Gifu is a multi-faceted destination in Japan that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the great outdoors. Here, your clients will discover timeless traditions and a living culture that have been preserved and lovingly passed down generation to generation.
A perfect destination to visit any time of year due to its location at the crossroads of Japan, between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka, a trip to Gifu is an adventure. The wide-open spaces of this diverse region earn Gifu its nickname as the “Nature Capital” of Japan. Highlights include visiting the historic streetscapes of Takayama and the village of Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site, both of which are beautiful any time of the year.
Retaining a traditional ambiance like few other Japanese cities, Takayama’s Historic District is home to narrow streets lined with wooden merchants’ houses dating to the Edo Period (1603-1868). The preservation isn’t just for tourism, though, as it remains a functional town where locals live and work as they did centuries ago. The city was built around this beautifully preserved historic district where the local life is best viewed at one of the town’s morning markets (asaichi). Once your clients have sampled the hida beef, sake, and other city staples, recommend they venture out to the mountains and valleys for some of Asia’s best hot springs and hikes (all within an hour of the city).
Along with being the gateway to the hiking paradise of the Japanese Alps, Takayama is a great jumping-off point to explore Shirakawa-go. Located in a remote valley surrounded by mountains, Shirakawa-go offers a “time stood still” ambiance. Getting there is part of the adventure: the Hakusan Shirakawa-go White Road acts as a forest route where untouched natural resources are preserved and is used mostly for scenic purposes, especially in the fall when visitors come to take in the autumn leaves.
The main draw of this village are the unique thatched-roof homes called “gassho building” (gassho means “constructed like hands in prayer”), which were developed over many generations and designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that fall in the region during winter. Some of these buildings are museums, but the majority are locals’ homes that date back more than 250 years. Many daytrippers visit the houses while exploring the town on a 1-day visit, but guests are encouraged to stay overnight in one of the authentic gasso-zukuri houses. The natives’ hospitality and desire to maintain the authenticity of the culture is what really allows for a deeper travel experience.
Visitors looking to get out of the cities & villages and enjoy nature will not be short on options when visiting Gifu. Walk (or cycle) the ancient Nakasendo like the travelers of bygone Japan, past numerous post towns that preserve the flavors of Japan’s Edo period. Traveling from post town to post town, your clients will pass through picturesque scenery such as forests, valleys, waterfalls, historical sites, and alongside terraced rice paddies—all of which offer unique qualities depending on the season.
A great way to unwind after a long day traversing this ancient highway is to visit one of the five onsen towns of Okuhida, a region surrounded by the Northern Japan Alps. Famous for its hot springs and outdoor baths, each town has its own distinctive character along with hot spring water as the springs are fed from different sources.
In addition to the charming towns and abundance of activities such as hiking, cycling, skiing, or climbing waterfalls, there are plenty of ways for your clients to enjoy Gifu, the Nature Capital of Japan.