Mt. Kinka, Gifu
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If you like hiking, check out the hiking on Mt. Kinka, in a national forest and wildlife sanctuary in Gifu City. It has four trails up the mountain, with interesting things to do at the top, and a ropeway if you don’t want to hike both ways.
All four trails begin in or near Gifu Park, which is a pretty interesting place by itself. Entering the park from the bus stop there is a statue and fountain straight ahead, and to the right there is a tall, white building that houses the city historical museum. One of the permanent exhibits in that museum is a scale model of what Gifu looked like when it was a castle town during the Warring States Period. The entrance fee of the museum is 300 yen.
Past the fountain and the history museum is a teahouse, where you can have green tea and Japanese sweets for 400 yen.
In front of the teahouse is a path running north and south. Between the path and the museum is an insect museum, which has a great collection of all kinds of bugs (the kids will love it!). The museum holds samples of over 18000 different insect species, and is one of the best known in Japan. The entrance fee is 400 yen.
Down the path, at the south end of the park, the path in front of the teahouse runs into a street. To the left, is a set of steps leading up the mountain. A little bit further south down the street, past the set of steps, is the start of ”The Hundred-Turn Hiking Trail”, which is an intermediate trail of about 1.1 kilometers. It is supposed to take about forty minutes to walk. The trail starts off rough and narrow. Look for red flags warning of mountain fires in Japanese.
Two blocks further down the street is another street going left, up the mountain. A short distance up this second road, and to the left, is the start of “The Seven-Turn Hiking Trail,” which is a beginner trail of about 1.9 kilometers. It is supposed to take about sixty minutes to walk. The trail begins with a wide, gentle incline.
To the northeast of the teahouse is an entrance to the main part of the park, with ponds and water falls. Between two sets of waterfalls is a path going east up to the ropeway. The ropeway runs every ten minutes on weekends and every fifteen minutes on weekdays. The cost is 600 yen each way for adults, or 1050 yen for a roundtrip.
The path going to the ropeway veers north and goes past a small art museum devoted to the work of Eizo and Toichi Kato, two well know artists who hailed from Gifu. The entrance fee is 300 yen.
Slightly past the art museum is a trail going up the mountain. Not far from leaving the path, the trail splits into the two remaining trails.
To the left is the start of “The Meditation Hiking Trail” which is another beginner trail of about 2.3 kilometers. It is supposed to take about fifty minutes to walk.
To the right is the start of “The Horse's Back Hiking Trail,” which is an advanced trail of about 1.1 kilometers. It is supposed to take about forty minutes to walk.
These four paths are a combination of stairs, paths, and rough ground. Since all four trails meet at the top of the mountain, you can mix and match. For instance you could take the Seven-Turn trail up the mountain and take the Meditation trail down, or you could walk up a trail and take the ropeway down.
At the top, you can feed the squirrels in Squirrel Village, but you should be warned that they sometimes climb all over you, especially if they haven’t eaten yet. If you really want them to climb on you, come early (right after 9:30 a.m.) when they are at their hungriest. The entrance fee is 200 yen for people over four years old, and the squirrel food costs extra.
Also at the top of the mountain is Gifu Castle and museum, with artifacts from its famous owner and one of the main forces in the unification of Japan, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), and the period in which he lived. The castle has a great panoramic view of Gifu. The entrance fee is 200 yen for people over sixteen years old.
There is an inexpensive restaurant that also has a great panoramic view of the city lights. In the summer there is an open-air beer garden on top of the restaurant at night. The night view of the lights of the city is beautiful, but I don’t recommend hiking up or down the mountain in the dark, especially after drinking in a beer garden.
To get to Gifu Park, take any bus going north from bus stops 11 and 12 at the JR Gifu station, heading towards Nagaragawa Bridge, and get off at the “Gifu Park History Museum” bus stop. To get back to the JR station, take any bus going south at the “Gifu Park History Museum” bus stop. The price is 200 yen each way.