Known for its thatched-roofed mountain villages, charming merchant towns and centuries-old traditions, Gifu prefecture is a perfect cultural pitstop on your way between Kanto and Kansai. In summer, traditional cormorant fishing takes place from lantern-lit boats along the Nagara River, while in the winter the old farmhouses of Shirakawa-go look like a Christmassy gingerbread village. Hot spring resorts run along the base of the Japan Alps where there’s hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter; plus a number of entertaining festivals throughout the year.
Gifu City is the unassuming prefectural capital but it makes a good starting point for exploring the region in a loop. From May 11 through Oct. 15, you can witness nighttime ukaior cormorant fishing on the Nagara River. Experience the 1,300-year-old tradition from a wooden boat, as fishermen skillfully guide the cormorant birds to catch fish beneath the water, by the light of roaring fire lanterns.
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