Gifu | Japan
Located on the alluvial plain of the Nagara River, Gifu has taken advantage of the surrounding natural resources to create both traditional industries (including Mino washi and agriculture) and tourism opportunities such as cormorant fishing. Mount Kinka, one of the city's major symbols, is home to a nationally designated forest and Gifu Castle, a replica of Nobunaga's former castle. Gifu also hosts many festivals and events throughout the year.
Two major rail lines connect Gifu to Japan's national and international transportation infrastructure. JR Central's Tōkaidō Main Line runs through the city, connecting it with Nagoya, one of Japan's largest cities, and the surrounding area. The city has a direct train route to Chūbu Centrair International Airport and facilities capable of hosting international events. Gifu has active relationships with six sister cities.
As of 1 December 2017, the city has an estimated population of 411,722 in 178,246 households, and a population density of about 2,000 persons per km2. The total area of the city was 203.60 square kilometres (78.61 sq mi).
Following the death of Nobunaga, Gifu's growth continued through the Edo period with the establishment of the Nakasendō as one of Tokugawa's five routes. Although the route did not pass directly through Gifu, the nearby post towns of Kanō-juku and Gōdo-juku provided traffic and were later amalgamated into the modern city of Gifu. The area continued to prosper once Gifu became a central location along the Nakasendō.
In the middle of the Meiji period, Gifu was officially established as a city on July 1, 1889, with an original population of 25,750 people and an area of 10 km². On October 28, 1891, two years later, the Mino–Owari earthquake occurred, estimated at 8 magnitude on the Richter Scale. About 37% of the city was lost to fire, resulting in 1,505 casualties (245 dead, 1,260 injured) and 6,336 buildings affected (3,993 of which were completely destroyed). As a result, Gifu erected the first Earthquake Memorial Hall in all of Japan, which holds memorial services for the victims on the 28th of every month.
Gifu recovered from the earthquake damage by the end of the Meiji period, and by 1911 was prosperous enough to establish a municipal street car service throughout the city.
When Gifu was founded in 1889, it was a small city that experienced moderate growth as Japan industrialized at the beginning of the century. During Japan's military buildup in the 1930s, the city became an industrial center and experienced exponential growth. Gifu remained prosperous in the post-war years, until its population started to decline like many Japanese cities in the 1980s and '90s. Though the city has shown a large increase in population in recent years, this trend results largely from the inclusion, for the first time, of the population of Yanaizu, which added about 13,000 people to Gifu's numbers. Foreign residents of the city, who number over 9,000, also factor into this growth. Shortly after this change, however, the city's economic revival strengthened and the population began to show a true increase.
Gifu's estimated population, as of July 2011, is 412,895. The gender breakdown is 196,762 males and 216,133 females, with a total of 162,060 households within the city limits. Similar to many areas in Japan, the percentage of senior citizens over 65 years of age is approximately 21.67%, compared to only 14.13% of the population younger than 15. This is comparable to the population of the prefecture and of Japan as a whole. In the prefecture, 22.1% of the population is over 65 and 14.4% of the population is less than 15 years old. Throughout Japan, only 21% are over the age of 65 and 13.6% are younger than 15. The average age of city residents is 43.37.
Cormorant fishing is the representative tourist attraction of Gifu. Though it occurs in many places in Japan, cormorant fishing on the Nagara River dates back more than 1,300 years. This is also the largest display of cormorant fishing in all of Japan, with six fishing masters going down the river at the same time, using their birds to catch ayu sweetfish. The season lasts from May 11 to October 15 every year and occurs each night, except during high water levels and the harvest moon.
Matsuo Bashō, a renowned haiku poet in the Edo period, spent many months in Gifu, creating haiku about many things, including cormorant fishing. Famed comedian Charlie Chaplin also came to view cormorant fishing on the Nagara River twice, reportedly moved by the experience.
The main sporting facility in the city is the Gifu Memorial Center, whose complex includes facilities for athletic and other events. Its athletic facilities include a track and field complex, a baseball stadium, and plazas for tennis and swimming, as well as martial arts and traditional arts facilities. There are also two large multi-purpose domes: the Deai Dome (seats 5,000) and the Fureai Dome (seats 700). All of the facilities are equipped for night events. The soccer field at the Memorial Center serves as the home to FC Gifu, the city's football representative in the J-League. Next to Memorial Center is the Nagaragawa Sports Plaza, a sports science and training center. The facility accommodates up to 300 people and provides access to equipment for improving athletic ability.
Just south of these sports facilities, the Naoko Takahashi Road runs along the northern bank of the Nagara River. This pedestrian pathway is named after the Gifu-born marathoner Naoko Takahashi, who won the gold medal in the event at the 2000 Summer Olympics. This road primarily stretches from Nagara Bridge to Chusetsu Bridge, providing a convenient course for events such as the Terry Fox Run, the Nagaragawa International Inline Skating Competition, and the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon.