Japan City Guides: Hida-Furukawa, Gifu Prefecture
- Situated 125km north of Nagoya
- Pleasant riverside town full of historic, wooden buildings
- Population: 18,000
- Famous for its April Hadaka (Naked) Festival
- Easy to navigate on foot or bicycle
- Simple day trip from nearby Takayama
- Bus and train connections from Nagoya, Osaka & Tokyo via Takayama
Hida-Furukawa is a mini-version of Takayama on the main rail route north from Nagoya. Set in the mountains of northern Gifu prefecture Furukawa, like nearby Takayama, only 15 minutes away by train, became prosperous in the Edo Period due to the rich timber resources of the surrounding mountains which include cedar, cypress bamboo and pine.
The historic, canal-lined streets, temples and museums of Hida-Furukawa are less crowded than Takayama and the town has a wonderful calming influence, due to the small canals full of carp that flow through the streets.
Hida-Furukawa's historic waterways, Gifu Prefecture
Carp channel behind a sake brewery, Hida-Furukawa, Gifu Prefecture
Furukawa Matsuri takes place over two days in April on the 19th and 20th of the month and is a popular festival in the area occurring just after the Sanno Matsuri in Takayama. In a midnight rite known as Okoshi Daiko, young men in loincloths parade a giant drum through the streets and then compete to place small drums on a stage. Floats similar to those used in Takayama's festivals are paraded through the streets. On October 16, Kitsune-bi Matsuri (Fox Fire Festival) local inhabitants dress as foxes and stage a wedding and a bonfire at Okura Inari Shrine to pray for good harvests, prosperity and general good fortune.
Listen to the sounds of Furukawa Festival
Traditional Japanese buildings and a candle store
The Furukawa Matsuri Kaikan (Okoshidaiko no Sato) (Tel: 0577 73 3511) a short walk from the station, has two of the nine festival floats (yatai) used in the festival on display. The museum also features a 3-D video installation of the procession, a performance of the karakuri puppets used on the floats and has demonstrations of the local crafts that go in to preparing the festival events.
Across the square in the Hidanotakumibunkakan (Hida Craftsman Culture Hall) (Tel: 0577 73 3321) there are displays of local carpentry skills and various hands-on exhibits.
The taiko drums used in the festival are on display in a wooden hall in the square.
Street scene, Hida-Furukawa, Gifu Prefecture
Beautiful "Satoyama" countryside in Hida
A short walk from the two museums is the Setakawa to Shirakabe-dozo district of white-painted storehouses and traditional wooden houses all set alongside a carp-filled canal.
The intricately carved Honkoji Temple is on your right as you walk westwards along the street and well worth a look to admire the local woodwork.
Hida-Furukawa modern and traditional buildings
Turn back the way you have come on the next parallel street to see a series of sake breweries (recognizable by their cedar balls - sugidama - hanging from the eaves) and a 200-year-old candle shop Mishima-ya (Tel: 0577 73 4109) on your left and a paper lantern store as you arrive back at Matsuri Square.
The Glass Museum (Tel: 0577 73 6550) has exhibits of Meiji and Taisho-era glasswork.
Glinting paddy field seen on a Hida Satoyama Cycling Tour
Cedar balls hang outside traditional Japanese sake stores
Furukawa Tourist Information
Furukawa Tourist Information Office (Tel: 0577 73 3180) is just outside the bus station on your right as you exit JR Furukawa Station and has good information available in Japanese and English.
Chubu International Airport is the nearest large international airport to Furukawa. There are direct connecting trains on the Meitetsu Centrair service to Nagoya and Gifu.
From Nagoya Station, Hida-Furukawa is 2 hours, 24 minutes by JR Takayama Line on the Hida Express. From Toyama there are also trains taking about 75 minutes. There are also direct trains to Osaka from Takayama (4 hours, 11 minutes), though it is quicker, though more expensive, to take the Shinkansen to Nagoya and change. Hida-Furukawa train station is also the main bus station.
There are long distance bus services from outside Takayama Station to Tokyo (Shinjuku; 5 hours, 30 minutes), Kyoto, Osaka (5 hours), Nagoya (2 hours, 45 minutes), Kanazawa (3 hours), Hida-Furukawa, (30 minutes), Gero Onsen, (90 minutes), Matsumoto (2 hours), Kamikochi, and Gujo Hachiman (1 hour, 15 minutes).
Getting Around Furukawa
Furukawa is easily explored on foot or rental bicycle. There are also excellent cycle tours of the local countryside organized by Hida Satoyama Cycling.
Hida Satoyama Cycling Tours are a good way to explore rural Hida-Furukawa