The Japanese carp, known also as koi, is perhaps Japan’s most famous fish (if you don’t count sushi!). They can be found in many ponds and gardens throughout the country, and have also appeared in traditional Japanese art throughout the centuries. Since these fish are so important to Japanese culture, it’s easy to find places to enjoy watching them, but few towns offer carp views as unique as those in Hida Furukawa.
First, a bit of koi history. It might be hard to imagine while looking at these beautiful fish today, but they were once bred primarily for food during the winter in areas where the weather is harsh. However, over time, it became clear that they could be bred for their various colors as well. The breeding of colorful koi in Japan began in Niigata Prefecture during the 1820s, before eventually spreading throughout the rest of the country and the world. Through that time, they have made their way into the history of Hida Furukawa as well.
In Hida Furukawa, these beautiful fish swim the waters of the picturesque Seto Canal. I’ve traveled to many places throughout Japan and seen a lot of koi but I’ve never seen somewhere as unique as this. The setting itself is beautiful enough—old Japanese-style buildings line the waters of the canal, with shrines and temples scattered about as well. In spring, you can even find cherry blossom trees blooming. It is against that background the colorful carp swim the canal, all in the same direction, against the current of the water that is channeled through the town. Views like these are certainly rare!
Due to their tendency to swim upstream against the current, koi symbolize perseverance and strength to the Japanese. It is perhaps fitting to have that symbol, since the presence of these fish in Hida Furukawa is due in no small part to the perseverance of its people. In the past, the waters of the canal were not clean but the residents made efforts to clean things up. The Japanese carp requires clean water to survive, so their presence today is a testament to the efforts of the people of the town—and a living motivation to keep the waters clean for generations to come.
Although the fish swim the waters of the canal most of the year, they are moved away during the winter. This is no easy task, however, and requires many volunteers. On the last Sunday of November each year, many of the townspeople come out to help move the fish by hand. Scooping the large fish up in both arms, they are moved to a container, where they are then taken to Tenjin Pond—the moat around Masushima Castle ruins. Thankfully, it’s not just townsfolk who can participate in this. Visitors to the town may contact the Hida Tourism Association if they wish to participate. Be prepared though—one resident who had participated in this event told me that the fish smell quite bad! Still, it must be worth it to experience this unique local event together with the people who live there.
Hida Furukawa has much to offer, but this is surely among the town’s most unique traditions. If you want to enjoy both a unique view and a bit of culture and history, this is the perfect spot to visit.
In the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, in the small and rural area of Miyagawacho in Hida City, is the picturesque and charming town of Tanekura. With a harsh climate and tiny population, Tanekura is known for its series of itakura or traditional wooden warehouses which are distinguished due to the...
Winter Views of Hida Furukawa
Situated in the unspoiled hills of northern Gifu Prefecture, Hida Furukawa is a small traditional town that retains much of its historic charm. Yet, Hida Furukawa sees fewer visitors than its larger neighbor, Takayama, just 15km to the south. While it is a fantastic place to visit at any time of ...