Gifu Castle was once called Inabayama Castle.  It is said that Joshu (castle lord) Nikaido Yukimasa, a butler to the Kamakura Shogunate, was the first one to build a fortress at the peak of the Mt. Kinka.  This castle was also the residence of Dosan Saito during the Warring Period.  The castle became renowned throughout the nation in August of 1567 when Oda Nobunaga, a hero incomparable to any other historic figure, captured the castle and subjugated the area.  At the same time, he changed the regional name from "Inokuchi" to :making this district a foothold for the unification of the country.  However, in August of 1600, a battle broke out before the war of Sekigahara and, because Nobunaga's grandson, Nobuhide, allied with the West Squad,  the East Squad invaded the castle.  After a fierce battle, the castle fell into the hands of the enemy force.  In 1601, Gifu Castle was destroyed, and the castle towers and turrets were transferred to Kano Castle.  The castle that stands today was reconstructed in July 1956, by the Castle Restoration Alliance.  It is a 17.7m tall reinforced concrete building of a 3-tier, 4-story structure, standing dignified in an area of 461.77m2.  Within the castle area is historical museum, and on top of the tower is an observation deck that is favored by many visitors.

Gifu Castle

Every good castle has some old samurai outfits!

Ashley with a little baby bump!

Jonathan standing on a large rock formation with the castle in the background.

A 360 degree view of Gifu ...

That's where we went for cormorant fishing a few hours later.


Cormorant Fishing is passed down through the generations, in an evocative summer spectacle, the ancient techniques of ukai (cormorant fishing) are still alive on the Nagaragawa River.  Dating back 1,300 years, the art has been patronized by Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu and other great men of the past.  Revered poet Matsuo Basho even composed a famous haiku: Cormorant boat, where / Before long, what looks like fun / Perhaps ends in sorrow.  Moreover, Charlie Chaplin was so enchanted that he came to Gifu to witness the sight a second time.  The wonderful spectacle of the cormorant fishermen exercising their skills has won the admiration of artists, who make repeat visits.

Through the amazingly skilled use of leashes, each fisherman controls ten to twelve birds.  This method of sending cormorants down, and down again, to fetch sweetfish is one of the traditional fishing methods of Japan.  The handlers, who spend time with the birds everyday, inherit the right to fish.  Because they are with the birds on a daily basis, their movements mesh smoothly with the cormorants and they display wonderful artistry when fishing with their trained birds.  Over the river surface, which is shrouded in darkness, the cormorant boats, lit by baskets of fire, slowly emerge, along with the sounds of the commands the handlers give to the birds, which commence fishing by plunging into the water all at once.

A master fisherman showing a demonstration with a cormorant.

Jonathan, the master fisherman.

Tominaga-san and his wife Kumi, Jonathan and Ashley, Toda-san, and Mayumi.

This year my pictures were much better ...

it is just so hard with no light and on a boat!

The final processional of all of the fisherman that night.