GIFU – Crossroads Hill 岐阜県

GIFU - Crossroads Hill 岐阜県
King Wen of Zhou, Oda Nobunaga, and Confucius behind Gifu Castle.

The leading theory or popular belief is that warlord Oda Nobunaga, during his unsuccessful quest to conquer and unify Japan, renamed the castle town of Inokuchi (井口) and mountaintop Inabayama Castle (稲葉山に城) as “Gifu” in 1567 after he besieged the castle and defeated the Saito Clan to conquer Mino Province in present-day Gifu Prefecture. He moved into Gifu Castle while his magnificent Azuchi Castle was under construction in Omi Province (Shiga Prefecture).

To create the new name, he consulted with Zen Buddhist priest Takugen Souon (沢彦宗恩) at Seishuji Temple (政秀寺) in Komaki, Aichi. Nobunaga had built the temple for his deceased samurai retainer.

Takugen suggested three candidate names: Kizan (岐山), Kiyo (岐陽), and Gifu (岐阜). 

Nobunaga chose “Gifu.” The “Gi” comes from Qishan (岐山), the birthplace of the long-lasting Zhou Dynasty in China. It’s where King Wen of Zhou rose to rule the world. And the “fu” comes from Qufu (曲阜), the birthplace of Confucius in China.

Since Nobunaga sought to conquer Japan, “Gifu” apparently appealed to him the most. It also implies the desire to have peace and scholarly learning.

Although there are multiple historical records indicating that Nobunaga came up with the “Gifu” name, there have been naysayers as well, claiming that the “Gifu” name had existed even before 1567 in one form or another.

Gifu Prefecture’s official website explains that it is possible that the Gifu name was in use among Zen priests even before Nobunaga used it for Gifu. In truth, it seems the exact origin of the “Gifu” name is unknown.

By 1876, what used to be Mino Province (Tarui, Ogaki, Gifu, Kakamigahara) and Hida Province (Hida, Takayama, Gero) merged to largely form the Gifu Prefecture we know today. Gifu is actually a large prefecture, the seventh largest in Japan and five times larger than Tokyo.

Old province names: Mino-no-Kuni + Hida-no-Kuni (美濃国 +飛騨国).


*The AI-generated image is for illustrative purposes only and may not accurately depict any particular place in the prefecture.

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