Category Archives: Kanayama

Winter Solstice 2017


Kanayama Megaliths in December by S. Tokuda

Winter weather has arrived in the mountains of Kanayama. The solstice is coming soon to the megaliths. It will arrive on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 1:28 am. Unless you live in the same time zone, it will probably arrive for you on Thursday the 21st. See the dates and times below.

EarthSky has a posted information about the winter solstice of 2017. Here are some excerpts telling us that the four quarters of the year vary in length from 89 to 94 days. There is an exciting graphic as well on the site.

The 2017 December solstice will come on the December 21 at 16:28 UTC. That’s 10:28 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.

By season, we mean the time between a solstice and an equinox, or vice versa. The upcoming season – between the December solstice and March equinox – is a touch shy of 89 days.

Contrast the number of days of the upcoming season with that of the longest season, a Northern Hemisphere summer or Southern Hemisphere winter. The longest season as measured from the June solstice to the September equinox lasts 93.65 days.

Why is the upcoming season nearly 5 days shorter? Every year in early January, the Earth swings closest to the sun for the year. Because Earth is nearest the sun at this time, Earth moves most swiftly in its orbit. That’s why a Northern Hemisphere winter or Southern Hemisphere summer is the shortest of the four seasons.

On the other hand, in early July, Earth is farthest from the sun and moving most slowly in its orbit.

Lengths of the astronomical seasons:

December solstice to March equinox: 88.99 days
March equinox to June solstice: 92.76 days
June solstice to September equinox: 93.65 days
September equinox to December solstice: 89.84 days

For those in various time zones, here are some astronomical dates and times of the winter solstice.

Fri 1:28 am     Tokyo
Thu 9:58 pm    New Delhi
Thu 7:28 pm    Moscow
Thu 4:28 pm    London
Thu 11:28 am    New York
Thu 8:28 am     Los Angeles
Thu 6:28 am     Honolulu

For those who have accessibility issues, we thank a reader for suggesting this site

For Kanayama megalith visitors, there will be a hike up Higashinoyama on the morning of the winter solstice.

December 22 – December 24
Dec 22 at 7:30 AM to Dec 24 at 4:20 PM UTC+09
See the link for details.

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.





Watersheds and River Systems of Hida


Watersheds of Gifu

Rivers of Hida

Our previous post was about the meeting of the Maze and Hida Rivers in Kanayama. The river systems of Hida are very interesting since they are in the central part of the island of Honshu. Thus there are rivers flowing to the north to the Sea of Japan, and south to the Pacific.

Maze River.  The Maze River (馬瀬川, Maze-gawa) begins further south and west than the Hida. It flows through Gero-shi and into the Hida River at Kanayama. Photo below, left.

Map of Gifu (above)

The watershed areas of the Gifu river systems are shown in the map of Gifu-ken. Gifu’s neighbors on the west are Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, and Shiga, and Mie in the southwest. On the east, Gifu is bordered by Nagano with Aichi at the bottom right, the southeast.

Major Watersheds of Gifu

Watershed is written:  流域  ryuu-iki.  The large watersheds systems are as follows. The upper left and right on the map:

庄川  Shou-gawa,
神通川  Jinzu-gawa also called  宮川 Miya-gawa
These river systems drain into Toyama Bay. The three large systems in the middle, from the left:
揖斐川  Ibi-gawa,
長良川  Nagara-gawa,
木曽川  Kiso-gawa+飛騨川  Hida-gawa
Below them is
木曽川  Kiso-gawa
and two others. Since the Maze-gawa flows into the Hida-gawa and the Hida-gawa in turn into the Kiso-gawa, these rivers all drain into the Pacific Ocean at Ise Bay near the city of Nagoya.

dsc04138-whirlpoolflowing through Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, and Mie prefectures. It is the main river of the Kiso Three Rivers together with the Ibi-gawa and Nagara-gawa. In our post at Yamanomiya, we showed the whirlpool in the Kiso-gawa at Kawakami Jinja in Yaotsu town in Minokamo (photo at left).

Iwaya Dam.  The Iwaya Dam, indicated in redIwayaDam in the center of the map, is located very close to the Kanayama Megaliths. Note the Maze-gawa flowing south from the dam to the town of Kanayama where it joins with the Hida-gawa from the northeast.
Jinzu-Miya River.  The Miya River (宮川 Miya-gawa) flows from Gifu-ken northward to Toyama-ken. When it reaches Toyama, it is called Jinzū River (神通川 Jinzū-gawa). It is 120 km (75 mi) in length and has a watershed of 2,720 km2 (1,050 sq mi). Both of these river names, the Miya (shrine) and the Jinzu (movement of kami), are respectful of the kami of rivers.
The Divide.  A watershed divide is called bunsui rei  分水嶺. Where is the divide of central Honshu? Hint: logic tells us that it would be located at the intersection of the four large watersheds, to the northwest of the Iwaya Dam. We will have more in a later post.

Snapshots of Kanayama: Where the Maze and Hida Rivers meet

2017-06-24 11.55.07 confluence

It is a thrill to stand at the power spot where two rivers meet. In Kanayama, the Hida River in the east, and the Maze River in the west join to continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean. First, here are some photos taken on the town side. The plaque reads: Maze-gawa, Maze River. It seems to translate into the Rapids of the Horse. I don’t know if it really means that. Nevertheless, the name reflects the rapids of the swift mountain stream. Those large leaves in the photo on the right are the hoba, used widely in Hida cuisine, such as the hoba sushi and hoba miso.

Looking at the Maze River from the bridge, this is what I saw. Upstream is to our left and downstream to the right.

At the end of the bridge, there is a small roadside shrine.

I made my way back to the town side of the Maze and followed the river south. Hydrangeas of different colors were in bloom.

It is the season for fishing for ayu, the delectable fish of clear mountain streams. Hida folks are very proud of their ayu.

DSC04038 Ayu fishing

I took the bridge to cross over to the east bank. South of this bridge is Mino which is not a part of Hida, geographically or culturally.

DSC04040 bridge over Hida-gawa

A view from the bridge, near the east side. Kanayama town continues on the other side of the river. After walking a few blocks right and left, I came to the Hidakanayama Train Station which you’ve seen in the earlier post. I’ve shown you a lot of photos of the river. I hope you enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the rivers that run through Kanayama.

2017-06-24 11.55.55




Snapshots of Kanayama: A Walk through Old Town

2017-06-24 10.54.35The Kinkotsu-Meguri walking map of Kanayama Town is featured above. It was created by Shiho Tokuda who also made the poster which you have seen earlier (also below, left). This summer, I walked through Old Town Kanayama, following in part the meguri map. The photo on the right is a close-up of the old post road showing the location of the well.



I started on the old post road and saw alleyways like that in the poster above. There were folks going down some narrow steps so I followed them. They were on the meguri tour and were being shown the well. They were drinking the clear water from a ladle and exclaiming how good it tastes. There is a shrine honoring the Mizu-no-Kami, the Kami of Water. Looking closely, we see that the sacred objects are ancient stones, a remnant of Jomon times.


I left them to look for the shop with the rice mill run by Asai-san, on the next block. It is on the way to Okuhida Sake Brewery which I have reported on before. Here are some photos where Asai-san is showing me how he takes a bag of unmilled rice and runs the rice through the milling process. He (and other gourmands) recommend that rice be cooked within a week of milling, for best flavor.

After this stop, I passed by the Okuhida Brewery as I walked over to the Mazegawa (Maze River) which is running south from the Iwaya Valley. See the bridge below.  Here are a few more snaps of the town.

And some of the summer flowers in bloom such as the purple hydrangea and the four-petaled white dokudami. The dokudami makes a wonderful and healthful herb tea. In the middle are flowering soba plants which will later produce seeds from which soba-ko is made for delicious soba noodles.





Snapshots of Kanayama: Foods

2017-06-22 18.58.35 HobaMiso

Hida Kanayama is a food lover’s paradise. Not only are there fresh seasonal produce deliciously served, there are local specialties as well. Let us show you some of them.

First we introduce you to hoba miso with Hida gyu (Hida beef). Hida gyu is wonderfully marbled and sooo tender! Above we see Hida gyu on a grill plate heated by a sterno burner (which conveniently goes out when the food is about done). It is served with green onions, piman peppers, and mushrooms, with the2017-06-22 19.04.04 Hoba gyu sushifamous hoba miso of Hida. Here is one of the Hida gyu nigiri sushi as served in the restaurant of Karen.Having one of these sushi is heavenly! They come two on a plate, doubly heavenly.

Of course, we must have hoba sushi, a specialty of the area. Here is what it looks like. It is wrapped in a fresh green hoba leaf that grows abundantly in Kanayama. It is delicious the first day, and possibly even better the second day. In case you are wondering, a hoba leaf is a type of very large camellia leaf.

2017-06-28 13.32.42 hoba sushi

Restaurant Hizan レストランひざん offers many popular meals. Look at the lunch you can have for only 1000 yen! And on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Hizan serves the Japanese breakfast called morning service including egg, toast, and more for the price of a cup of coffee!

DSC04054 Hizan lunch menu

DSC04055 Hizan morning service