Japan experience.

Shirakawago
Picture by xiquinhosilva (Flickr) / CC BY 2.0

2. Hida Takayama

Hida Takayama refers to another historical area in Gifu. Hida Takayama is located in the Takayama City situated in the northern part of the prefecture, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Gifu. Many foreign tourists love the authentic atmosphere of the picturesque castle town. There are some old streets where well-preserved Japanese traditional sake breweries and houses, dating back from the Edo period through the Meiji period, can be visited. Most of the buildings are currently used as gift shops, restaurants, cafes, and other facilities offering several kinds of experiences for tourists. It is also a perfect place to enjoy local specialties such as Hida beef.

Takeyama
Picture by Nicolas (Flickr) / CC BY 2.0

There is a walking trail of about 3km in length, called the Higashiyama Walking Course through Takayama’s fascinating townscape and along the former Takayama Castle. Hida Takayama developed as a lively town around the castle, though in the present day you can only see the remains of the castle in Shiroyama Park.

3. Magome

Magome is one of the traditional post towns on the Nakasendo Trail, which is the old mountain route connecting Tokyo and Kyoto. Small shops and eateries which are well-preserved from the Edo period line up on the hillside. You can enjoy a pleasant walk in this mountainous area throughout the year.  A 1.5 – 3 hour hike toward Tsumago is also recommended, another famous post town where attractive wooden traditional houses and shops are nestled.

magome tsumago nakasendo

4. Gero Onsen

Gero Onsen is a famous hot spring resort located in a mountainous area in Gero City. It is
claimed as one of the three greatest hot springs in Japan along with Kusatsu Onsen in
Gunma
and Arima Onsen in Hyogo prefecture. The hot spring resort dates back around 1,000 years ago and became a popular resort in the Edo era. There are several Japanese traditional ryokan that offer accommodation and local dishes for visitors.

The hot spring water of Gero Onsen is soft and mild, and it is recommended for people with sensitive skin. Public foot baths are also available for free around the city, which makes it easier for foreign tourists to try onsen for the first time. There are other attractive spots where visitors can have historical and cultural experiences as well. It is definitely a must visit once you go there!

Gero Onsen Official Website

5. Gifu Castle

Gifu Castle is an iconic landmark located on the Inabayama Mountain in Gifu City. It was
originally built in 1201 with a different name Inabayama Castle and played a significant
role as a political and economic center of the region. The name was changed to Gifu
castle by Oda Nobunaga, a famous samurai who invaded the region to expand
his territory in the Sengoku era. The current structure was reconstructed in 1956, and has been visited by a number of people as a historical symbol of the city. As it is located at the top of the mountain, it is not accessible by car. Visitors need to take a cable car from the Gifu park which is located at the base of the mountain.

9.30am – 5.30pm (Mar 16 – May 11)
8.30am – 5.30pm (May 12 – Oct 16)
9.30am – 4.30pm (Oct 17 – Mar 15)
Admission fee ¥200 (Adults), ¥100 (children)

6. Toki Outlet Mall

Toki Outlet Mall is a giant shopping mall containing domestic and world-famous brands
selling a large selection of products. Located in a mountainous area surrounded by
abundant nature, it offers a good shopping opportunity in a relaxing atmosphere. There are around 200 shops, and visitors can get high-end clothes and products for an affordable price. Restaurants and food shops are also available which offer a place to rest and satisfy your appetite. It is an enjoyable place for the entire family all day!

10am – 8pm
Toki Outlet Mall Official Website

7. Enakyo

Enakyo is a river valley located in Ena city which is recognized as one of the most scenic
spots in Gifu. The valley is located in the middle course of the Kiso river. It was formed by an artificial dam construction, and has been a popular spot where visitors can immerse themselves into a plenty of nature. It boasts a number of unique rock formations which create a stunning view with a peaceful river running alongside. The sightseeing high-speed boat is a fun way to enjoy the scenery from the river. There are other tourist spots around such as Ena Wonderland, a theme park perfect for tourists with kids!

Enakyo Official Website

8. Yoro Park

Yoro Park in south-west Gifu, is a huge park located at the foot of the Yoro Mountains. It offers artistic and sports facilities surrounding Yoro Falls. The park is especially beautiful in autumn, with the autumn colours shining bright.

空から見た養老公園

Yoro Waterfall

Yoro no Taki is a beautiful waterfall situated in the Yoro Park. It is 32m tall and 4m wide and the clear water falling from the naturally curved rocks creates a scenic view. The peaceful atmosphere offers a refreshing time for visitors. Each season, the appearance of the waterfall changes with different kinds of plants peacefully living by the waterfall, which makes it enjoyable all year round!

Yoro Waterfall

Yoro Tenmei Hantenchi

Yoro Tenmei Hantenchi offers an incomparable experience for those who look for an artistic spot in Gifu. The conceptual art garden of the park features artistic structures that visitors can directly play with. Huge exhibits are placed in an open-air ground, and each of them is specialised with unique features which enables players to discover the meanings hidden in the design. The park was designed by a famous artist Arakawa Shusaku with the goal to deliver several messages through a direct interaction with art works.

Yoro Tenmei Hantenchi
Photo by Kuruman(Flickr) / CC BY 2.0

9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥770 (adults)

Yoro Park

9. Chiyoho Inari Shrine

When you visit Yoro Park, make your way down to Chiyoho Inari Shrine, a sacred Shinto shrine located in Kaizu city, about 30 min. drive from Yoro Park. It was originally established in the Heian era roughly about 1,000 years ago. Although it is a relatively small shrine, more than 2.5 million people visit there annually to pray for good business, relationships, and examination results. There are a number of street vendors selling various kinds of products, and it is the perfect spot to enjoy local specialties.

Chiyoho Inari Shrine

Chiyoho Inari Shrine

10. Shinhotaka Ropeway

The ropeway takes you to the Nishi-hodakaguchi Station located at an elevation of 2,156 meters. There is an observation deck to look over the panoramic view of the Japanese Alps which got two stars on the Michelin Green Guide Japan. On the way to the top, you will have to change the ropeway at the station at an elevation of 1,308 meters. There you can enjoy souvenir shopping, having some meals at restaurants, and even taking a relaxing bath in onsen hot springs. Especially the open-air onsen with breathtaking views of the mountains is something you shouldn’t miss!

Shinhotaka ropeway

11. Kiso River Bamboo Grove 

It’s a longer bamboo grove than the one in Kyoto – this 600 meters long walking path is alongside Kiso River. It used to be the place where small boats came and went across the river during the Edo period, and there were many accommodations and restaurants for the travelers who were traveling through Nakasendo. After the bridge was completed in 1927, there was no need to run the boat for crossing the river so the place came to ruin. In 2007, the local volunteers decided to pave the walking path to preserve the scenery and kept it clean and safe.
This bamboo grove is called Princess Kaguya’s Walking Path named after the folklore about the girl who was found inside the bamboo stem who turned out to be the princess of the moon. 

bamboo grove kiso river gifu
“Gifu Kisogawa Bamboo Forest “©SHori (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

12. Ryujin Falls 

Ryujin Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in Yumori Park in Nakatsugawa City. It’s literally translated as the god of dragons and it was named after the legend of the white dragon ascending toward the sky on the waterfall. 12 meters in height, the clear water is said to change color several times during the day time from emerald green to cobalt blue. There’s a small shrine by the waterfall which enshrines the god of dragons and the stone monument has an engraved message that said the god of dragons live in this waterfall to protect the mountains. It’s also a popular spot for the autumn season for the stunning autumn foliage.   

“Gifu Ryujin Falls“©SHori (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

13. Otome Gorge 

It’s located in Nakatsugawa City, Otome Gorge is a great hiking trail starting from Otome Gorge Campsite to Meoto Falls. It will take approximately 1.5 hours to get to Meoto Falls. It’s a relatively easy hiking trail but it partly includes some rough mountain paths so wearing comfortable shoes or hiking shoes are recommended. 
Meoto Falls is a dynamic waterfall 80 meters in height. On the way to Meoto Falls, other waterfalls, caves and lakes can be seen and in the autumn season you can walk among the colorful foliage in the mountain.
Ahead of Meoto Falls toward Mt. Kohide, the trail becomes an advanced hiking trail where you’ll need proper preparation as well as submitting the climbing registration (you can submit the form at Otome Gorge Campsite). 

Gifu Otome Gorge
“Gifu Otome Canyon“©Suganu0405 (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

14. Monet’s Pond 

Nameless Pond is a small pond at the site of Nemishi Shrine in Seki City and it’s nicknamed as Monet’s Pond because of its beautiful look resembling Monet’s famous paintings Water Lilies. It became surprisingly famous on social media, and it has attracted many people since then. Colorful koi fish swimming gracefully in the clear water, it’s one of the most picturesque spots in Gifu prefecture. 

Monet's Pond Gifu
“Monet’s Pond“©SHori (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

15. Mt. Ontake 

At an elevation of 3,067 meters, Mt. Ontake is one of the most sacred mountains in Japan. Hiking in summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter, visitors can enjoy throughout the year. Ropeways are available to the 7th Station at an elevation of 2,150 meters. At the 7th Station, there’s an observation deck and a cafe where you can see breathtaking scenery above the clouds. If you like hiking, it will take about an hour to get to the 8th Station and it’s allowed to climb up until the 9th Station due to the activity of the volcano. 

Mt Ontake
“The View From Mt. Ontake (Marishiten)“©SHori (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

16. Ogaki Festival 

Lastly, if you travel to Gifu in May, visit the Ogaki Festival. It started in 1648, the festival is held in the middle of May every year for 2 days. It was registered on Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016. Starting from the ritual performance on the big floats in front of Ogaki Hachiman Shrine, then parading in the city. In the evening, the festival floats gather in front of the shrine once again, and they light up with lanterns beautifully.
During the festival, about 500 food stalls lineup and the town itself goes into the festival spirit.

Ogaki Festival
“A Night Scene From Ogaki Festival“ ©Ogaki City (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Japan Wonder Travel Tours

If you need some help to organize your trip to Gifu, you should definitely check out our
private tour including English guide. We’re happy to help you make your trip to Gifu a fun, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!

Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour
Gifu is easily accessible from Tokyo by Shinkansen. How about taking part in our popular private tour in Tokyo before heading to Gifu!

Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour
Less than an hour’s ride of Shinkansen from Gifu takes you to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations which offers historical and cultural experiences for visitors!

Where to stay in Gifu

  • Shiroyamakan – A traditional Japanese ryokan located in the peaceful surroundings of Shirakawago
  • Honjin Hiranoya Annex – Conveniently located in Takayama, this ryokan is praised for its delicious food

Each of the places introduced above are worth a visit. Gifu offers various kinds of
experiences that you can’t have in urban areas!

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