Overview of Hida City
Hida City has a population of more than 25,000 people located in the centre of Japan, at the northernmost tip of Gifu Prefecture. It is surrounded by 3,000 metre high mountains such as the Northern Alps and the Hida Mountain Range, and the forested 93% of the total area of 792.53 square meters is blessed with natural resources. There are peaceful pastoral vistas and traditional buildings, in a region where old-fashioned Japanese landscapes still markedly remain.
In the Setogawa Canal, the tourist attraction that represents Hida City, from April to November thousands of large koi carp swim tranquilly, and the different seasons are full of evocative scenery attracting many tourists. The most popular activity in Hida is bicycle riding on the “Rail Mountain Bike Gattan Go!!”, on a disused railway line while looking at the landscape where there remains a once flourishing town in the old mine. In addition, “Hida Satoyama Cycling”, with local guides on bikes in the surrounding mountains where Japan’s emblematic scenery remains, has received high praise in particular from foreign tourists.
Getting to Hida
Hida is in a mountainous part of the country, but is relatively easy to access by using public transport. It is possible to get to Hida Furukawa station, the gateway to Hida, by using Shinkansen bullet train and railway in about four hours from Tokyo and about three hours 40 minutes from Shin-Osaka.
Also, the internationally known Takayama City, renowned for its ‘little Kyoto’ townscapes and visited by many tourists due to its Michelin Green Guide reviews, is very close on the Japan Rail line taking about 16 minutes, and by car about 15 km. Hida has seen an increase in Tourists due to a rise in tours groups coming from Takayama.
“Your Name.” blockbuster animated film
Last summer saw a big change in visitor numbers in Hida. Many fans visited various places, Hida Furukawa Station, Hida City Library and others which featured in the record hit anime (animation) film Kimi no na wa, or ‘Your Name’. Also released in the UK, the film has become a huge success and features many of the places in Hida now frequently visited. Using this opportunity, the Tourism Division of Hida City Hall commissioned movie tie-in posters and leaflets, hand-made exhibition panels comparing the actual city scenes with images from the film. They also introduced sightseeing walking plans on the city’s official tourist website, resulting with each initiative being covered in depth by various media to the extent that Hida city attracted national attention.
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Furukawa Festival
Before the huge hit and social phenomenon of the film “Your Name”, Hida City was already known as a charming place to visit. On 1 December last year there were 33 registrations of festivals listed as sites of ‘UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage’ (so called Yama-Hoko-Yatai float Festivals in Japan” on the UNESCO registration), one of which included the ‘Furukawa Festival’.
After UNESCO registration of the festival, and in addition to usual PR materials and activities of the Furukawa Festival, the City also created traditional happi (special Japanese waistcoats worn at festival, traditionally emblazoned with heraldic seals) and leaflets and stickers explaining the historic meaning of the events, as part of a range of activities celebrating the registration, with emphasis on promoting the Furukawa Festival as a visual spectacle.
The Festival popular with tourists is held on April 19 and 20 every year, and is a traditional event with a history of over 400 years on two consecutive days, each featuring the different theme of ‘dynamic’ and ‘tranquil’, with aspects unique to Hida. On the evening of the 19th, the great taiko drum called “Okoshi Daiko (‘rousing drum’) symbolising the ‘dynamism’ of the Furukawa Festival travels around the city area. The following day of the 20th, nine festival stalls symbolizing the ‘tranquility’ of the Furukawa Festival are set up in downtown areas and different styles of traditional crafts such as sculpture, gold work and lacquer painting can be seen.
The Furukawa Festival is held once a year as the traditional festival to celebrate spring, but three of the stalls from the festival are also regularly exhibited in rotation at the Hida Furukawa Festival Hall so the Festival can be experience throughout the year, in addition to displaying images of the Furukawa Festival in an exhibition theatre.
2016 has been a successful year with the city profile raised due to the hit anime film and UNESCO, with the dramatic increase in covering Hida City by various media, making it possible for Hida to appeal widely. In the future, the city will continue with various promotion activities so that many more people can choose Hida as a travel destination.
Pictures and original Japanese text courtesy of Hida City Hall, translated by JLGC