“Little Kyoto” as many people like to call the picturesque town of Gujo Hachiman in Gifu Prefecture, is another great spot in central Japan to enjoy the fall foliage. The best spot in my book is the famous Gujo Hachiman Castle (郡上八幡城) just outside the center of town.
Perched atop Mount Hachiman, the castle is one of the best reconstructed castles in Japan. You can reach the castle after a brisk 15 minute hike up the mountain. The views of the surrounding mountains and valleys are truly breathtaking from the top. This is a great spot for koyo (autumn leaf viewing) as unlike most castles in Japan, which are surrounded by cherry blossoms; this castle is surrounded by Japanese maple trees.
The best time to see the colorful leaves is usually early to late November. The castle grounds are ablaze of color in the autumn with greens, yellows, oranges and reds. The autumn foliage contrasts beautifully with the pure clean white walls of the castle.
You can also enjoy them at night with a special momiji illumination. The trees surrounding the castle are spectacularly lit from sunset until 9 pm from November 8 to 16. The illumination is a perfect chance for a wonderful photo, or simple to just admire and marvel the colorful leaves and the beauty of the season.
Every year the castle hosts a cool Autumn Momiji Festival that features Japanese tea ceremony and taiko drumming. You can even see a re-enactment of an Edo period samurai battle fought by the local daimyo (feudal lord) of the period Endo Morikazu. It is very cool if you are a samurai fan or Sengoku junkie like myself. This year the festival runs from early November to November 24.
You may remember the riverside town of Gujo Hachiman from a previous post as it is also called “The Fake Food Capital of Japan”. Those cool replica food samples that you see in shop and restaurant windows through-out Japan were pioneered by a local resident, and today around 80 percent of all plastic food samples are still produce in Gujo Hachiman.
If you want to see one of the best reconstructed castles in Japan, along with some stunning autumn leaves, then definitely head to the mountains of Gifu and Gujo Hachiman Castle.
Address: 659 Hachiman-cho, Yanagimachi, Gujo, Gifu Prefecture 501-4212
Admission: FREE to climb the mountain and enjoy the surrounding area. ¥310 to enter the castle
9:00 to 17:00 (March to May and September to October)
8:00 to 18:00 (June to August)
9:00 to 16:30 (November to February)
Closed: December 20 to January 10
From Nagoya take a JR limited express train to JR Gifu Station (the journey takes about 20 minutes). From Gifu take the JR Takayama Line to Mino-Ota (about 40 minutes). You will need to change to the Nagaragawa Railway at Mino-Ota to reach Gujo Hachiman (about 80 minutes). The total journey from Nagoya takes around 150 minutes and costs 2,490 yen.
For a cheaper option, try a highway bus from the Meitetsu Bus Center near JR Nagoya Station to Gujo. The 80 minute trip costs 2060 yen one way. Mount Hachiman is a short walk from the town center. You can also access the castle by car with parking available.