I am cringing over how old these drafted posts are. My bad, please forgive.
My first weekend excursion took me to Gifu City with Nelson and Mai. We took our time getting there; after an exhausting week and the summer heat, on top of which Mai was fasting for Ramadan, we were in no rush!
Gifu city is a great day trip from Nagoya, with a good handful of things to do: the mountains, the castle, shrines, temples, parks, several museums, a giant buddha, a squirrel sanctuary… and some decent shopping options. For us though, our late start and easy-day plan meant we were just in it for the castle.
Gifu Castle, on the strategic heights of Inaba mountain, was initially and terribly originally called Inabayama-jō, or “Inaba mountain castle” (the tiny white speck on the mountain in the picture above). The name of the castle and province was changed in 1567, when it was taken by Oda Nobunaga (daimyo of Owari province in the Sengoku Period, and one of three well-known founders of the Tokugawa shogunate). The name is taken from the gi in Qishan, the first capital of the Zhou Dynasty in China, indicating Oda’s intentions to unify Japan. Gifu acted as the base of his operations, and did well from it.
Oda’s residence, Senjō-jiki (“one thousand tatami mats”) was at the base of the mountain, which is now a beautiful park where we enjoyed wandering and photographing (and the relative shade). Kids with nets leaned precariously over the little streams to catch insects, while fish moved slow and heavy through the water, much like us through the park.
When we had lingered long enough in the gardens, we caught the funicular up the mountain, watching the ground drop away beneath us and fanning ourselves desperately in the heat trap (and grimacing every time the unnecessarily loud and nasal conductor spoke).
The castle as it is today is actually a reconstruction; the original was damaged beyond repair during the fire-bombings of WWII. It has since been converted into a relatively small but interesting museum. The artefacts were wonderful (including a whole array of ninja weapons, and some hilariously awkward portraits). The main draw however, is the incredible view from the top over the city and surrounding mountains and river.
Nelson was particularly keen to go to the squirrel sanctuary (…no comment) but unfortunately it closed earlier than we expected, so it’s been relegated to the next trip. Instead we did a bit of shopping for omiage (upcoming link) in the castle shop, and I spent an inadvisable amount of money on local honey and a pack of beautiful origami paper to fuel my paper crane habit. In the time between drafting this post and finishing it, I have finished those cranes and also a whole other pack from a local shop…its getting out of hand.