Gifu and its capital city are at the center of Japan, both geographically and historically. The city played a key role in Japan's unification, making the area rich in history.
JR Gifu Station is about 30 minutes from JR Nagoya. From there you can catch trains and buses to all parts of the prefecture.
JR Gifu-Hashima is a stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen line (not all trains stop there) between Nagoya and Maibara. The adjacent Gifu-Hashima Meitetsu station connects with Gifu Meitetsu Station, a five minute walk from JR Gifu Station.
High on Mount Kinka on the banks of the Nagaragawa River, Gifu Castle has one of the most impressive views of any castle in Japan. Rebuilt to the specs of the 16th century original, it takes around an hour to reach it on foot or a few minutes by the ropeway. The area around the base of the mountain is packed with shrines, temples and museums.
In the 19th century, a 14 meter statue of the Buddha was built to honor the victims of earthquakes and the diseases that inevitably followed them. A short walk from the base of Mount Kinka and Gifu Castle, the Buddha and the temple that houses it are comparable with the great Buddhas of Nara and Kamakura.
In Ukai fishing, a centuries old tradition, local master fishermen use cormorants to catch fish and drop them back in the boat. The birds are rewarded with every eighth fish.
Ukai fishing takes place at night by firelight. You can watch from boats that drift alongside the fishermen. Some boats also serve dinner while you watch the fishing.
Another river-borne thrill is riding the rapids of the Kiso River. The river is also called the Nihon Rhine for its likeness to its German counterpart.
Buses from Inuyama or Nihon Rhine Imawatari Station drop passengers off at the start, and wooden boats take you down a 13 kilometer valley that begins at the convergence of the powerful Kiso and Hida rivers and runs to Inuyama, Aichi.
Far more sedate than white-water rafting but still exciting, the trip down the most beautiful section of the Nihon Rhine takes about an hour. The wide river unfurls through open country before twisting through some narrower passes where strange rock formations rise from the water like sculptures.
Just 12 minutes by train west of Gifu City, Ogaki Castle is another concrete reconstruction of a 16th century castle. Ogaki was the closest castle to the battlefield of Sekigahara and was involved heavily in the wars of the 16th century. The museum inside the castle retells the story.
In 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu faced Ishida Mitsunari in what would become the defining battle of Japanese history, the Battle of Sekigahara. The ensuing bloodshed brought to an end the Warring States Period (1467-1603) - roughly 150 years of continuous civil war.
Tokugawa won the day, united the country, and began his shogunate, a dynasty that ruled Japan in relative peace for 250 years. Today, the Battle of Sekigahara is commemorated with a fascinating museum in the town center and recreations of the various army camps in the narrow valley.
The town of Tajimi is home to many varieties of world-renowned Mino-yaki (Mino ware), including Oribe and Shino. There are dozens of shops selling gorgeous dishes, vases and figures in the distinctive local style. You can even make your own bowls and cups in the Ceramic Park.
Tajimi is also home to Eiho-ji, a stunning temple complex with one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. You can easily spend a few hours strolling the gardens and bridges across the pond.
Every October the town of Mino opens its streets to artists from all over the world for the Mino Washi Akari Art Festival. They create beautiful lanterns and light sculptures with hand-made Mino paper.
The festival is held in the evenings and the streets of the historic town are awash in soft light.
Like everywhere in Japan, the brief cherry blossom season draws throngs of people to picnic, drink and relax under the pink petals. In Gifu, Kamigatani, Shinsakai Riverside, and Usuzumi Park are acknowledged as the best viewing spots.
You can stroll alongside the trees, taking in the falling petals and the changing perspective, or settle below the branches and partake of hanami - blossom viewing - which is accompanied with copious food and drink, the highlight of spring in Japan.