The enchanting natural wonderland of Gifu prefecture in Japan is home to Nagara River Basin, named one of the “Top 100 Sustainable Tourist Destinations in the World” in 2021 by Green Destinations. This is the second consecutive year that one of Gifu’s regions has been recognised for excellence in sustainability practices – in 2020, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shirakawa Village was selected for the same top 100 list.
The entire prefecture of Gifu leads the way for sustainability in Japan – preserving both nature and culture. If you’re keen to learn more about deep-rooted Japanese traditions, fascinating culture and captivating craftsmanship amongst awe-inspiring nature, be sure to add Gifu Prefecture to your bucket list!
Shirakawa Village, which was registered as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, is famous for its hamlet of gassho-zukuri traditional thatched-roof houses. A custom of mutual support, called Yui, has been passed down through generations.
The villagers help each other protect the traditional houses and preserve the town’s historic landscape by collectively fighting fires and re-thatching the roofs.
Visitors to the village can glimpse traditional life by staying with locals in one of the thatched-roof homes and experiencing local cuisine around an irori sunken hearth. It’s here, far away from all the hustle and bustle of city life that you can truly understand the incredible spirit of Yui that makes this place and these people so unique.
Read more about why Shirakawa Village was named one of the “Top 100 Sustainable Tourist Destinations in the World” here.
The unspoiled Nagara River is one of the clearest in Japan, but it is also where the ancient and world-famous tradition of Ukai -Cormorant Fishing is held (a custom that has been practised for more than 1300 years – wow!). Since ancient times, the people’s life, economy, and culture of the Nagara River basin have been deeply connected to the river.
Many other traditions and artisanal techniques that make the most of the blessings of pristine water are preserved here and passed down from generation to generation. For example, Seki hamono, knives – formerly swords produced in Seki, which is said to be the world's third-largest traditional bladesmithing area; or Hon Mino washi, authentic Japanese paper handcrafted in Mino, which has been used for the restoration of oriental paintings in the British Museum and the Louvre; and the traditional Gujo Bon Odori, an annual dance festival in Gujo that is part of Buddhist celebration to commemorate and honour ancestors, which boasts a history of over 400 years.
Nagara River Basin was awarded the coveted sustainability accolade, “Top 100 Sustainable Tourist Destination in the World” in 2021 for its community’s commitment to passing on the traditional way of living in harmony with the river to the future generations. Read more about it here.
Planning a Trip to Gifu Prefecture
Paradise awaits just a two-hour train journey from Tokyo, making Gifu prefecture an easy (and unmissable!) addition to any Aussie’s Japan itinerary. Apart from the neon lights of the big city, visitors to Gifu can immerse themselves in the grand outdoors, timeless traditions, living culture, and, of course, sustainable living that is at the heart of this unique part of Japan.