Friday, January 31, 2014

Visiting Gujo and Hachiman castle

After visiting Otaki cave, we visited Gujo town. 

Gujo is a small town located in Gifu prefecture and the town is best known for its GUJO ODORI MATSURI, which is a dance festival. The festival dates back to the 16th century and the festival is spread over 31 nights during the summer. The festival begins in mid July and ends in early September. During the O-bon festival in August, on 4 nights between August 13th to 16th, the dancing continues through the night. 

A stage is erected and musicians play live folk music from the stage and dancers dance around the stage. There is no distinction between performers and the cast and anyone can participate in this free dancing event. The Gujo Odori comprises of 10 kinds of dances.Apart from the dancing, an "Ohayashi"  narrates musical story telling and is accompanied by a soloist and musicians playing the traditional musical instruments -Taiko, Shamisen and Shakuhachi.  

The festival attracts lots of visitors from all over Japan and has been designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. 

Gujo Town also has a small mountain castle, GUJO HACHIMAN CASTLE, located atop the Hachiman Mountain overlooking the town. 
The castle was built in the 16th century but the current castle was constructed in 1933 and is larger than the original structure was.

Exhibits from the past including armour and weapons are on display inside the castle. The view of the surrounding area from the castle is scenic. 
Gujo town is also the leading producer of food replicas in Japan. Most restaurants and food joints in Japan have realistic replicas of the food on display so that customers can have a fair idea of what to order. Most of these replicas are made in Gujo Town. 2 of the major producers Sample Village Iwasaki and Sample Kobo have their workshop cum shops in the centre of town and visitors can try their hand at making these replicas or buying miniature souvenirs. 
Fridge magnets resembling sushi, icecreams, ramen are all popular buys. Sample Village Iwasaki is close to the Gujo station whereas Sample Kobo is close to the Tourist Information centre in the town centre.
Gujo Town also has an impressive method of maintaining clean waterways to ensure townspeople have access to pure and clean water. 
The pristine waterways are used to clean laundry, wash vegetables and rice and also dishes and at the same time, have clean pristine water flowing at all time. 
The townspeople work in cooperation to maintain clean canals and as such the waterways are clean. People from surrounding areas come her to relax along the waterways in the hot summer and also for fishing. The fact that three rivers the Yoshida, the Nagara and the Kodara meet in the Gujo Hachiman valley and ensure that water supply to the town's canals is continuous. 
There are walking trails past these canals and waterways, where visitors can get a feel of what the town is so proud of ! 
One of the canals is even full of Carps and it is a delight to walk past. The town manhole cover seems to be inspired by this. 

The drive from Nagoya to Gujo Hachiman is picturesque and makes for a pleasant drive. 

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