From the Bon Odori and white water rafting in the summer, to fantastic skiing in the winter and mountain climbing or just enjoying downtown; Gujo is a year-round ecotourism destination.
Located only an hour north of Gifu city Gujo is the crossroads for north south east and West of Japan which is reflected in its history and culture. It is 1/10th of Gifu prefecture and has a density of 42 people per square kilometer. But for all that space, it has a wealth of destinations and activities for everyone.
Some have referred to the downtown area as “little Kyoto”. But the locals do not take kindly to this. One local told me bluntly, “We are nothing like Kyoto. No geisha. No tea houses. We have never been the capital. We have our own culture based on our closeness to nature and our deep reverence to the water that flows through our city.”
The water is everywhere. In between houses there are many small streams. In manny towns in Japan, these streams were built as a way to deal with fires. But in Gujo these became places of community. People wash their vegetables and ins some areas they can divert the water to side pools to wash shoes and boots.
Children are taught from a young age to respect water as the most essential thing for life. They are taught to respect where it comes from and what it can do both life or destruction.
The water also helped develop local industries in this small town.
More than 400 years ago, they developed a system for dying silk using natural materials like indigo, madder or onion skins. They understood that bugs and snakes don't like indigo, so most of the wears for famaers were dyed with indigo. This system is still used by Watanabe dyer's today not only on many kimono and hemp clothing but also other items, like KOINOBORI, carp streams, bags or scarfs. Another special fabric work in Gujo is the Gujo pongee developed by Ryozo Munehiro after world war II. You can see his beautiful kimono at the Hakurankan museum or the kimono shop.
Gujo is also known for one other famous product; plastic samples. These are the samples found outside every restaurant in Japan.The godfather of samples, Takizo Iwasaki, was from Gujo. He is credited with creating the industry and helping it grow in post WWII Japan. Today Gujo has a thriving sample industry which even tourists can try their hand at.
However one of the most attractive and famous event in Gujo is the summer Bon Odori or Gujo Odori. This dance festival, about 32 nights during 8 weeks from July to September, reaches its zenith during the four days of Obon in mid August when the citizens plus an average of 20,000 visitors fill the streets dancing all night till about 5:00am to live music.
The water is the soul of the people and makes it one of the most relaxing and welcoming communities I have ever been to in the world. There is something for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. Visitors can walk everywhere from sample factories, to the fabric stores to the many museums, sake shops, the castle and all the places that make Gujo one of Japan’s most overlooked destinations.