Hida Furukawa, somewhat of a baby sister to the more popular Takayama city, is a quaint, traditional town located in the mountainous region of northern Gifu.
Not to be confused with various other towns also with the name Furukawa, this place is commonly referred to as Hida Furukawa. A short 15-minute train ride south of Takayama, it’s one of those day trips that you can slot into any time of the day, and be in and out before you know it.
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Whilst it does pose many similarities to Takayama, both being stunning historic towns with wonderfully ambient atmospheres, surrounded by breathtaking mountains and valleys, home to some of the coldest winters in Japan, and boasting some of the country’s best timber craftsmen, Hida Furukawa does have its own charm and character. For example, like Takayama, it’s known for its timber and carpenters, but more specifically, their resources boast the likes of cedar, cypress bamboo, and pine. Also, did you know that the town hosts a picturesque canal that runs through its centre which is home to thousands of carp fish? Many visitors cite carp fish watching as one of the main reasons why they ensure that 15-minute train ride, but when you step off the train to this charming little town, you’ll realise there are a lot more reasons to stay – peace and quiet without the crowds being one of them.
How To Get To Hida Furukawa?
Getting to Hida Furukawa is super easy, as it’s only a direct 15-minute train ride from Takayama. From Takayama station, take the JR Takayama line towards Hida Furukawa for 15-minutes. It costs 240 yen, and there is a train once every 1-2 hours.
To get to Takayama, take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya, and transfer to the JR Hida limited express train to Takayama. The trip will take about 4-4.5 hours in total, cost just below 14,000 yen, and is covered by the JR pass if you utilise the Hikari train from Tokyo to Nagoya.
Where To Stay in Hida Furukawa?
Guesthouse in Hida Furukawa – Yamanami
If you’re really looking to get away from the tourist crowds and stay in Hida Furukawa, then Yamanami is a great option, especially for those who aren’t willing to compromise on comfort but are on a tight budget. Yamanami is a guesthouse located right in the centre of Hida Furukawa. Depending on which room you choose, there will be either western-style bedding configurations or Japanese futon bedding configurations. The facilities and amenities are meticulously maintained, and the accommodation offers a rather rustic Japanese vibe in a modern setting.
Book It Now: Yamanami
Ryokan in Hida Furukawa – Yatsusankan
On the other end of the scale is Yatsusankan, a 5-star traditional Japanese inn that offer its patrons the works. From the gorgeous public onsen baths accessible by all guests to the intricately prepared authentic Japanese dinner and everything in between, it’s a culturalists’ dream to experience such a traditional style accommodation.
They also offer private onsen baths which can be reserved at a cost at the front desk, the option to book in a relaxing massage, and an onsite gift shop to source local souvenirs. It’s also walkable from the town centre, so you can head out for a leisurely stroll at any time of the day.
Guest Tips: Depending on the season, you can head out with the host of the ryokan to watch fireflies dance at night! Try and request a river-facing room if possible. The massage chairs in the shared lounge are free for all guests so make some time for them!
Book It Now: Yatsusankan
The Best Things To Do in Hida Furukawa
- Stroll Along the Famous Canal Area
- Visit the Takumikan Craft Museum
- Go on a Sake Tasting Tour
- Taste some melt-in-your-mouth Hida Furukawa Beef
- Visit in April for its Biggest Matsuri!
Stroll Along the Famous Canal Area
The most popular thing to do when visiting Hida Furukawa is to take a leisurely stroll along the famous canal region that runs through the town. Some visitors have been known to escape the crowds at Takayama just to experience the peace and quiet along the canals. The atmosphere and ambience you feel as you’re taking in the sights of the historic streets lined with trees, traditional Japanese buildings, and of course, the water canals, naturally brings peace to the heart.
The most interesting fact about these canals is that they’re actually filled with thousands of carp fish! The story behind this apparently goes like this: in historic Japan, the canals were created and the water flowing through was so clean, it was good enough for locals to wash their vegetables in. As it progressively became unsanitary to do so, the local authorities decided to bring in carp fish to clean up the canals, and now they’ve blown up to become quite an attraction! In winter, they’re relocated elsewhere, but you can catch them from April until November.
Access: Keep your eyes peeled as you walk through the streets of Hida Furukawa, as the canals line the main area of town.
Visit the Takumikan Craft Museum
If you’re one to like to get into the details of history and learn unusual, unique and interesting facts, then a stop by to the Takumikan Craft Museum is for you! It was built relatively recently, in the late 1980s, when locals decided it was time to show appreciation for the extremely thorough and dedicated craftsmanship of the local carpenters in Hida Furukawa.
The museum displays all the historic traditional tools used through time by the locals, as well as generously exhibits the types of woods unique to the region. If you’re up for the challenge, there’s a section where you can experience trying to put together some wooden craft pieces and joints, a task not uncommon to the carpenters.
The museum makes for a fun one to two hours of exploration, and of course, the entire building was constructed by local carpenters using local timber!
- Address: 10-1, 10 Furukawacho Ichinomachi, Hida, Gifu 509-4234, Japan
- Access: From Hida Furukawa Station, it is a 6-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (Closed Thursdays)
- Price: 300 yen
Go on a Sake Tasting Tour
One of the most popular consumer exports from Hida Furukawa is sake, and the Watanabe Sake Brewery could be considered to be at the centre of it all. Offering all sorts of sake, from premium grade Junmai Daiginjo to lower grade ordinary sake, they’ve got it all. Since its inception in around the mid-1800s, it’s now become one of the leaders of sake brewing in the Hida Furukawa region.
If you’d like, you can book a tour with the brewery and get a taste of what production and distribution is like for one of the most successful sake brewing companies. Unlike other sake brewery tours, one of the best things about this (according to past visitors) is that it really allows you to get up close to the process and people and get a proper understanding of how things actually operate. It’s been praised as a really fun experience by many!
You will need to book your spot for the tour at least five days in advance. You may contact them directly (if you have a Japanese number, or ask your host or hotel to do so), or else use this form to make a booking at least five days in advance.
- Address: 7-7 Furukawacho Ichinomachi, Hida, Gifu 509-4234, Japan
- Access: Park at the Hida City Hall parking lot, and walk 6-minutes. Otherwise, it is a 5-minute walk from Hida Furukawa station.
- Hours: 8:30am – 5:00pm – Tours start at 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm
- Price: Free
- Website Booking Form: http://www.sake-hourai.co.jp/kengaku.html
- Contact Number: 0577-73-2347
If you are interested by Sake, feel free to read this guide: Sake Japan (Nihonshu).
Taste some melt-in-your-mouth Hida Furukawa Beef
You would have heard of Kobe beef, but have you ever heard of Hida Furukawa beef? It’s been slept on for so long, so we’re doing you a favour of introducing you to one of the (relatively unknown) prime beef options of Japan. Technically, this type of beef can be found in Takayama as well, and whilst most will gun for the culinary experience there, consuming it in the quieter, more serene region of Hida Furukawa just feels that much more special.
The main differences that you will notice with this beef is that it has a softer type of marbling compared to other wagyu. It also melts in your mouth with a very distinctive type of beef juice. Hida beef is raised in the mountainous region of Gifu, and the soft grass and clean mountain air does wonders for the beef.
There are many restaurants that offer delicious Hida Furukawa beef on their menu, as can be attested by Gurunavi’s list (google it and go for gold!), but we’ve listed some below here for you to peruse:
Head here for a humble bowl of quality Hida Furukawa steak-don and yakiniku-don, served with a special sauce made of local miso, soy sauce, and wild sesame.
- Address: 15-6 Furukawacho Ichinomachi, Hida, Gifu 509-4234, Japan
- Price: between 3,500 – 10,000 yen
They serve up a delicious (and affordable!) Hida Furukawa beef curry and a mean melon bun. The atmosphere is jazzy, cozy, and comforting.
- Address: 1-12 Furukawacho Ichinomachi, Hida, Gifu 509-4234, Japan
- Price: 800 yen
For a quality yakiniku experience, Kiwami serves up Hida Furukawa beef sourced directly from the farm, served straight to the table. Their garlic sauce complements the beef perfectly. You can also order sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, and many other dishes here.
- Address: 10-33 Furukawacho Kanamoricho, Hida, Gifu 509-4225, Japan
- Price: from 2,980
Read More: The Types Of Wagyu Beef
Visit in April for its Biggest Matsuri (Naked Festival)
Also known as the ‘Naked Festival’, Hida Furukawa’s biggest festival in April is a sight for sore eyes. Held a week after the famous annual Takayama festival, this festival takes place over 2 days. In what is known as a midnight rite, the young men will dress up in loincloths (and nothing more) and parade through the streets with a giant drum and compete in a drum-off.
During one part of the festival, you will witness men climbing up a small drum tower all the way to the top to balance themselves – this is to test their courage and also mentally prepare them for the long night ahead. There are giant colourful floats, not dissimilar to the ones that appear in the Takayama matsuri, and all in all its a great big celebration of food and drinks and dancing and fun.
If you’re not traveling through from April 19-20, then you can check out the floats which are on display for the rest of the year at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.
- Address: 2-15 Furukawacho Honmachi, Hida, Gifu 509-4232, Japan
- Access: From the station, it is less than 10-minutes on foot.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- Cost: 500 yen
If you are into Japanese festivals, make sure to read our selection of the best Matsuri in Japan month by month.
Whilst Hida Furukawa may not possess the popularity level of its neighbour Takayama right now, you can see through this article that it definitely possesses the same amount, if not more, of charm, character, and exciting and peaceful activities to pass time with. It’s slowly gaining a place on the tourist map, and if you know anything about the crowds in Japan, then you know that you need to get here stat before it blows up!
Before to leave, if you want to discover more beautiful off-the-beaten-track places in Gifu Prefecture, have a look at these 2 onsen towns: Gero Onsen and Okuhida Onsen.