Monthly Archives: November 2017

Gifu Castle

DSC04533 Gifu-jo in clouds

We wrote about Jomon rebel Ryoumen Sukuna in an earlier post.  We mentioned that the warlord Oda Nobunaga acquired Gifu Castle (岐阜城, Gifu-jō). Gifu-jō was built on Mt. Kinka in 1201 in the Kamakura Period. It was originally called Inabayama Castle in the town of Inokuchi. In 1567, Oda Nobunaga launched an attack on Mino Province and attacked the castle on 13 September. After two weeks, Nobunaga claimed the castle and made it his own. He renamed the castle Gifu-jō, and the town Gifu. The castle has been damaged and destroyed several times, including during World War II. The current version of Gifu Castle is a cement structure that was built in the 1950s. What we see today is the donjon, the castle keep (tower). Gifu is the name of the capital city of Gifu prefecture.

These photos were taken early in the morning when the castle on the top of Kinka mountain was shrouded in clouds. When the mist dissipated, we could see the donjon. For 800 years the castle has been siting majestically high over the town and the Nagara river below.

DSC04534 Gifu-jo on hill

For those who want to know what the donjon looks like close up, here is a photo from Wikimedia.


The Nagara-gawa is one of the major rivers of Gifu-ken. Here it is by day and by night.





Okuhida Sake and Vodka in Autumn

2017-10-25 13.14.04 Okuhida front

Okuhida Sake Brewery continues to produce top quality sake. For this autumn season, there are two special sakes. They are announced on their shop window, to the left of the sugitama cedar ball. One is a newcomer with an attractive harvest moon label, and it is called Aki Agari. It can be served cold or warm. Either way, it has a taste entirely appropriate for autumn.

2017-10-19 17.06.39 Aki Agari

The other selection in the Hatsumidori series is the classic Yamahai. Yamahai is created lovingly with extra care, rice being polished up to 55%, and it takes three times as long to make. The recipe is 150 years old! When you taste this fine sake, you will know why it has been popular for such a long time. The Yamahai will be your choice for your autumn sake.

2017-10-25 14.09.36 Yamahai

Lest you forgot that Okuhida Sake Brewery produces an acclaimed vodka, here it is again. Our earlier report was posted prior to Putin’s visit to Japan.

2017-10-26 20.57.01 vodka

Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2016, was presented with Okuhida Vodka by former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi. This vodka is made from premium Miyama Nishiki rice and the clear, pure water of the Maze river of Hida, plus it takes six long years. Okuhida ran out of stock recently because of increased demand. It’s no wonder that Okuhida Vodka is a tremendous success!

2017-10-25 13.14.20 Okuhida signs





Shichifukuzan Minshuku



If you want lodging in a traditional home in Hida Kanayama, Shichifukuzan is the place to stay. Shichifukuzan 七福山refers to the mountain (san 山) of the seven (shichi 七) lucky (fuku 福) kami. The building is from Edo jidai, 1603-1868. This minshuku guest house is run by the proprietress who is called Okami-san.


Here is a view from the room on the ground floor of the building which is in a grove of trees. And here is the room itself.


There is a rushing river across the street. There are additional rooms on the second floor. Breakfast and dinner meals are cooked by Okami-san. You have the opportunity to taste real mountain food, fresh from the rivers and mountains of Kanayama.

One night, several of us gathered and asked Okami-san to prepare a dish of nabe. On a crisp evening in autumn, what could be better? After the nabe veggies had been consumed, a wonderful broth remained. Okami-san brought out rice and two eggs. They were mixed into the broth and the result is called zousui. The perfect way to end a meal!

2017 nabe dinner-10-22 18.45.26

2017-10-22 19.00.29 nabe pot





Nangu Taisha


Nangu Taisha Entrance Gate


View from gate: Haiden of Nangu Taisha, with kagura den in front

Nangu Taisha is Ichinomiya of Mino. This is a grand shrine painted in vermillion. The gosaishin of Nangu Taisha is Kanayama-hiko, kami of metal-working. 

We were interested in visiting this taisha because we had been to Nangu Jinja in Hida Kanayama. We found that Nangu Jinja faced the sunrise of winter solstice. We wondered if these two shrines are related and wanted to measure the taisha’s orientation.


Elegant altar in haiden


Kagura den in front of haiden


View from haiden through kaguraden to entrace gate and winter solstice rising sun

We verified that the shrine faces the azimuth direction of 120 degrees. This means that the winter solstice rising sun penetrates the gate, the kagura den, and finally strikes the altar of the haiden. We have found the east, the sunrise direction, to be the most preferred orientation of jinja, and especially the sunrise of the winter solstice. In latitudes around 35 degrees North, as such here in Gifu, that direction is about 30 degrees south of east, namely 120 degrees. Which is exactly what we found at Nangu Taisha and at Nangu Jinja.




Taki Jinja


Taki Jinja 瀧神社(たきじんじゃ)

Taki means waterfall. This is a Seoritsuhime shrine in a truly lovely secluded place. This shrine is simple and mysterious, in a shady forest. It is very peaceful here, listening to the sounds of birds and running water. This site is located in Mino, in Gifu Prefecture.

The shrine grounds are a level area with a slope to the right as we face the buildings from the parking lot. This is the slope from which the taki falls to the valley below, which its waters have created so long ago. Surely, the sacredness of this site was recognized by the ancient people. The taki itself is the goshintai sacred body. The named kami is Seoritsuhime, the guardian spirit of waterfalls and white water streams. There is another Taki Shrine in Kyoto, also dedicated to Seoritsuhime. The river formed by this taki is Itadori-kawa, a tributary of Nagara-kawa


The waterfall was the original sacred object and then the spirit of the waterfall was identified as Seoritsuhime no Mikoto. Other gosaishin are identified as Minasame no Mikoto, and Yaoroyorozu no kami, a panoply of kami. There is no chigi on the prayer hall. The direction is 263 degrees, which does not seem to be significant. After all, the main sacred object is the waterfall itself.







Kuraiyama.  Kuraiyama is the sacred mountain to people of Hida. Myths and legends about Kuraiyama abound. Kuraiyama: 2,900m =  9,505ft. This sacred mountain has been defaced by a ski resort called Mont Deus. However, it still retains powerful energy. There have been rumors of strange happenings such as mysterious people, UFOs, electromagnetic effects, and the like. 

DSC04469 On Kuraiyama

When we got to Kuraiyama it was drizzly. So foggy that we were in the clouds most of the time. There was a kind of auto event going on in the parking lot of Mount Deus, ski resort. We found the road up the mountain to our right. We went up a scary mountain road and we had to back up when cars came down. We lost a hubcap temporarily. We finally got to the parking lot. From there we would have to walk. We tried to get a GPS signal but could not.


We walked to the first megalith on the trail, the Misogi Iwa. It is made of two or more megaliths (not so huge) with a triangular opening in between. We wonder what direction the opening faces. It was too wet to try a compass reading, and we decided to go back to the car.

Misogi Iwa Megalith

At the foot of Kuraiyama, in the paring lot at 888m = 2,980ft elevation, we were able to get a GPS reading. Why not on the mountain? After leaving Kuraiyama, we saw a temperature reading of 9C.





Minashi Jinja


View from grounds of Minashi Jinja


Minashi Jinja  水無神社. The formal name is Hida Ichinomiya Minashi Shrine (飛騨一宮水無神社 Hida Ichinomiya Minashi Jinja). Minashi means mizu-nashi, without water. It refers to the fact that this is the divide, the bunsui or suibun,  where the waters divide. Here, to one side rivers rush to the Pacific Ocean, while on the other side, the rivers drain to the Japan Sea. This is a very sacred place. Minashi Jinja is Hida’s Ichinomiya, the first shrine of Hida Province. The sacred object is Mt. Kuraiyama. Thus, Kuraiyama watches over Minashi and Minashi honors Kuraiyama. Together, they are the must-visit places of Hida.


It was drizzly when we arrived at Minashi Jinja. Minashi Jinja has a forest behind it and is adjacent to homes next to the river. We started at the bridge over a tributary of the Miyagawa, and then turned toward the shrine. The shrine was facing northwest, between 305 to 320 degrees. The goshintai is Mt. Kuraiyama which is to the shrine’s left (right as we face the shrine), namely southwest. 



Minashi Jinja is an important Ichinomiya shrine, medium sized, and yet not ostentatious. It feels very comfortable to be here. When we enter the grounds, on our right is an unusual tree that grew in a neji spiral fashion. It is considered sacred because it represents a spiraling energy. 


DSC04458Off the grounds, on our right we can see the red torii of an Inari shrine. As we wash our hands at the temizuya, we notice that there is a ceremony going on in the haiden.   At first, we thought that there was a blessing ceremony for a worshipper, but it looked more like a regular morning purification ritual by the guji-san priest and a miko shrine maiden.

On our way out we asked the man raking the gravel where is Mt. Kuraiyama? He pointed to the side which would be the southwest direction. In this photo Kuraiyama is topped with clouds; it was only 7km away. We would go there next. Chigi: Male.   

DSC04468 View Kuraiyama