The Ancient Trees of the Oyada Maple Valley
By John Asano
The picturesque Oyada Maple Valley is located in Mino City, a stone’s throw away from Gifu City. The valley is considered one of the best locations in central Japan to appreciate the beautiful Autumn leaves.
Why is it one of the best? Well, apart from the stunning nature around the valley, it is surrounded by about 3,000 Japanese maple trees (yama momiji). Some of the ancient trees are more than 1,000 years old.
The area is filled with vermillion reds, apricot oranges and golden yellows of seasonal leaves which set the valley ablaze of colour during Autumn. Your first stop on any visit should be Mino City itself. The old town is famous for its Mino washi paper, which was recently added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. As well as its beautifully preserved Edo period houses in the Udatsu no Agaru Historic District.
Make your way to the valley from Mino City and the first thing that you notice apart from the fall foliage is the huge shrine torii gate marking the entrance to Oyada Shrine. The Shrine contained within the Oyada Maple Valley was built in the Edo Period. It is a magnificent shrine with flamboyant colourful designs and carvings reminiscent of the famous Toshogu Shrine in Nikko.
The contrast between the colourful leaves against the traditional wooden carvings of the shrine is truly breath-taking and makes this place a sight not to be missed during the fall season in Japan.
There is also an Autumn Colours Festival held at the shrine during Autumn with many local food vendors setting up their stalls on the approach to the main shrine. The vendors sell all types of festival food and local Gohei-mochi (grilled rice cake). Passing through the entrance to the shrine you will see them lined up on both sides of the path.
The final approach to the main shrine buildings is up a steep set of stairs that will test your fitness. Upon arrival we cleansed our hands and mouth at the Temizu-ya before praying at the main shrine.
If you are feeling adventurous, there are several hiking paths to explore from the main shrine that will take you out further into the great outdoors.
The Oyada Maple Valley was designated a National Natural Monument of Japan in 1930, and is a stunning spot to enjoy the fall season in Japan.
The Autumn colours are typically at their best from mid to late November. The Oyada Shrine Autumn Colour Festival is held from early November to early December.
Address: Oyada, Mino City, Gifu Prefecture
Best Time: Mid November to early December
Admission: FREE to the shrine and surrounding valley, A 300 yen parking fee applies if you are coming via car.
The Oyada Maple Valley is tucked away in a rural part of Mino City with parking available for cars. Public transportation is also available with buses running from Mino Station. From JR Gifu Station, take the Gifu Bus on the Takami Line (高美線) to Oyada Jinja Mae bus stop (大矢田神社前).
If you’re coming by car, take the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway and get off at the Mino Interchange.