As autumn’s vibrancy gives way to winter’s chill, the quaint town of Hida Furukawa dons its snowy cloak once again and enamors visitors with its picturesque charm. Here, in northern Gifu’s blessed nature, traditional buildings meet gentle moving canals and centuries-old establishments carry on cherished practices—from sake- to candle-making! Beyond Hida Furukawa, the pleasant townscape transitions into grand mountains, creating the perfect environment for authentic skiing and snowboarding experiences. With its combination of high-energy activities, nostalgic architecture, and culture exploration, Hida makes for a unique, snowy getaway. Let’s explore!
From Tokyo Station, Hida-Furukawa Station is about a four- to five-hour train ride via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen (1.5 hours) and JR Limited Express Hida (2.75 hours) and requires a transfer at Nagoya Station. Thanks to its roomy seating and massive windows, the JR Limited Express Hida makes for a wonderful sightseeing train—providing you front row seats to Gifu’s tree-blanketed mountains and scenic farmlands, as well as Hida River’s emerald waters. Be sure to stay awake!
Day One: A Stroll Around Hida Furukawa
Upon arriving in Hida Furukawa, the crisp countryside air will immediately sharpen your senses and fill you with a desire for adventure. Fortunately, the small town is home to a number of beautiful spots all within walking distance from the station and each other. Temple enthusiasts, sake-drinkers, and cultural explorers will find everything they want in Hida Furukawa’s old-timey alleyways.
Hida Furukawa’s three main temples—Enkoji, Shinshuji, and Honkoji—are must-visits for fans of traditional architecture. With Enkoji being located next to the Seto Canal and Shinshuji and Honkoji along the Araki River, each temple features a tranquil environment where the sound of running water mingles with the wind.
The temples’ masterful carpentry and wooden tones perfectly match the historic town, and in winter—when their natural facades contrast the snow—the temples seem to reflect the hues of the distant white-tinged mountains.
As you stand before the massive main halls, you cannot help but feel inspired. All together, the temples create a short, yet fulfilling pilgrimage.
After a mindful walk through the temples’ sacred grounds, immerse yourself in another revered Japanese tradition—sake-making! Hida Furukawa is home to two sake breweries—Watanabe Sake Brewery and Kaba Sake Brewery. Thanks to Gifu’s mountains, these centuries-old breweries are blessed with some of the purest waters in Japan and are renowned for their quality sake.
Lucky for you, the breweries are also located only a one-minute walk from each other! The buildings’ immaculately preserved wooden exteriors will make you feel as though you are stepping into the past.
Historically, winter’s cold temperature has played a crucial role in sake brewing, making Hida Furukawa, with its chilled winters, an excellent place to brew. Why not enjoy sake in the season it is traditionally brewed with tastings at both breweries? For beginner sake drinkers, we recommend Watanabe’s Kaden Tezukuri sake. This family recipe uses Hida-grown rice and is known for its smooth flavor that strikes the perfect balance between sweetness and dryness. Watanabe also offers winter-exclusive brews, such as Shinshu Shiboritate—a freshly brewed sake bottled straight from the barrel.
If you prefer sweeter alcohol, try Kaba’s yuzu or yogurt-flavored sake.
The yuzu variety’s sweet and citrusy notes overpower the typical dryness of sake and the yogurt one, made with Hida milk, offers a smooth, yet rich drinking experience.
After you have had your fill of sake, head over to the Mishima Japanese Candle Shop for insight into a centuries-old Chinese method of candle-making. This shop has been in operation for over 240 years and is run by Junji Mishima, the seventh-generation owner. The traditional wooden exterior speaks to the history of the establishment, and the interior, which is decorated with ancient candle-making tools, exudes years of memories.
For a special treat, watch Mishima-san bring the historic craft to life as he effortlessly creates candles and warms the room with his ever-present smile. The red candles are said to flicker continuously even in the absence of wind, making them unique and hypnotizing souvenirs.
For a magical display of Mishima-san’s candles against the snowy town, join Hida Furukawa’s Santera Mairi Festival every January 15th. During this annual event, residents and visitors alike visit the town’s three main temples and decorate the landscape with hundreds of candles to pray for good fortune in relationships.
Japanese Hospitality at Yatsusankan
End your day with a memorable stay at Yatsusankan—a renowned ryokan, or traditional Japanese-style inn, in Hida Furukawa. Registered as a Tangible Cultural Property, this enchanting establishment overlooks the Araki River and has been serving guests for roughly 160 years. Upon entering, the kimono-clad staff will instantly greet you with smiles and a warm cup of matcha—a perfect treat after exploring the wintry town.
Afterwards they will lead you to your room where the ryokan’s halls will lull you into relaxation with their warm lighting and peaceful vibes. The rooms themselves epitomize past Japan and feature tatami floors, shoji (lattice doors), traditional decor, and more.
Each room comes with a yukata—a causal type of kimono—so you can truly immerse yourself in the lodging experience. We recommend that you change into the comfortable robe to enjoy the ryokan’s luxurious dinner!
For dinner, Yatsusankan’s head chef crafts a multi-course kaiseki (traditional Japanese cuisine) meal that highlights Hida’s local and seasonal ingredients. Each of the nine courses are beautifully plated and offer exquisite flavor combinations.
One of the highlights of the meal is the region’s renowned Hida beef, which melts in your mouth in a savory and buttery bite. Enjoy the unparalleled meals in a personal room with a window side view of the inn’s Japanese garden.
Each morning, the ryokan will also serve you traditional breakfasts filled with nourishing fish, rice, miso soup, and vegetables.
After the satiating meal, complete your relaxing evening with a soak in the ryokan’s onsen, or hot spring baths. Although the public bathing areas feature both indoor and outdoor baths, we highly recommend the outdoor bath during winter.
The steaming water contrasted with the cool air provides a refreshing balance of temperatures, and the encircling Japanese garden enhances the peaceful scene. Watch snow fall on the illuminated plantlife and feel your worries float away with the steam as you listen to the gentle melody of running water.
Day Two: Let’s Ski!
Hida Nagareha Ski Resort
For a change of scenery, journey past the pleasing urbanity of Hida Furukawa and embark on an energizing adventure at Hida Nagareha Ski Resort. From Hida Furukawa, the ski resort is about a 35-minute bus ride on the Furukawa Kamioka Line or a 25-minute car ride. With courses that range from beginner to advanced and coveted powder snow near the top of the mountain, Hida Nagareha Ski Resort is an excellent choice for winter sports activities no matter your skill level or age.
Even from the top of the beginner course, you are treated to captivating panoramas of Hida’s snow-blanketed townscape and mountains. If you are brave enough to go to the top of the mountain, you will be rewarded with a sparkling scene of ice-encapsulated trees and fluffy snow against the mountain range.
After some hours on the slopes, refuel at the resort’s M Plaza Observation restaurant. This rustic eatery offers a number of warm meals, including chicken katsu curry, ramen, fried chicken, and tonchan—a Hida delicacy of wagyu offal seasoned with miso, soy sauce, garlic, and chili pepper over rice.
As you savor your meal, enjoy views of the surrounding landscape from the dining area’s massive floor-to-ceiling windows. The M Plaza is also home to a hot spring where you can rest your weary muscles.
After some R&R at the ryokan, head back out to Hida Furukawa and party like a local at Kobai, an izakaya, or Japanese-style bar. This popular family-owned eatery is run by a grandmother, father, and son and offers a host of resident favorites, including funamori (sashimi plated on a boat), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), hoba miso (a savory mix of miso and vegetables), and tsukemono steak (sauteed pickled vegetables).
The restaurant even has an English menu. Alcohol-wise, the establishment sells a number of staple bar drinks as well as sake—you may recognize some familiar names from Watanabe and Kaba Sake Breweries!
The traditional ambience of the establishment, characterized by its wooden detailing, shoji, and tatami seating, make for a cozy night out despite the chilled temperatures.
Day Three: Kimono Photoshoot
On the last day of your trip, take your exploration of Hida Furukawa to the next level with a kimono rental!
One of the best places to rent a kimono in Hida Furukawa is the Ohbora Kimono Shop. This cute shop, run by an equally endearing woman, offers a wide selection of kimono, obi (belt), and accessories to ensure that your choices reflect your personal style. Pair your outfit with a traditional umbrella, and you are ready to go! With Hida Furukawa’s picturesque townscape, you will find no shortage of photogenic spots.
Keta Wakamiya Shrine—one of Gifu’s most renowned shrines—makes for an excellent starting point. This majestic complex, located on the top of a hill, provides lovely views of Hida below and creates a mystical atmosphere with its snow-dusted nature, torii (gates), stone lanterns, and shrine buildings.
Another picture perfect spot is Imamiya bridge beside Shinshuji Temple. The vermillion structure crosses over the Araki River and contrasts the subdued natural tones of the town in a visually striking manner—painting a scene straight from a postcard.
After braving the cold for some Instagram-worthy photos, stop by Fukuzenji for lunch. This husband and wife-run restaurant sells soba, or buckwheat noodles, that are handcrafted daily with locally sourced flour. The extensive menu, with English translations, offers a variety of options including both cold and hot soba varieties.
Although you may be inclined to purchase hot soba, we highly recommend you try the egoma soba—a Hida delicacy. Egoma, called aburae in Hida, are perilla seeds and have a sesame seed-like flavor. For this soba dish, grind the egoma yourself in a provided mortar and pestle and pour it onto the noodles. The released nutty and toasty flavors of the egoma wonderfully complement the already earthy profile of the soba noodles.
Given Fukuzenji’s close proximity to the Seto Canal, it is only logical to continue your photo shoot along Shirakabe Dozogai Street. This famous Hida street is characterized by its canal, cobblestone streets, and traditional architecture—making it an ideal place to pose in your kimono. As you walk along the cherished canal, you will feel as if you were whisked away to another era.
Finish your day with a sweet treat at Kanokoya—a waffle shop! This adorable shop has a cottage-like appearance and is perpetually scented with the aroma of freshly baked waffles.
Try chocolate chip, cocoa, strawberry, Belgium chocolate, aburae, raisin, coconut, or simply plain waffles. Each waffle is reheated on the spot, and you can enjoy them in a dining area across from the shop.
If you liked the previous egoma soba, try the aburae waffle for a sweet and savory bite. With their optimal balance of crispness to softness and sweetness to butteriness, Kanokoya’s waffles are heavenly desserts.
Bye Bye Hida… For Now
No matter your next destination after Hida, you will likely feel a bittersweet sensation as you depart from the little Hida-Furukawa Station. The town’s close-knit vibes, nostalgic atmosphere, and wintertime allure have a habit of touching visitors’ hearts—staying with them long after Gifu’s nature fades away. After your adventure, we hope you return in the other seasons and discover yourself once more in Hida’s natural beauty, clear canals, historic streets, and homey community.
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