JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when traveling.


Most viewed - Gifu city 岐阜市
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The Nagaragawa River ukai cormorant fishing is held nightly from May 11 to Oct. 15 except during the Full Moon and if the river overflows. You can buy tickets and board the viewing boats here, next to Nagarabashi Bridge. 鵜飼観覧船のりば593 views
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Path to Gifu Castle tower471 views
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Gifu Castle on Mt. Kinkazan as seen from the Nagara River. In the foreground is Nagaragawa Onsen Spa. Commanding a strategic viewpoint of the entire city, Mt. Kinkazan must have looked like an obvious place to build a castle.360 views
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View of Gifu city and Nagara River. Also see the video at YouTube.304 views
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Statue in Ukai Hiroba. Also see my YouTube ukai video here.278 views
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Gifu Castle Museum265 views
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The bird then spits out the fish. The person on the right is the fishing master's son being groomed to take over his father's job. The fishing master has been doing this for 50 years. It is a hereditary position and occupation. 鮎262 views
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Gifu Castle Museum261 viewsIt is located on the site of a storehouse.
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Although there is cormorant fishing in other parts of Japan, Gifu's Nagara River ukai cormorant fishing is most famous because it is connected to the Imperial family. Statue of a ukai cormorant fishing master called an "usho." 鵜匠の像256 views
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Gifu Castle on Mt. Kinkazan as seen from the Tokaido Line train. The castle can still be seen from many kilometers away. It is one of the symbols of Gifu city.250 views
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The burning torch provides light and attracts the sweetfish. The cormorants dive into the water to catch the fish. The bird then is pulled to the boat to spit out the fish. The ukai cormorant fishing master holds the leash to 10 to 12 birds.246 views
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Gifu Castle tower236 viewsGifu Castle was originally called Inabayama Castle. Its known history starts from the 16th century with Lord Saito Dosan. Oda Nodunaga later took over the castle in 1567. He also renamed Inaba city as "Gifu."

Nobunaga left Gifu Castle and moved to Azuchi Castle in Shiga Pref. His sons took over Gifu Castle. Right before the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokygawa Ieyasu's forces attacked Gifu Castle which burned to the ground on Aug. 23, 1600.

The current castle tower was reconstructed in 1954.
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Castle tower235 views
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Gifu Castle on Mt. Kinkazan and ropeway233 viewsA convenient ropeway makes it a snap to visit the castle.
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There is also a small park called the Ukai Hiroba 鵜飼ひろば。232 views
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Tenka Daiichi-no-mon Gate224 viewsThe first gate toward the castle tower.
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From this park, you can also watch the nightly ukai fishing on the river.223 views
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Top floor of castle tower219 views
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Ropeway station218 views
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After spitting out its catch, the bird goes back into the water. The title of usho 鵜匠 (cormorant fishing master) was created by Oda Nobunaga. Only the Nagara River ukai fishing masters have this title. Other cormorant fishermen are u-zukai 鵜使い.218 views
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Gifu Castle ropeway boarding area214 views
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Inside the castle tower213 viewsIt is a museum inside the tower.
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Inside Gifu Castle Museum209 views
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Low-angle view of castle tower208 views
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Castle tower observation deck208 viewsMarvelous views of Gifu city can be had.
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Former horseback riding grounds207 views
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The light of the fireworks immediately attracted a swarm of bugs which died from the fire and dropped into the river. Stupid bugs.203 views
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Path to the castle tower197 viewsGo up the left steps to proceed to the tower.
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Castle tower base186 views
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Another observation deck186 views
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Remains of the Ninomaru-mon Gate184 views
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Castle clock184 views
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His footwear is a pair of half-slippers (ashinaka) made of straw (handmade by the fishing master). It is half the usual length. It prevents him from slipping on the fish oil and water. 足半(あしなか)162 views
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Inaba Shrine is near the foot of Mt. Kinkazan (Gifu Castle) and Gifu city's most popular shrine for worship during New Year's. I visited on Jan. 1, 2011.158 views
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The fishing master's handmade skirt (koshimino) is made of straw. It functions as a raincoat and provides warmth. He makes and wears out four or five skirts each year. Underneath is just shorts. 腰蓑(こしみの)156 views
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There is a ring around the bird's throat, preventing it from swallowing the fish. (The bird can still swallow smaller fish.) The cormorants are caught in the wild in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture and trained for ukai fishing in Gifu. 鵜151 views
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Gifu City Tower 43 is connected to JR Gifu Station with an upper level walkway.149 views
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The ukai fishing master's ukai cormorant fishing boat is called ubune. Accompanied by an assistant (middle) called the nakanori and the steerer (at rear) called tomonori. About 13 meters long. 鵜舟(うぶね)= 鵜匠+供乗り(とものり)146 views
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He puts in ayu sweetfish into the cormorant's mouth. Nagara River's six cormorant fishing masters are employees of the Imperial Household Agency (Ceremonies Dept.). They are national government employees. 海鵜141 views
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He took out one of the cormorants from the basket cage. In Japanese, the bird is called umi'u. They normally fish in the ocean as opposed to the kawa'u river cormorant which are smaller and have been devastating to the fish in Lake Biwa.141 views
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Pine wood stored at one cormorant fishing master's home.134 views
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So we finished eating dinner, and at around 7:45 pm, the first ukai cormorant fishing boat passed by. The order in which the fishing masters pass by and fish is decided by drawing lots. The fish catch varies depending on what order you fish.133 views
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They also showed us a sample of the ayu sweetfish that were caught. These are larger than normal ayu. Those caught by the cormorants are expensive. The fish die quickly in the bird's beak, preserving freshness. You can see the beak marks on the fish.133 views
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Homes of the cormorant fishing masters. It may be possible to see their birds if you ask politely and if they are not busy.133 views
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Ukai cormorant fishing boats docked near the cormorant fishing masters' homes. At the right time, you can watch them carry the birds to the boats as they prepare for the ukai fishing.132 views
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The cap protrudes upward to make room for the topknot which the men used to have in the old days. His shirt (ryofuku) is made of cotton. He also has a fire-protection vest (muneate) that has a pocket. 漁服(りょうふく)胸あて(むあて)131 views
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Serving hot ama-zake here.129 views
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We had ordered bento box lunches from the hotel. This kind of cruise probably cost 5,000 yen per person. Smoking is not allowed on the boat.128 views
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First he explains about the fishing master's costume, starting with his cap (kazaori-eboshi) made of hemp cloth. It's actually a flat piece of black or navy blue cloth wrapped around his head to protect his hair from the fire. 風折烏帽子127 views
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The torch fire is called kagaribi 篝火, the pine wood used for the fire is called matsuwariki 松割木, and the metal basket holding the burning wood is called kagari 篝. The pole holding the torch is called kagaribo 篝棒.124 views
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Ticket office for ukai cormorant fishing viewing boats. Behind it is Nagara River and boat dock. You can buy tickets on the day you want to view the cormorant fishing. Pamphlets in English are available. 鵜飼観覧船事務所121 views
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Bento box lunch. It was pretty good. We also had a variety of soft drinks. Before the ukai fishing began, we had time to eat dinner.121 views
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The cormorants go out on these fishing trips on an empty stomach. They are starving, and therefore motivated to hunt for fish. The six ukai fishing boats pass by, so you get ample chance to take pictures and videos.121 views
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Sign at one home of a cormorant fishing master. The fishing masters also perform cormorant fishing for the Imperial family 8 times a year at designated areas on Nagara River. The fish is offered to the Imperial family, Ise Shrine, and Meiji Shrine. 御料121 views
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Ukai cormorant fishing master Sugiyama Ichisaburo comes to give the ukai talk. The basket has two cormorant birds. Nagara River in Gifu has six ukai cormorant fishing masters. All of them appear nightly. 杉山市三郎120 views
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Our boat was semi-human powered. I think this guy should be wearing a happi coat and a Chinaman's hat for better atmosphere and aesthetics.120 views
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The cormorant fishing boats then parked near the viewing boats and showed us how they feed/reward the starving birds with fish and then put back the birds in the basket cages.119 views
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For the climax, called sogarami (joint-formation fishing), all six ukai cormorant fishing boats line up and proceed downriver together while they chase the fish to the shallows. 総がらみ118 views
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After the ukai talk, passengers start to board the ukai viewing boats at 6:15 pm. Course B passengers will board at 6:45 pm or 7:15 pm. Course B is for people who just want to see the cormorant fishing, and don't care to spend much time on the boat.117 views
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Amazing how the strings don't get tangled. The fishing master can quickly cut the rope in case it gets caught on rock underwater so the bird does not drown. Also see my YouTube video here.117 views
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The 122 tools (including the cormorant fishing boat) used by the fishing master are Important Tangible Properties. If you want to take pictures, flash and a high ISO speed are essential. Video is great too.116 views
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You have several options: Course/Cruise A is slightly more expensive (3300 yen) than Course B (3000 yen) since it allows you to be on the boat for a longer time. The 6:15 pm departure time is earlier, so it gives you time to eat dinner on the boat.115 viewsOn weekends and holidays, the 3300 yen price is the same for both Course A and B.
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Ukai cormorant fishing viewing boat. You don't need to go as a group. You can go by yourself and just ride with other passengers. There are also boats for women only, families only, and couples only.115 views
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Sogarami, all six ukai cormorant fishing boats line up and chase the fish downriver together while the fishing masters shout "Hou-Hou." I. Photographing this is difficult since your flash cannot reach the boats. 総がらみ115 views
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The usho (cormorant fishing master) and nakanori (assistant). The fishing master has about 20 cormorants at his home. Since they live together, he and the birds are able to work well together. 鵜匠、なか乗り114 views
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Near Nagara River is the homes of the cormorant fishing masters.113 views
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Gifu city manhole showing cormorants 113 views
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This is our ukai viewing boat called Dosan Maru, named after the famous lord of Gifu. All the ukai viewing boats have a name related to the Gifu area, Nagara River or ukai fishing. Notice the bento boxes. 道三丸112 views
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Chukonhi Monument for the war dead from the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War. 忠魂碑112 views
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Mt. Ibuki as seen from Gifu City Tower 43.110 views
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Boat harbor for ukai viewing boats. The two boats in the foreground are restroom boats. Ukai cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing technique all but replaced by more advanced fishing methods. So it is now mainly for tourists.109 views
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The ukai viewing boats were parked right next to shore, so we could easily get out and go on land. We could walk to the toilet boat parked nearby.107 views
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The larger yakata-bune has a silent, battery-powered outboard motor. Notice the solar panels on the roof. 屋形船106 views
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Ukai-related poems. There's even one composed by Basho: おもしろうて やがて悲しき 鵜飼かな。 Gifu's Nagara River ukai cormorant fishing has a 1300-year history. It is recorded in the Nihon Shoki (Chronicle of Japan) and Kojiki104 views
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The lanterns in the boat were covered with bugs. Apparently harmless, but it got the girls and women squeamish.104 views
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Restroom boat. During the cormorant fishing, this toilet boat is parked near the viewing boats for your convenience.103 views
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Dancing boat where dancers entertain people before the ukai fishing. 踊り舟103 views
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With passengers aboard, the boats depart one after another, heading upstream.103 views
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Also before the ukai fishing began, this little boat came round to sell beer and fireworks. My relatives, being rich, bought some fireworks for the kids.103 views
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The ukai viewing boats are parked like so as they watch the ukai fishing boats pass by.103 views
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The viewing boats are called yakata-bune. They come in different sizes. 屋形船101 views
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At the boat dock (next to Nagarabashi Bridge) at 5:45 pm, one of the six ukai cormorant fishing masters give a short talk about ukai fishing. The crowd gathers for the talk.100 views
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Ukai viewing boats head upstream to where the boats are parked next to the river shore.100 views
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Inside one boat. The floor has tatami mats. A low table is also provided. No dinner provided on this boat.99 views
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Shops inside Gifu City Tower 43.99 views
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You can bring your own food and drinks on the boat. Next to the ticket office is this stone moument for a TV program which declared a song about Nagara River ukai cormorant fishing to be a national favorite for many years.98 views
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Boats awaiting passengers. We call them yakata-bune. The roof is shaped like a house roof. 屋形船98 views
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Nagara River, looking upstream. We departed at about 6:30 pm. 長良川98 views
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Mt. Kinkazan, topped with Gifu Castle, is a prominent sight on Nagara River. 金華山97 views
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A neighboring boat shoot some fireworks.97 views
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After they took our picture in front of the boat (and later charged 1,000 yen for a 5x7 in. print), we started to board the large boat.96 views
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The smaller yakata-bune, like this one, is human-powered.95 views
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If you're staying at a hotel or ryokan in Gifu city, it's possible to have your hotel arrange the viewing of the cormorant fishing. I went to see ukai cormorant fishing through a luxury hotel on the river. The dock was a short walk from the hotel.95 views
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We approach the parking place along with the other boats already parked next to the river shore.95 views
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Ukai viewing boats going upstream with Mt. Kinkazan in the background. The castle is also lit at night.93 views
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Inaba Shrine is Gifu city's main shrine. The path to the shrine is lined with food and souvenir stalls.93 views
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Guide to scenic points.93 views
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Mt. Kinkazan92 views
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View of Mt. Kinkazan (Gifu Castle) from Gifu City Tower 43.92 views
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View of Mt. Kinkazan (Gifu Castle) from Gifu City Tower 43.92 views
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Nagara River92 views
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Nagara River 長良川91 views
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Pretty crowded, but it proceeded smoothly.91 views
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View of Mt. Kinkazan (Gifu Castle) from Gifu City Tower 43.91 views
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Top floor is a lookout deck operated by the city. Free admission. Elevator takes 45 sec. to get to the top.90 views
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View of JR Gifu Station from Gifu City Tower 43.90 views
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If you have a group of 15 or more, it would be cheaper to charter a boat to view the cormorant fishing. Some of the viewing boats are also handicapped-accessible.89 views
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Inaba Shrine worships a god named Inishiki-Irihiko-no-mikoto who was a member of the Imperial family during the Kofun Period. The present shrine was built here in 1539.89 views
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View of JR Gifu Station from Gifu City Tower 43.89 views
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There is another lookout deck on the west side.89 views
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Inaba Shrine's Haiden Hall was where we could pray.88 views
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Approaching another gate called Shinmon. 神門87 views
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View of JR Gifu Station from Gifu City Tower 43, looking toward Nagoya.87 views
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Arch Tower in Ichinomiya, Aichi.87 views
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Gifu and Ibuki mountains.87 views
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View of Ibuki mountain range from Gifu City Tower 43.86 views
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We had to wait a while...85 views
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View of JR Gifu Station from Gifu City Tower 43.85 views
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Kibi Shrine 吉備神社83 views
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The lower floors have shops and restaurants. Upper floors are condominiums. The 43rd floor at the top is a lookout deck and restaurant.83 views
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Nagoya as seen from Gifu City Tower 43.82 views
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Entrance to a restaurant.81 views
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Gifu City Tower 43 lookout deck looking east.80 views
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Inside Inaba Shrine's Haiden Hall.77 views
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The line proceeded fast enough.76 views
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Inaba Shrine's taiko bridge. 神橋75 views
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Inari Shrine torii. 楓稲荷神社75 views
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Nagara River75 views
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From here, we had to wait in line.74 views
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Offertory box74 views
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Sign reads, "Hatsumode" or New Year's worship.72 views
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The first torii to the shrine.72 views
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The second torii.72 views
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Arched bridge too steep to cross over.72 views
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View from Romon Gate.72 views
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Lining up to pray at Haiden Hall.72 views
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Banners read Inaba Shrine.71 views
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Inaba Shrine has a few other lesser shrines.71 views
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View of Romon Gate from Shinmon Gate.70 views
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Inaba Shine is a short bus ride from Gifu Station. Get off the bus on the main road, then walk through this path to the shrine. Can't miss it during New Year's.69 views
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For the Year of the Rabbit.69 views
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People buying good luck charms.68 views
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黒龍社68 views
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Romon Gate side view.68 views
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Romon Gate 楼門66 views
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Oda Nobunaga was played by actor Hiroshi Fujioka at the Gifu Nobunaga Matsuri in Oct. 2017.64 viewsHiroshi Fujioka is famous as the actor who portrayed "Kamen Rider" in the 1970s TV series. He's still famous and beloved in Japan and has had a very good career after Kamen Rider.
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Nobunaga's golden statue at JR Gifu Station.58 views
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Kano Castle as it looked originally in Gifu. 加納城53 views
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Statue of Oda Nobunaga at Gifu Station. Personally, I have mixed feelings about revering Nobunaga this much. 49 viewsYes, he's a major historical figure, but he was also a ruthless warrior who killed a lot of people and caused much mayhem torching temples, etc. Yet he's worshipped like a hero today. A different time, different mindset, and different standard. The dark side of human nature.
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Kano Castle stone walls. Near JR Gifu Station's south exit.49 views
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Gifu city manhole with cormorant design.48 views
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Marker for Kano-juku's Honjin. 本陣41 views
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Another road marker. "Go left for Kyoto"39 views
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More police.38 views
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Local students also dressed in historical costumes. 少年少女時代行列38 views
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Following Nobunaga were the ladies: His wife Nohime.38 views
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Gifu's tourism ambassadors hold the parade banner. About 200 people were in the parade.37 views
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The matchlock gun battalion in formation and ready to fire their guns. 火縄銃鉄砲隊37 views
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With tall banners and the surrounding foot soldiers, the parade's main character of Oda Nobunaga was unmistakable.36 views
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Gifu Nobunaga Matsuri also had lots of side/street entertainment. 36 views
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Gifu University Wind Ensemble perform on a narrow street.36 views
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Stained glass at Gifu Station.36 views
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Not much is left except for a few markers indicating the location of the Waki Honjin, Honjin, and other features. 36 viewsTenmangu Shrine and Kano Castle's stone walls are the major sights.
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Entrance to Kano Tenmangu Shrine. 加納天満宮36 views
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Marker for a gate at Kano Castle.36 views
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Lots of police in the parade promoting traffic safety.35 views
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One highlight of the festival parade is this matchlock gun battalion. They stopped at the major intersections along the parade route and fired their guns.35 views
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Hatsu35 views
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Nakasendo Road in Kano-juku.35 views
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Nakasendo Road in Kano-juku.35 views
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Marker for Kano-juku's Waki Honjin. 脇本陣35 views
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Kosatsu bulletin board was at one end of this bridge over a small river.35 views
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Kano Castle stone walls.35 views
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Gifu city is celebrating this year as the 450th anniversary of the city being renamed "Gifu" by Nobunaga after he attacked and captured Inabayama Castle in 1567. The castle was renamed "Gifu Castle." 34 views
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Flags of Gifu's sister cities.34 views
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"BANG, BANG!!" Those guns are really loud. Even with my earplugs (tissue wads), it shook me and I could feel the shockwaves.34 views
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Chacha, the oldest Azai sister who at age 19 became 51-year-old Toyotomi Hideyoshi's concubine.34 views
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Chiyo was the devoted wife of samurai Yamanouchi Kazutoyo.34 views
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The festival included a Cosplay Procession from 2 pm to 3 pm. ぎふコスプレパレード34 views
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