As I wrote in the previous post hubby and I had been to his ancestral home in Ichinomiya city of Aichi prefecture during the New Year holidays. On 1st January we visited Inaba Shrine in Gifu city of Gifu prefecture. Afterwards we visited Gifu Castle, which is located just 15-minutes walk away from the shrine.
Gifu Castle is a mountaintop castle built atop Mount Kinka at 338 meters in Gifu city of Gifu prefecture. The castle is one of the main symbols of Gifu city. A fortress castle was first constructed at the same location by Nikaido Yukimasa of Nikaido clan sometime between 1201 and 1204. After that Saito clan, the head retainer for Toki clan, stayed at the castle. But Saito Dosan overthrew his superiors and claimed the castle in 1539. He renovated the castle and built the donjon. In 1567 Oda Nobunaga claimed the castle from Saito Tatsuoki, the grandson of Dosan, and subdued the entire area. Originally called Inabayama Castle, Nobunaga changed the name of the castle to Gifu Castle. He moved his base of operations from Kiyosu Castle to Gifu Castle and set it as the base of subjugation of the whole country for about 9 years until the construction of Azuchi Castle. In 1600 when the castle was occupied by Oda Hidenobu, the grandson of Nobunaga, the castle probably played its most important role. That year during the Battle of Gifu Castle, which served as a prelude to the decisive Battle of Sekigahara, the castle was invaded by the Eastern Forces loyal to Tokugawa Ieyasu because Hidenobu had joined the Western Forces. The castle was destroyed by the victorious forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The following year, the castle was demolished and several parts like the tower and turret were transferred to Kano Castle. The ruins of Gifu Castle were further damaged by a fire during 1943 bombing of WWII. The current castle was built with reinforced concrete in 1956 as a 3 storied structure with 4 floors inside. The castle was renovated in 1997.
During our car ride from home to Inaba Shrine, we could see Gifu Castle as a tiny spot atop Mount Kinka. After visiting Inaba Shrine, we walked up to the entrance of Gifu Park which is a public park located at the base of Mount Kinka. At the entrance of the park, we saw a huge bronze statue of Oda Nobunaga riding a horse. We walked inside the park for some time to take pictures and wandered around. We saw two staff of the park dressed as samurai and entertaining the visitors. After about 20 minutes of enjoying the views in the park, we next visited the castle atop the mountain.
Gifu Castle seen as a tiny spot atop Mount Kinka during our car ride
A bronze statue of Oda Nobunaga riding a horse at the entrance of Gifu Park
Hubby seeing the map of Gifu Park and surrounding area
Inside the park
The castle tower atop Mount Kinka as seen from the park
I am standing along with two staff of the park dressed as samurai
Mount Kinka offers several hiking trails to Gifu Castle but we took a cable car ride up to the mountaintop. Mount Kinka Ropeway originates in Gifu Park that connects the park to the top of Mount Kinka. We went to the ropeway base Sanroku station located inside the park and bought two round trip tickets worth 1050 Yen per person. At the station, we had to wait for about 40 minutes as there was a long queue of visitors in front of us. The cable car ride itself was very short and we reached the summit Sancho station in just 3 minutes. From Sancho station, Gifu Castle is just a short walk away.
Mount Kinka Ropeway as seen from the mountaintop Sancho station
Ropeway cable car
From Sancho ropeway station, we had to walk along a paved path up to the castle tower. Just after walking a few steps, we saw the first gate towards the castle tower named Tenka Daiichi-no-mon Gate. It is a huge wooden reconstructed gate and this type of gate architecture is known as Kabukimon. The original gate was built during renovations after Oda Nobunaga claimed the castle in 1567. After passing through this gate, we climbed up the stone stairs and walked along the paved path, and enjoyed the views along the path. After walking for a couple of minutes, we reached the remains of another gate named Ninomaru-mon Gate. This gate guarded the castle tower, and fierce battle took place at this gate during the Battle of Gifu Castle in 1600.
Hubby standing in front of Tenka Daiichi-no-mon Gate
Hubby climbing up the stone stairs
Hubby walking along the paved path
Hubby standing in front of Ninomaru-mon Gate
After passing through the remains of Ninomaru-mon Gate, we walked up the trail for a couple of minutes and reached a nice spot from where we got a wonderful view of the castle tower.
Castle tower as viewed from a nice spot on our walking trail
Me and the castle tower
Next, we walked further up the stone stairs of the trail, and reached another spot from where we saw the castle tower from a slightly different angle. This spot at the mountaintop is almost near the tower, and we could clearly see the top floor of the tower along with the beautifully decorated roof adorned with golden Shachihoko. This spot also offered us a breathtaking view of Gifu city below. Walking a few more steps, we reached adjacent to the castle tower and noted the impressive stone base of the tower.
Castle tower as viewed from another perfect spot on our walking trail
Top floor of the tower and roof adorned with golden Shachihoko
Breathtaking view of Gifu city
I am enjoying the views of Gifu city
Stone base of the castle tower
Finally, after about 30 minutes of leisurely walking from Sancho ropeway station, we reached the front of the castle tower at the mountaintop. The tower is a 17.7 meters tall reinforced concrete building with a floor area of 461.77 square meters. It is a 3 storied structure with 4 floors inside. There is a large rock formation in front of the tower. Hubby climbed up the rock and enjoyed the views of Gifu city. I took rest for some time near the rock formation. We took several photos of the castle tower.
Front view of the castle tower
Castle tower as viewed from atop the large rock formation in front of the tower
Hubby enjoying wonderful views from atop the large rock formation
Hubby atop the large rock formation along with the castle tower in the background
Hubby and the castle tower
The Castle Clock, a large-sized turret clock of the early Edo period is exhibited outside the entrance of the castle. The clock is also called daimyo-dokei or wa-dokei. It was made by Japanese clock makers based on the mechanism of the western style mechanical clock but features the animals of the Japanese zodiac.
The Castle Clock
At the entrance of the castle tower, we paid 200 Yen per person as admission fee to enter inside. There are four floors inside the tower. On the first three floors, there are displays of various exhibits like weapons, photographs, paintings, and other artifacts that represent the castle’s past. On the top floor, there is an observation deck.
A wonderful collection of various kinds of weapons are exhibited on the first floor of the castle. Bows and arrows, muskets, cannons, rifles, shuriken, swords, spears, and several other weapons are displayed. We took photos of a few of the exhibits.
Bows and arrows
Muskets and cannon
Cannon and cannonballs
Rifle and shuriken
I am standing in front of the display of spears
Various kinds of spears
Photos and paintings of the occupants of the castle and their families over the centuries are displayed on the second floor. We loved viewing the paintings of Oda Nobunaga and his wife Nohime. Nobunaga welcomed foreign traders and religious missionaries in to Japan. In fact, we saw a painting of Nobunaga sitting with Christian icons like Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus in the upper left portion of the painting and a Bible right behind him. Sometimes I feel that he was born about five centuries too early in the wrong era. He was truly a global man with futuristic views. His wife Nohime was the daughter of Saito Dosan and was also known by the names Kicho or Lady Noh. Next to the painting of Nohime, we saw a display of a striking red bridal robe called uchikake that is worn over a kimono. This uchikake was worn by an actress who played the role of Nohime in a 1992 NHK drama named ‘Nobunaga - King of Zipangu’. We also liked the paintings of Saito Dosan and his son Saito Yoshitatsu. Dosan was the feudal lord of Mino province during Sengoku period and was considered to be ruthless. Yoshitatsu was the eldest son of Dosan who rebelled against his father and defeated him in the Battle of Nagaragawa in 1556, and obtained control of the castle and the province.
A painting of Oda Nobunaga
I am standing in front of the painting
Another painting of Oda Nobunaga sitting along with Christian icons
This is an enlarged view of the upper left portion of the previous painting. Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus and other Christian icons are seen.
A painting of Nohime
I am standing next to the bridal robe uchikake
A panting of Saito Dosan
A painting of Saito Yoshitatsu
Statues, armors, and various other artifacts related to Oda Nobunaga are displayed on the third floor. This floor is named as Nobunaga Room. On reaching the third floor, we saw a big wonderful statue of Nobunaga on display. We also saw fabulous displays of many armor suits and helmets. We liked the display of various exhibits like telescopes, a globe, lenses, maps, and glasses from Edo period. Nobunaga is known for actively importing European culture. He secured not only muskets and gunpowder (displayed on the first floor) from Portuguese and Spanish traders but also telescopes, eyeglasses, wines, and many other articles. All these exhibits indicate Nobunaga’s ambition to open Japan to foreign trade and ventures.
A statue of Oda Nobunaga
The statue as viewed from a slightly different angle
Display of armor suits
An armor suit and helmet
Another armor suit and helmet
Display of helmets
Display of telescopes, a globe, a lens, and eyeglasses
The top floor of the tower is an observation deck. We enjoyed a 360 degrees fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding areas including the Nagaragawa River.
Fantastic view from the top floor observation deck of the tower
I am enjoying the views of Gifu city from the observation deck
After enjoying viewing various kinds of displays and exhibits inside the castle tower, we left the tower. While walking down towards Sancho ropeway station, we saw a well next to the paved path. This well is called the Honmaru Well or the Well of Gifu Castle. As Gifu Castle is a mountaintop castle, there was extreme difficulty in securing drinking water for the feudal era soldiers taking refuge from the enemy troops. There was not a single source of spring water around, and so to compensate 4 wells were dug into the masses of rocks. The Honmaru Well we saw was used for military purposes only.
After reaching Sancho ropeway station, we saw a Squirrel Village named Risu Mura adjacent to the ropeway station. We paid 200 Yen per person as admission fee to enter inside the village park. We saw various species of squirrels moving around inside Risu Mura. One of them looked like the three striped squirrels I have seen in India. We get a chance to feed the squirrels out of our hands if they are hungry enough. Hubby tried to feed one of the squirrels but could not succeed. I compiled a video of a squirrel running around on a horizontal piece of wooden log.
Entrance to Squirrel Village
Inside Risu Mura
A striped squirrel
A visitor feeding a squirrel
Hubby holding out his hand and waiting patiently for the squirrels to come to him
There is a restaurant just up from Sancho ropeway station at the mountaintop. We had curry-rice, noodles, and coffee at the restaurant. Afterwards, we left the mountaintop by the cable car ropeway.
Hubby eating curry-rice
We loved visiting Gifu Castle and the Squirrel Village. On 3rd and 4th January hubby and I visited a few sightseeing places in Shiga prefecture about which I will write in the next three posts.