Gifu is one of those prefectures that has always been something of a mystery to me. I have travelled through it a few times on journeys between Nagoya and Osaka but never done anything more than transit at Ogaki Station. At the start of January, when I did my 16 hour trip on local trains between Tokyo and Hiroshima, I passed through Gifu amidst some beautiful scenery with mountains fringing the city. I was really impressed.
Another sight that I noticed from the train window in the past was a huge giant white construction which I later found out is called 138 Tower Park (21-3 Komyoji Urasaki Ichinomiya-Shi, Aichi). It’s actually in Aichi prefecture and I thought I’d stop off to get a photo en-route to my day in Gifu.
I knew in advance that it was 43 minutes away on foot but I thought I’d be able to get a half-decent shot of it from afar. Before I knew it I had already been walking for half an hour so thought I might as well continue right on up to it. It looked like a really nice park but I was constrained by time so didn’t have too long there. The dual arch tower was built in honour of Ichinomiya City and for those who don’t know 138 can be read in Japanese as ichi-(no)-mi-ya.
The tower is also 138 metres tall and there is an observation deck 100 meters up (500 yen entrance) which no doubt offers amazing 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding area including the peaks of the Japan Alps. I didn’t go up though as I knew I’d later be seeing some equally impressive views from atop the mountain where Gifu-jo Castle sits.
Back at Kisogawa Station, it was just a six minute train journey further north to Gifu Station where I immediately hopped on a bus to go and see the large papier-mâché buddha.
The ropeway for Gifu Castle on top of Mount Kinka was just a short walk from there and that was my next stop on my short time in the area. I purchased return tickets for 1080 yen but didn’t realise there was a 30 minute wait for the ropeway.
I guess that wasn’t so bad really but I knew there’d probably be an even longer line for the return journey as it was mid-afternoon on a nice sunny day in the Japanese Golden Week holiday! I was right. There was a staff member at the end of the line with a sign saying it was an hour wait.
There is a place called Squirrel Village (200 yen entrance) at the top which has been around since 1965 but I didn’t have the time to go there. Besides, my wife and I only went to Machida Squirrel Garden in Tokyo last year so I didn’t really feel any need to basically repeat such a thing. Likewise for the castle itself as I’ve been inside enough Japanese castles over the years to get the idea.
The views over the city and beyond were stunning with the city fringed by mountains on all sides as well as lots of other greenery and a river flowing through the middle of it all. It was very pleasing on the eye and I could see the FC Gifu football stadium where I was to be going very soon after.
Kick off for that match was 6:03 pm and my original plan was to aim for arrival at about 4pm which was probably a little optimistic but it meant I had a fair amount of flexibility. The long wait for the ropeway was certainly going to cut into that time so, despite having a round-trip ticket, I decided to climb down the mountain.
There were a few routes to choose from but the fastest one was the Umanose Trail which it said was a difficult and relatively dangerous trail taking about 40 minutes. The signage stated that it wasn’t for people lacking confidence in their physical ability. I really didn’t believe it at the time but it soon became apparent how true it was. This was proper steep climbing where a hand or two was often needed to hold on to a support-rope, rock or tree.
It took about 30 minutes in total for me to descend the mountain and I immediately headed for the Nagara-gawa River. Looking back at where I’d just come from, I could see the castle atop the 329 metre mountain amidst beautiful blue skies and lush green vegetation.
It was already 4.30 pm by the time I’d crossed the bridge leading to the ground. Feeling in need of a quick refresher I took a slight detour to soak my feet in a free foot bath which GifuRichy had recommended to me. It proved to be a great decision as my feet really needed some kind of relaxing break following that mountain descend.
Fifteen minutes of reinvigoration was satisfactory enough before I headed off the short distance to the Gifu Nagaragawa Stadium for my early evening entertainment.
Click here to read ‘A Football Stadium Amidst Stunning Surroundings? I Give You FC Gifu!’
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