Japanese Castles: Gifu Castle
Gifu Castle 岐阜城
Gifu Castle (Tel: 058 263 4853) is located in Gifu Park, on the top of the 300m-high Mount Kinka and was formerly known as Inabayama Castle. The castle was originally built in the 13th century.
During the Warring States Period (Sengoku Jidai) the castle became the residence of Dosan Saito (1494-1556), a ruthless adventurer, who rose from prosperous merchant to become the dominant warlord of the region. Dosan was killed in a coup d'etat by his son Saito Yoshitatsu at the Battle of Nagaragawa.
Gifu Castle, however, is chiefly associated with the life of local Japanese strongman Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), who captured the castle from Dosan's grandson, Saito Tatsuoki, strengthened the castle's walls and changed the name of the castle from Inabayama Castle to Gifu Castle.
Nobunaga subsequently moved his base of operations from Kiyosu Castle, which is nearer to present-day Nagoya, to the more easily defendable Gifu Castle and supposedly built his palace at the foot of Mt Kinka.
Gifu Castle, by this time occupied by Nobunaga's grandson, Nobuhide, was destroyed in the Battle of Gifu Castle in 1600, a preliminary skirmish before the decisive Battle of Sekigahara, which saw the victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa regime.
The contemporary, 4-story, reinforced concrete Gifu Castle dates from the 1950s and displays exhibits of Edo Period armor, photographs, paintings and samurai weapons. There are explanations in both English and Japanese.
There are great vistas from the top observation deck over the Nagara River below, as well as views of Mt Ena and the Kiso Mountains, to the north the Japan Alps and the Norikura mountains and to the south the Nobi Plain and the Kiso River.
A small museum below the castle the Gifu Castle Archives Museum, to your left as you walk down, contains musical instruments and other period artifacts and is included in the price of admission. The building is a modern reconstruction of an original weapon and food storage turret.
There's a cafe/restaurant with excellent views of the Nagaragawa River below, beer, soft drinks and food just up from the ropeway station at the top of the mountain. Adjacent to the Sancho ropeway station is a Squirrel Village with information on the squirrels living on Mt. Kinka and a chance to feed them!
The walk up the forested Mt Kinka is fairly steep and makes for a good hike, especially if you walk down as well. There are a number of trails up the Kinka-san mountain including the most popular and least precipitous 2,300m-long Meditation Path (Meisou no Shokei), the 1,900m Seven Turn (Nana magari), the 1,100m Hundred turn (Hyaku magari) and the very steep and direct 1,100m long Horse Back Mountain Trail (Umanose Tosando). The trails begin near the Mt. Kinka Ropeway Sanroku station or a little further along Gifu Park. Consult the tourist map from the Tourist Office in Gifu Station for full details.
View of the Nagaragawa River from Mt. Kinka
Gifu Castle keep on the summit of Mt. Kinka
Gifu Castle is located north east of JR Gifu Station. Take a bus from JR Gifu Station and alight at the Gifukoen-mae stop. The price is 200 yen for adults; 100 yen for children. From Gifu Koen it is a 50-60 minute hike to the top of the mountain or take the Mount Kinka Ropeway.
At the bottom of the hill are the Nawa Insect Museum (Tel: 058 263 0038) with over 18,000 species of creepy-crawlies on display and the Gifu City Museum of History (Tel: 058 265 0010), which stages some excellent temporary exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection.
Chubu Area Castles
Other castles in the Chubu area of central Japan include Nagoya Castle, Kiyosu Castle, Okazaki Castle and Inuyama Castle.
Book Hotel Accommodation in Gifu Japan