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Exploring Gifu

Exploring Japan returns with a look at central Japan’s Gifu prefecture.

Gifu is in the central Japanese region of Chubu on the island of Honshu.  It’s the first landlocked prefecture I’m looking at.  It has a population of 2,074,158 and is one of the larger prefectures in the country.  The capital is Gifu.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Gifu (412,895)
  2. Ogaki (163,364)
  3. Kakamigahara (145,430)
  4. Tajimi (112,165)
  5. Kani (97,435)

Gifu is one of the prefectures that is shrinking in population as people move to the big cities.

Castles

Gifu Castle in Gifu city is a reconstruction of the original.  The castle contains a museum and the observation deck provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the city.  It’s located at the top of a mountain, so the view sounds amazing.

Gujo Hachiman Castle in Gujo is a wood reconstruction built in 1933.  It’s a pre-war reconstruction, which seems unusual.  It’s also a mountaintop castle.

Ogaki Castle in Ogaki is a reconstruction of a castle that was destroyed in World War II.  The interior is a museum with artifacts from the Battle of Sekigahara.

Sunomata Castle in Ogaki is a reconstruction.  It serves as a local history museum now.

Things to see and do

Gifu is famous for quite a few things, actually.  Some of the most famous things in Gifu include the historic village Shirakawa-go, cormorant fishing, and for people who love science, the Super-Kamiokande and KamLAND neutrino and antineutrino experimental facilities. It’s a popular place for skiing, hiking, and hot springs, as well.

In Gifu city, you can see Ukai, or cormorant fishing.  They use cormorants to catch fish.  In addition to Gifu Castle, Mt. Kinka is a good place to hike.  As for museums, I’d like to see the Gifu City Museum of History, Nawa Insect Museum, and Gifu City Science Museum.  Gifu has its own Daibutsu (Great Buddha), as well.  The Nagara River Fireworks Festival lasts 90 minutes at the end of July and beginning of August.

Hida city is a very historic city with a preserved historic city centre.

Mino is well-known for its Mino-washi Akari Art Exhibition, which is a paper lantern festival.

Tajimi is a great place to see ceramics.  Also, Eihoji temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple.

Takayama is a city that has some great historic sites. The Hida Folk Museum (Hida Minzokumura) is an open air museum that has Edo period buildings and people performing traditional jobs.  The Takayama Festivals are one of the largest Shinto festivals in Japan. Takayama Jinya is a beautiful old government building that is open to the public.

Yoro has a very unique attraction, The Site of Reversible Destiny in Yoro Park. It’s a theme park designed to disorient you.  Sounds very interesting.

Gero is famous for its hot springs. Gero Onsen is one of the most famous hot springs in Japan.

The Oku-Hida Onsen Villages are a great place for hot springs and hiking with beautiful mountain views.

Sekigahara is famous for its battle in 1600.  There are some museums dedicated to the battle.

Food

Gifu is best known for hoba miso, a soybean paste that’s grilled on a hoba leaf.  Also, you can find Hida beef, which is a marbled beef that is very expensive.

Do you live in Gifu, or have you visited Gifu?  What else is great to see there?

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Exploring Ehime

This week’s Exploring Japan goes to Shikoku, the smallest of the main islands of Japan.  This time, it’s Ehime prefecture.

Ehime is situated on the northwestern part of Shikoku.  It has a population of 1,430,086.  The capital city is Matsuyama.  The five largest cities are:

  1. Matsuyama (516,637)
  2. Imabari (172,384)
  3. Niihama (125,711)
  4. Saijo (114,227)
  5. Shikokuchuo (92,486)

Ehime is a very mountainous prefecture, and also has a lot of islands on the Seto Inland Sea.

Castles

Matsuyama Castle  – This is one of the two original castles in Ehime and one of 12 original castles in Japan.  It’s said to be one of the best castles in Japan.  I would love to see it!

Uwajima Castle – This is the other original castle in Ehime.  It’s a smaller castle, and can be found in Uwajima.

Imabari Castle – This castle in Imabari is a recent reconstruction, having been built in 1980.

Ozu Castle – This castle is a very recent reconstruction, having been completed in only 2004.  It’s a completely authentic reconstruction, being faithful to the original design. I’d really like to see this castle in Ozu.

Sports

Ehime is home to the J League soccer team Ehime F.C.

Things to see and do

Ehime is a great place to see castles, of course.  But I’d also like to see Mount Ishizuchi, the tallest mountain on Shikoku.  The summit is possible to reach, but requires the use of chains to pull yourself up.  Also famous is Dogo Onsen, the oldest hot springs in Japan.  Shikoku has 88 temples that are part of a pilgrimage, and you can find several of them in Ehime.

In Matsuyama, apart from Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen, you can find the Yuzuki Castle Ruins and Dogo Park.  Isaniwa Shrine is an impressive shrine to see. Matsuyama Central Park has a European style castle. Other places I think I’d like to see are the Ehime Museum of Art and Ninomaru Historical Garden.

Uwajima is probably one of the more interesting cities in Ehime.  Taga Shrine is a fertility shrine with many large phalluses, as well as a sex museum.  Nearby is a big shrine called Warei Shrine, which is one of the more famous ones in the city.  You can also see the Warei Ushi-oni Festival, which features one of the 6 bull sumo tournaments.  Uwajima has 6 sumo tournaments that are fought by bulls.  It’s fairly straightforward.

Saijo is a decent city to see.  It’s where you can access Mt. Ishizuchi, but there’s more than that. You can also see Komyoji temple and Ishizuchi Shrine.  But Saijo is also home to the only Asahi beer brewery in Japan.  You can also drink fresh spring water from the Aqua Route.  And finally, if you like trains, check out the Shikoku Railway Culture Museum.

Niihama is famous for the Niihama Taiko Festival.  It features a parade with 47 taiko drum floats, and it’s considered to be a man’s festival.

Ikata is a very picturesque town that is on a very narrow peninsula.  You can see Sadamisaki Lighthouse, as well as the Seto Wind Hill Park, which has many windmills.  It’s also home to a nuclear power museum, at the Ikata Visitors Center.

Seiyo features the Museum of Ehime History and Culture.

Food

Ehime is famous for mikan, or tangerines.  Also popular are iyokan, which are similar to mikan, but more sour.

Have you been to Ehime?  What would you suggest to see there?

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