Japanese history has always fascinated me, and one of the periods I find most interesting, besides the Tokugawa era, is the Nobunaga era. Nobunaga was a daimyo in the 16th century, during the Sengoku period who first attempted to unify the whole Japan, organized at that time into small provinces ruled independently. He was known as a goal driven, brutal and determined leader, but it was also thanks to him that Japan then started to move towards a unified nation.
I wanted to come here, because Gifu castle became the primary base of Nobunaga’s operations. After being taken from Takenaka Shigeharu in a two-week siege, it became an essential chess piece for the famous battle of Sekigahara and the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate, the last shogunate to control Japan.
Arriving at the Gifu train station I decided to leave my luggage in one of the station lockers (because yes, I was not traveling with a backpack, there are just too many goodies to bring home from Japan for that).
Grabbed a city map from the tourist office and took a bus towards Gifu castle. It was a foggy rainy day, which gave the whole experience an even more mystical feeling.
When I got off the bus I could not see anything of the castle but I followed the signs saying ロープウエ “ropeway”.
When I got up there, it was so foggy I could barely see the turret. It felt as a tucked away place, casually protected by the nature around it. It’s so low and close to the ground you can almost touch it.
Inside, the castle is fully renovated with a solid modern construction, which is disappointing, but totally understandable. There is also a small exhibition inside with samurai armours and what I think was some historical background of the castle, completely in Japanese.
Inside were also some old documents written in ancient Portuguese. Apparently Nobunaga met a Portuguese priest who was allowed to stay near him and who would document the lives of the people around him.
These documents were there standing there, on the wall, and I probably was the only one who could read them. That was something really unexpected and fantastic.
Coming down from the castle I was able to take some more pictures of foggy greenery and then decided to take a very long walk towards the train station stopping here and there to check some shops.
To be honest I think I just wandered around the town taking pictures and taking in the beautiful cherry trees.
Gifu is a small town 2 hours away from Tokyo and 20 minutes away from Nagoya. The trip will cost you around 100 dollars if you don’t have the JRpass.
Gifu also has another train station for Meitetsu line which connects to Nagoya Meitetsu station.
Near the station, you can visit the Gifu City Tower 43’s observatory on the 43th floor for a great view over the city.
Around Gifu city you can find several parks, there is the Bairin Park near the station and another further close to the castle with Chinese inspired decorations.
You can also visit the Inaba Shrine at the base of Mount Kinka and the Great Buddha Temple, where a statue of Buddha from 1832 rests.
The Nagara River Cormorant Fishing or Ukai museum, is a museum on the Nagara river, that celebrates a local tradition of fishing with birds. It’s open until 7 pm in Summer and until 5 in Winter and entrance costs 5 dollars
Gifu castle sits on the top of mount Kinka. You can access it by ropeway and a trip, going up and down, costs around 10 dollars. On the top, the castle can be entered until 5 pm and entrance costs 2 dollars. There is also a squirrel village open until 4:30 pm and entrance also costs 2 dollars.
Also, near by you can visit the Sekigahara, the actual battle field where the battle to finally unify Japan was fought by Tokugawa.
To get there, from Gifu you can take the Tokaido line to Sekigahara station. I found an incredible post on how to get there and what to visit here. Apparently if you travel to Japan on October it’s worth traveling here for a celebration of the date.
What would I do differently
Tricky question, my plan was to just see the castle, similar to my experience with Kumamoto, however I did get to spend the full day here and I was pretty satisfied because I had enough time to see the castle and wander around the city.
Still, I would like to have seen the big Buddha and the Inaba shrine. They seem doable on a walking day. And I definitely wish I had visited the Sekigahara battle field.
To me Gifu is a great stop on the way. If you’re passing by, visiting Nagoya or Kyoto from Tokyo.
Gifu was my stop on the way to Takayama a famous tourist destination also in Gifu area. Next week I will publish this story.
Thank you for reading, hope you are all well and will come back for more.
See you next week!