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Gifu on Film #3

May 29, 2020 Visit North Asia No Comments Email Email

Transport yourself to the sights and sounds of historic Gifu, central Japan, in this newly released video. The third in a new series of five short films released by Visit Gifu takes a virtual tour of the timeless traditions that have been passed down by generations and can be experienced across the prefecture when we return.

A Taste of Gifu’s Cultural Traditions

From food and drink production to skilled workmanship, entertainment and relationships with the land and water, the people of Gifu have retained traditions that have been passed down over centuries, and in some cases more than 1,000 years:

Cormorant Fishing
An ancient summer fishing tradition locally named ‘Ukai’, in which fishing masters take out torchlit boats at night with Cormorant birds which are used to catch sweetfish. This method of fishing has existed in Gifu for more than 1,300 years and today this tradition can be seen taking place nightly on the Nagara River (from Gifu City and Seki City locations) between mid-May and mid-October with English guided tours available. On a trip to Japan, Charlie Chaplin came to watch Ukai and loved it so much that he returned to see the tradition again.

Eastern Gifu is home to many Ji-Kabuki theatres for visitors to feel immersed in a cultural institution that has transcended centuries – a grassroots theatre performed by amateur local actors in countryside regions. The performance is characterised by brightly dressed and white face painted performers, with an interactive actor and audience engagement where donations are thrown on stage to encourage the actors. At the Aioi-za Theatre, you can become a ji-kabuki actor yourself, applying the makeup, trying on the outfits, and acting out short scenes on the big stage. Start brushing up on your poses now!

Seki Blades
For 800 years, bladesmiths in the city of Seki have been creating swords, knives and cutlery, a craft and livelihood which has been passed down some families for 25 generations. This intricate process of making traditional Japanese blades begins with iron sand which is combined with charcoal in a furnace and tended to for three days. Broken into different hardness levels, the steel is then combined at 1300ºC and then hammered, lengthened and folded at least 10 times. Clay is added to the blade before it is repeatedly heated and cooled to harden the blade, with the entire process taking 15 days. Sword making is highly regulated and only 10 bladesmiths in Gifu are licensed to create ‘katana’ samurai swords. When travel returns, visitors can gain an insight into the tradition and life of a bladesmith at Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum or Cutler Sansyu and the Seki Hamono Museum.

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