Gujo: Gifu’s Out-of-Ordinary City

My friends and I had a hard time deciding where to go for this year’s spring season. We’ve been looking for a place with an incredible view of sakura, a place we’ve never been into yet, and just near the city we live in to have a shorter travel time. We’re living in Kani City, Gifu so we’re torn between Ena Valley, Ogaki Castle and Gujo Hachiman Castle. The last one prevailed and just like Japan’s other cities, Gujo has its own gems waiting to be discovered.

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Built in 1929, Gujo Hachiman Station is designated as an Important Cultural Property by Japan’s National Gov’t.

What To See/Do

  1. Gujo Hachiman Castle

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Gujo Hachiman Castle has rich history information about the most notable and historical uprising during the Edo period (1603-1867) in 1754 after which the Aoyama clan was declared as the lord of Gujo domain. The present castle was reconstructed in 1933 and known for the oldest reconstructed wooden castle in Japan. It was recognized as an important cultural property by Gujo city and the site was designated as special historic spot by Gifu prefectural government.

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Nozura-zumi style of the stone wall’s groundwork dates from the end of 16th century.
  • Open: 9:00-17:00; Jun-Aug 8:00-18:00; Nov-Feb 9:00-16:30
  • Admission Fee: Adult JPY310 Child JPY150
  • Close: Dec 20th – Jan 10th
  • Parking: Free
  • Address: 659 Ichinohira, Yanagi-machi, Hachiman, Gujo City, Gifu
  • Tel: 575-67-1819

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  1. Gujo Water

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Gujo is known for “The Town of Crystal-Clear-Water”. The Hachiman sits at the convergence of three rivers – Yoshida, Nagara, and small Kodara rivers. These rivers serve as the lifeblood of the town. They provide fish, water for different crops, and are deeply beneficial for textile dying in which the town is also known for. In addition, these rivers offer refreshments to residents and visitors alike who are willing to soak in mountain river water and find relief from summer heat and humidity.

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Gujo Hachiman’s residential area outline when viewed atop the Castle is closely associated with the shape of a fish, still of relevance with its fine waters.

The moniker was indeed evident when we went there. You can see free-flowing water and drinking fountains everywhere that are potable for everyone (there are signages if it isn’t drinkable); thus, there’s nothing to worry if you haven’t brought enough water after hours of hiking and walking. (You’ll become more intimate with the city’s culture when exploring the city by foot.) When you’re still in doubt with the water’s safety, there are still vending machines all over the city to ease your thirst.

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The presence of those cups means the water is drinkable.
  1. Gujo-Odori

Gujo is famous for its 30-days odori community dancing. There’s a Gujo-odori Dance Festival that are held annually from mid-July to early September. Odori dance styles are passed down through generations for more than 400 years now. Each dance represents story and with reference to historical events.

If it happens that you’re visiting the city not in summer just like us, you can visit the Gujo Hachiman Hakurankan Museum which demonstrates the steps of the Dance four times a day. Yes, the demonstration happens every day at 11:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00 (about 15 mins each). Though we haven’t tried it when we’re there, access to the Museum is through the following details:

  • Open: 9:00-17:00
  • Admission Fee: Adult JPY520, Child JPY310
  • Close: Dec 24th to Jan 2nd
  • Parking: Free for the first 20 cars
  • Address: 50 Tono-machi, Hachiman, Gujo City, Gifu
  • Tel: 575-65-3215
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You can save JPY180 if you purchase tickets for both the Castle and Museum at the same time for JPY650 (adult).
  1. Food Replicas

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When you ask and mention Gujo City to a Japanese national, you’ll either get odori or food replicas as a response. Gujo is known for being the manufacturing heartland for plastic food making sampling. Though food imitation was created in Osaka, Takizo Iwasaki, the creator of food imitation came from this Edo village.

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The main souvenir items from this city are food samples that look like real and edible. It’s somehow difficult to distinguish the real from the imitation unless you touch and look at them again.

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You can make your own sample meal for a fee, too.

As you can notice, sakura were not yet in its blooming peak as we visited the place. In spite of that, I wasn’t disappointed since we gained cultural knowledge. The city taught us the importance of culture/ tradition preservation amidst the modernization and changes brought by technology.

You can visit Gujo City every season of the year. It offers various sightseeing spots and activities to both locals and foreign visitors.

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Resemblance to Kyoto streets is visible while roaming around the streets of Gujo.

How to Get There

  1. By train. Nagara River Railway or “Nagatetsu” is the only rail route to Gujo. From Tokyo, it’s about 4.5 hours with Shinkansen.
  2. By bus. Access www.japan-guide.com for details.
  3. By car. Google maps and navigation is reliable throughout Japan.

Enjoy and have fun!

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