Every Wednesday we took a day off from farming. The couple I was staying with used their day to relax, chill out and visit the public bath. I can’t go into the onsen because I have tattoos, and besides I wanted to make the most of my time in a part of the country I may never return to.
I started by visiting Gifu city, the capital of the prefecture. It’s a pretty old school city, with some gorgeous temples including an enormous Buddha. The highlight was a castle which I didn’t realise until I visited was actually once home to Oda Nobunaga.
Nobunaga is seen as the unifier of Japan. A ruthless tyrant and warlord, the guide at the Tokyo Samurai Museum compared him to Darth Vader, not just because of his black armour but also his temper and habit of executing underlings.
Nobunaga is a fascinating man. Despite being an absolute monster, his ruthlessness and resolve lead to a unified nation and centuries of peace. He is the quintessential example of “a great man but not a good man”. He is revered in some parts of Japan; a golden statue adorns the Gifu train station.
Regardless of what you think of Nobunaga, his importance in Japanese history cannot be denied. Stepping foot in the ruins of his halls and climbing the mountain to his castle was a palpable, powerful experience. I also got to see my first wild bear, albeit an unconscious one being carried away by park rangers, covered in a tarp so I only saw the feet. Still counts!
After Gifu castle I stopped for a delicious chicken plate from a Mexican restaurant, then hopped on a train to head over to Inuyama.
Inuyama is much smaller and more rural than Gifu, but it also has a nice castle and I wanted to check it out. This one is actually the last privately owned castle in Japan! On my walk to the castle, I had to fight my way through a slow-moving tide of schoolchildren. I also spotted a police car slowly crawling down the road and worried they thought I was some kind of weirdo. Unfortunately, I arrived a little too late to go inside but it was still a good sight.
On the way home, some deer ran in front of the car which was quite the spectacle. Hiroki-san then told me that Inuyama had been on the news; apparently a dangerous prisoner had escaped and was on the loose. At least the police car wasn’t looking for me!