| John Asano
Five Spots to Enjoy Cherry Blossoms in Gifu City
Gifu City, a short 20-minute train ride from Nagoya in central Japan, is an interesting place to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms without all the crowds. Most of the main sakura spots are easily accessible via bus or on foot making it a compact and fun place to explore. Join me as I highlight my five favorite cherry blossom locales in Gifu City.
A short 1-minute walk from the south exit of JR Gifu Station is Shimizu Ryokuchi, a wonderful park and open space in downtown Gifu City that is popular with families. Cherry blossom trees line the small river that runs through the park making it a popular sakura spot in spring. You can get some amazing views of the cherry blossoms here mixed in with the skyline of Gifu City. I also recommend this spot in early summer to see fireflies illuminate the area.
Shidarezakura (weeping cherry blossoms) line both sides of Inaba-dori, the main street leading up to Inaba Shrine turning the whole area pretty in pink in spring. The shrine, which has a history of over 1,900 years, is located at the foot of Mount Kinka about a 30-minute walk from downtown Gifu.
A giant stone torii shrine gate marks the entrance to the shrine precinct with the path up to the main hall lined with somei-yoshino cherry blossom trees. The shrine has an amazing atmosphere which takes you back in time and you can get some great views of the cherry blossoms against the ancient wooden architecture of the shrine.
Along the Nagara River
Around 400 somei-yoshino cherry blossom trees can be found along the south bank of the famous Nagara River from the Nagarabashi Bridge.
The pristine Nagara River is home to ukai (cormorant fishing), which has a history of over 1,300 years and is one of the major tourist attractions of Gifu City running from May 11 to October 15 every year.
Gifu Gokoku Shrine
One of the first flowering cherry blossom trees in Gifu City is the Ukai Zakura Tree or Cormorant Fishing Cherry Blossom Tree, which is found at Gifu Gokoku Shrine. The gigantic 8-meter tree is over 100 years old and is said to be able to predict the amount of ayu (sweet river fish) caught during the upcoming ukai cormorant fishing season on the Nagara River by the number of petals that bloom. A full bloom means a bumper cormorant fishing season in Gifu City.
The Shinto shrine is located at the base of Mount Kinka near the Nagara River and Gifu Park.
There are a few cherry blossom trees to be found in Gifu Park, but the best spot is the Japan and China Friendship Garden which is located within the park. This enchanting garden is home to a small pond and traditional Chinese style architecture. The garden was created in 1999 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the friendship and affiliation between Gifu City in Japan and Hangzhou in China.
The garden is laid out in classic Chinese style with a keyhole gate, ornamental pond, bridge, and pavilion. The pond was modeled after West Lake, a famous spot in Hangzhou.
In early April, the whole park is beautifully colored with pink blossoms from the various types of cherry blossoms found there.
Other Spots Near Gifu
Some other interesting spots to check out just outside of Gifu City include:
The Shinsakai River in Kakamigahara
The riverbank of the Shinsakai River in Kakamigahara (just outside of Gifu City) is home to around 1,200 cherry blossom trees, making it one of the best spots to enjoy a hanami party and the fantastic atmosphere of a spring festival.
Ranked as one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossoms Spots, it is only a short train ride away from Gifu City on the Meitetsu line.
Sunomata Castle in Ogaki
Sunomata Castle, also known as the one-night castle, is surrounded by over 1,000 cherry blossom trees. The raised river road around the castle is lined on both sides by cherry blossom trees creating a blooming cherry blossom tunnel that is spectacular to walk under.
The Sunomata Cherry Blossom Festival is held during spring, with the castle and surrounding cherry blossoms illuminated at night to create a picturesque atmosphere.
Usuzumi Zakura in Neo Village
The famous Usuzumi Zakura is one of the Three Great Cherry Blossom Trees of Japan. The ancient tree is over 1,500 years old and is a National Monument of Japan. The unique cherry blossom tree initially sprouts light pink flowers, which turn white at full bloom before changing to a pale inky gray (usuzumi) before falling to the ground.
Gifu City is a fantastic destination for anyone looking to get away from the big city and explore the cherry blossoms without all the hordes of cherry blossom fans.
How to Get There?
From Nagoya Station, take either the JR Tokaido Line to JR Gifu Station or the Meitetsu Nagoya Line to Meitetsu Gifu Station. You can either catch a bus from the train station to all the cherry blossom spots above in Gifu City or rent a bicycle from the south side exit of JR Gifu Station to explore Gifu City by your own power.