| Bonnie Chow 

A visit to Hida Furukawa, a famous animated movie town full of dynamic and traditional Japanese culture

Have you heard of Hida Furukawa?

Hida Furukawa becomes well-known mainly because of the animated movie ‘Your Name’ by Makoto Shinkai in 2016. Lovers of the movie from all over the world visit Hida Furukawa to check on the iconic scenes as well as taking the pictures in the same spots.

Hida Furukawa is located in Gifu prefecture and is only two stations from Takayama which is the best day trip option if you are staying more than one night in Takayama. When compared to Takayama, Hida Furukawa is relatively smaller and less popular, it takes only two or three hours to walk around the old city area. It is especially suitable for tourists who would like to stroll along the Japanese old streets quietly to observe Hida’s traditional architecture by master craftsmen in this area, which is known as Hida Takumi. Nevertheless, the Hida Furukawa Festival, one of Japan's three great“Naked Festivals”, is also famous and attracts nearly 50,000 visitors every time. Despite the population in Hida Furukawa is only 23,000, Japanese traditional festivals, crafts, food culture, handmade products are well preserved. No matter if you are anime lovers or not, you will be amazed by the traditional charm of this little town.

Miyagawa river and mountain scenery in Hida Furukawa
‘Your Name’ exhibition in Hida City Museum in 2017

How do I go to Hida Furukawa from Nagoya?

From Nagoya, the fastest and direct way to reach Hida Furukawa is by JR Wide View Hida train and it takes about 3 hours. Alternatively, you can also take the public bus to Takayama then change the train to Hida Furukawa. The one-way train price is ¥5,610 whereas the one-way bus fee to Takayama is relatively cheaper at ¥3,100. The one-way train from Takayama to Hida Furukawa takes 16 minutes at ¥240. Please note that there is also a limited express train to Hida Furukawa in 14 minutes which you have to pay an extra ¥330 for the rapid service. We recommend you to check the train timetable in advance as the normal train is not running every hour.

What are the spots related to the animated movie Your Name in Hida Furukawa?

Recently, anime pilgrimage or Seichijunrei (sacred site pilgrimage) is getting popular in Japan. Animate spots walking maps are even provided in some tourist offices which anime lovers can easily visit the real locations shown in the animation. In the animated movie Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), there is a village called Itomori where the female character Mitsuha lives. Itomori is not a real place in Japan however some locations in the Hida area are used which encourage people to visit Hida Furukawa to see the place in reality.

There are four locations in Hida Furukawa that you can visit easily and take even the same pictures as the main character Taki Kun.

Hida Furukawa JR train station

Once you take off the JR train at Hida Furukawa, you are in the first location.
You can take a picture with the Hida cow which appears in the movie.

The crossover bridge near JR station

The bridge is just one minute walk from the JR station. Climbing up the stairs, you will see the windows on the right side with a train timetable and some sample pictures of different movie spots. If you would like to take the same picture that appears in the movie, please check the timetable and come back at the right time. It is also recommended to come in winter where you can see the train and station covered in snow!

You can take a picture with the Hida cow once you arrive at JR Hida Furukawa station.
Winter scenery of JR Furukawa station covered in snow

Hida City Library

It is about a 7-minute walk from the station to the library. Message books related to the animation are displayed here and you can sit in the same seat as if you are Taki Kun. Please ask the librarian for permission to take the pictures.

Hida City library in winter
You can read and sit in the exact same chair as Taki kun!

The Ketawakamiya Shrine

From JR Hida Furukawa station, it takes 13 minutes to walk to this shrine which appears in the animation. In fact, Ketawakamiya Shrine is significant to locals as the annual Hida Furukawa Festival is held in this shrine on 19 and 20 April. The portable shrine of the festival departs and returns to this shrine. If you have a chance to visit Hida Furukawa, why not visit this signature shrine?

The stairs of the shrine appear in the animation.
Ketawakamiya Shrine in winter

What is the recommended walking course in Hida Furukawa?

Setogawa canal and white-walled storehouse street

Hida Furukawa Festival Exhibition Hall

Lunch at Sobasho Nakaya or Fukuzenji Soba

Exploring the old town, Sake Tasting and Visiting Japanese Candle shop

Coffee break at Ichino-machi Café

Visiting the three historical temples

Setogawa canal and white walled storehouse street

The most popular spot in Hida Furuakawa is Setogawa canal where more than 1,000 colorful carps swim against the backdrop of the white-walled storehouses and the stone walls of the temple. This canal was made 400 years ago from the moat of Masushima Castle to develop a new field. Locals used to clean vegetables in this canal but it was severely polluted during the period of economic growth. In order to prevent tourists or other people to litter in the canal, the citizens of Hida Furukawa released carp into the canal in 1968. Until now, you can see the carps from April to November every year. There is also a box near the canal for the tourists to buy the feed of the carp. No wonder most of the carps looks huge!

You can feed the carp fish in the Setogawa canal.
The most photogenic spot in Hida Furukawa is here!

Hida Furukawa Festival Exhibition Hall

Hida Furukawa festival is held every year in spring on 19 and 20 April after a long winter in this area. It has more than 300 years of history which is also registered on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List and designated as National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. The highlight of this exhibition hall is the 3D movie in the theater and you can feel the dynamic aspect of the highlight “Okoshi-daiko”, the rousing drum, the scene that you can see hundreds of half-naked men carried a big Japanese drum through the street. While watching this in the theatre, you can listen to sound of the drum, the cheering of the half-naked men and more importantly, how the small drums, Tsuke-daiko, followed the big drum and approached the big drum aggressively.

Except for the festival days, the only way to see the real festive floats of the Furukawa festival is in this museum. Three out of the ten yatai floats are displayed here and you can notice the excellent craftsmanship of Hida artisans through the cravings and the decoration of each float. During the festival days, the festive parade is held at night in the streets and the lanterns of the beautiful festive floats are lit up. Would you like to try to operate the festive marionette by yourself? Here comes the chance for you to operate the mechanical marionette in the museum and there is also the showcase of the Shishimai (lion dance), Tokeiraku (cockfighting music), and children’s Kabuki, etc. It is a must-see spot if you would like to learn about the traditional culture of Hida Furukawa.

Open:
March - November: 9:00 am- 5:00 pm
December - February: 9:00 am- 4:30 pm
Closed: 30 Dec-2 Jan
Entrance fee: ¥700 per adult (high school student or above), ¥300 per children

Tonbo performance in the festival is shown in the movie and you can feel the courage of the young men in Hida Furukawa.

The display of the festive floats in the museum
The night parade of the festival

Lunch at Sobasho Nakaya or Fukuzenji Soba

Clean water, the cool climate with large temperature differences, and the distinct four seasons have provided a good condition for the Hida area to produce delicious soba. The buckwheat noodles in the city are cultivated in the highland area at an altitude of about 400 to 1,000 meters. There are many handmade soba shops using buckwheat flour produced in this area. Two soba restaurants are recommended by locals in the city center area.

Burdock tempura soba is the popular choice in Fukuzenji Soba.
In Sobasho Nakaya, you can eat the perilla seed cold soba with fresh wasabi.

Exploring the old town and sake tasting

With the proximity of Takayama, Hida Furukurwa is also famous for its master craftsmanship. We recommend you to walk the town while comparing the "clouds", the coat of arms of the Hida carpenters, which can be seen in the eaves of the houses. It is said that the percentage of people engaged in the construction industry in Hida Furukawa is still high. Hida masters who had high skills since the Nara period were dispatched to the capital and were involved in the construction of different old imperial capitals such as Fujiwara-kyo, Heijo-kyo etc. Manyoshu (classical Japanese poetry) and Nihon Shoki (second-oldest book of classical Japanese history) also describe the earnest work of Hida's masters and their praise for their skills. The techniques honed by their predecessors have been handed down to the present, and are utilized not only in architecture, but also in various fields that represent Hida, such as furniture, one-sword carving, ceramic art, and Hida Shunkei Lacquerware.

The clouds, the coat of arms of Hida carpenters

The old town of Hida Furukawa during the festival

Next, let’s visit Sake breweries and taste some traditional Japanese sake. There are two sake breweries in Hida Furukawa. Watanabe Sake Brewery has 150 years history of making sake and the building was registered as tangible cultural property. The signature sake is Hourai which has a delicious taste that spreads in your mouth. They also sell Daiginjo cake and non-alcoholic amazake. Sake tasting is free in Watanabe sake brewery. About a one minute walk from here, you can also visit Kaba Sake brewery which started their business 300 years ago. Shiramayumi is the sake that you cannot miss for sake-tasting.

The building of Watanabe Sake Brewery was registered as tangible cultural property.

Traditional Japanese candle demonstration

Do you know there are only ten shops in Japan that produce Japanese handmade candles? After the sake tasting, we recommend you to visit the Kigake Japanese Candle shop which was established 200 years ago to see the demonstration by the 7th generation owner of the shop regarding the coloring of the traditional handmade Japanese candles. Japanese candles in this shop are all handmade and use natural plants as ingredients. It is wind resistant that the flame does not easily go out when compared with western candles.
Time: 9:30am- 5:00 pm
Closing date: Every Wednesday, 1-3 January

The demonstration of the coloring of the Japanese candle is free of charge.
The snow candles of the Santera Mairi festival use the same technique as Japanese candles which are all wind-resistant.

Coffee break at Ichino-machi Café

This cafe is loved by locals and it was renovated from a machiya, a traditional wooden townhouse, in Hida Furukawa. The owner serves the coffee with Hida milk and we recommend you to try the popular melon bun in this cafe as the crust is crispy with melon flavor. It sometimes displays some locally made postcards, crafts, or picture books. Moreover, local-grown organic vegetables are sold here too. It is a perfect place to relax after a long walk in town.
Time: 11:00am-- 4:00 pm
Closing date: Every Tuesday

The entrance of the cafe
Ice coffee served with Hida milk in summer

Visiting the three historical temples

Enko-ji temple, Shinshu-ji temple and Honkou-ji temple are traditional Buddhist temples that have more than 300 years of history in Hida Furukawa. If you are visiting Enko-ji temple, please pay attention to the turtle carvings on both sides under the roof of the main hall. It is said that this turtle protected this temple from the Furukawa Great Fire that burned down most of the city of Furukawa in 1897, and the locals call it the "water-calling turtle."

Shinshu-ji temple in autumn
Enko-ji temple in winter

What are the recommended activities in Hida Furukawa?

Cycling tour

Satoyama experience organizes half-day and one-day cycling tours in Hida Furukawa which is suitable for travelers, who like biking in the countryside through the paddy fields with a local guide and through the explanation of the guide, you are able to learn more in-depth information about the town.
For more details: https://satoyama-experience.com/

Cycling through a paddy field in the Japanese countryside is a special experience.

Kimono rental

As Hida Furukawa is a traditional Japanese town, it is an ideal place to explore the town in Kimono. Kimono Obora is a local kimono shop that provides kimono rental for ¥4,400 and also the kumihimo braiding experience from the animated movie Your Name for ¥1,800. On 15 January every year, there is a Santera Mairi Festival (Three Temple Pilgrimage) in Hida Furukawa for locals to pray for love under snow. Everyone dresses in Kimono and visits three temples to collect the stamps. Even in non-festive days, renting a kimono in Furukawa, making your own kumihimo braiding and visiting the temples are a truly unique experience in Japan, isn’t it?

Kimono Obora
Opening hour: 9:00am-- 6:00 pm
Closing date: Every Thursday

It is a tradition to wear kimono at the Santera Mairi Festival and pray for a good relationship
Kumihimo braiding experience is available in the kimono rental shop.

Hida Mori no Megumi (Natural herb Tea Tasting)

In the Hida area, there are abundant resources from the forests. In order to introduce the healthy medical herb, the city office of Hida city opened an herbal shop called Hida Mori no Megumi for tourists to learn about the function of different herbs and we can smell and even taste the Natural herb tea grown in the local forest. Would you like to incorporate the power of nature's "medicinal herbs" into your daily life?

Opening hour: 10:00am-4:00pm daily

Natural herb in the local forest is displayed here.
You can taste the natural herbal tea here.

What is the locals’ favorite snack in Hida Furukawa?

Hida Beef Croquette Shop
The smell of this Hida Beef Croquette will make your mouth water. You will find the Hida beef inside this croquette juicy and it matches well with the mashed potatoes. The opening hour and dates are irregular as the owner often attends pop-up events and festivals near Hida Furukawa. Therefore, if you find this shop opening in Hida Furukawa, you should definitely buy one and try it!

The most famous Hida beef croquette is in Hida Furukawa.
Can’t wait to have a bite of this juicy Hida beef croquette!

Wrap-up

If you are a lover of both dynamic and traditional Japanese culture in Japan, we recommend you to visit Hida Furukawa!

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