Sake Culture

Life with Sake

The life in Hida Furukawa and Sake are inseparable. There used to be more than 10 sake breweries in town wineries still  produce sake, using local underground water and locally produced rice. For every seasonal occasion, for celebrations or condolences, people give sake as gifts. It is not unusual to see people walking with a wrapping cloth with two shous (unit of old Japanese liquid measurement, 1.8L=1shou) of sake in it. Drinking sake in the meetings and parties play an important role in communication. All through the year in the small bars all over the town, locals sit and talk on the counter, drinking Atsukan(hot sake) at their hand,which is a typical traditional scene in this area. It might be fun to take a look, for these small bars welcome everyone. Sake has a meeting of purification in the divine service, therefore it will be sprayed not only to equipment for Okoshi Daiko, but also to the bodies of men facing to the drums. It is said that almost 80% of the winery’s total producing sake in consumed in local, and that tells how sake play significant roles in many scenes of the living in this area.

Furukawa Matsuri (Festival) -Okoshi Daiko

The Day of Furukawa Mautsuri

Furukawa Matruri & Residents

Needles to say, Okoshi Daiko (Rousing Drums) and street parade of festival floats are star attractions of “HidaFurukawa Masturi” to be held on April 19 and 20, but for Furukawa residents the Matsuri begins in early March, with what is called the “Chusen-sai”(drawing festival). A director of the Matsuri is assigned among 4 groups at the shrine, and all “Ujiko” (shrine parishioners) in 4 groups start preparation for the Matsuri. Men hold meetings everyday to decide roles and procedures of Matsuri in each groups divided by resident areas: Four groups named after Four-Guardian-Gods ( Azure Dragon”Sei-Ryuu”, Vermillion Bird”Suzaku”, White Tiger “Byakko” and Black Tortoise “Genbu”), and 11 groups of festival floats.

Each group has decorated yatai in Kura storage, you can see when walking around the town.

Decorated Yatais located at the bridge for exhibition

In April, every night you hear the sound of children’s practice of “Ohayashi”(musicla bands) leaking from assembly halls. On the festival day the God is led from Keta Wakamiya Shrine to the town center. The route to the town is drawn by the purifying salt, and it branches to individual houses, where “Chochin” (paper lantern), “Maku” and “Noren”(sign curtains) are prepared, to invite the God. The divine custom such as not seeing the God parade from the second floor of the house is succeeded over generations.Okoshi-Daiko is a symbol of “Furukawa Yancha”(mischievous man), this is the day once a year that blaze up the hearts of men of all ages.

Four seasons in Hida Furukawa

Living on Four Seasons


Late spring comes to Hida when pale yellow-green butterbur sprouts(Fukinotou) peek out from the melting snow. People remove the snow fence(Yukikakoi) around the house and start to prepare for farm crops such as rice plants. The carps returns in six months from the wintering spot to Seto River (First Sunday April in evry year), and bustling twon is coming back after the quiet winter season. Furukawa Festival is held as if it was waiting for the cherry blossoms, and people share the joy of the arrival of spring. Many small spring festivals are also held in surrounding villages. Japan Alps, Norikura and Ontake mountains seen from Furukawa remain to have snow on the top until May. Rural districts start to be irrigated, and farmers will be busy preparing for rice nursery (Naeshiro-Kaki).

hidafurukawa sakura


It can get rather hot during the day, but you can feel the pleasant breeze in mornings and evenings. If you walk the town in the early morning of summer, you see many people cleaning their front door of the house, taking spider’s web off from the lattice(Senbon-Koushi). This kind of daily routine of residents maintains the charm of the town, where you feel composed atmosphere along the houses built in the traditional method of Hida. In the fields around the town area, people take care of colorful vegetables that will  later be decorating their dining tables. In the evening we can see people watering the front street to invite night wind into the house, or chatting with neighbors sitting on the front porch, as the most typical scenes in summertime. Young people who went to the cities come back during Obon Festival, and the bustle comes back to the town. Festival with fireworks and Bon-Odori (festival dance) are held, and the marketplace behind Hida no Takumi Bunka Kan is lined with lots of fresh vegetables.


Leaves of large ginko tree in Fukuzenji Alley colors and gold rice plants will be shinning and swaying in the wind in the autumn. It is time to get ready for snowy winter. Ripe persimmons are hanged on the eaves of the house to dry, also dried radish and cabbages are further stocked in the warehouse with a stable temperature until it beacomes. Tsukemono, which will be valuable ingredients during snow-bound winter period. Branches of pine tree in the garden are reinforced by ropes so that it should not break by the weight of snow, and wooden fences are put around the house to keep protected from the heavy snow.  Japan Alps start being covered with snow in the middle of October, a little earlier than the town. Morning Mist (Asagiri) in which the sky in the basin is covered with the fog is a proof of a rich natural circulation, and it can only be seen in this season when the temperature difference within the day is intense, (view point at Mt. Anbou A fresh blue sky after the morning mist clears up is exceptional. Peripheral villages hold autumn festivals one after another, to express the gratitude for the good harvest, It is also the time for the carp in Seto River to move to the wintering spot, Masujima Castle site, in the four the Sunday November every year.


The whole town will have been completely covered in snow by the end of the year. It snows silently and that creates monotones elegance in this quiet town. Shoveling snow in front of the house is a daily routine. When they have heavy snow, some exciting snow removal from the roof can be seen all over the town. Snow removal is done by all family members from children to grandparents and  this is essential for them to keep the good relationship with old wooden houses. Until 50 years ago when snow removal infrastructure was not in place, people created 10-step-snowstairs to the upper floor of the house to get out on to the street. “Sandera-Mairi” on Jan 15th is a unique event of winter, people dressed in Kimono and walk through snowy town to visit three temples in one night.

Discover Hida Furukawa

First of all, our town is not popular tourist town, while the public lives under the relatively old culture in the traditional downtown. The almost all urban people doesn’t know here probably if you ask about HidaFurukawa in cities. The local culture and people of Hida have been protected by surrounding mountains, the Japan Alps.


Hida region, Furukawa and Takayama area have a long history and it is said people have been living about  ten thousand years. Nagachika Kanamori united Hida by the order of Hidayoshi Toyotomi during the age of civil war, and Hida was governed for six generations thereafter. The town of Furukawa was built as a castle town of Masushima Castle, a sole castle in Hida, built in 1589. In Edo period, a decree of “one feudal domain, one castle” was announced by the Tokugawa government, and Masushima Castle ended its role as castle when all the Samurai moved to Takayama (there still remains Masushima Shrine standing on the stone wall), and Furukawa has since become the town of merchants and craftsmen.In 1692, Hida became an imperial fief under the direct control of Edo-Bakufu (Shognate) in order to dominate the rich forest resouces, and it was ruled by the Tokugawa Family for more than 170 years, until the overthrow of the Shognate.

飛騨古川の瀬戸川 宿泊施設サイト Hida Furukawa accommodation

Machiya House and living

many features in common in terms of structure of the towns such as geographical conditions and layout of castles ,temples and dwelling area. Divided by Seto River, merchants’ and Samurais’ dwelling areas are extending in Furukawa. You can still see many wooden houses with the peaceful atmosphere in the major streets called Ichi-no-machi, Ni-no-machi and San-no-machi. Machiyas are merchant houses lined in the center of the town that can be seen in Kyoto, or other historical towns in Japan, but Machiya in Furukawa is especially unique among them.First of all, compared to Kyoto or Takayama, Furukawa is much smaller and you can feel the cozy feeling of small town surrounded by mountains, one of the most notable features of Furukawa is that you can stroll around the enjoying the view of Norikura and Ontake, a part of Japan Alps, which are over 3,000 altitude. Another surprising thing is that not only old ones, but also there are relatively new Machiya less than 10 years old. An agreement for surrounding landscape is a common sense in Europe but not in Japan after World War Ⅱ. However, here Furukawa still has the climate where common view “Souba” is respected, therefore even when a house is burnt down due to a fire, or a house is repaired, new “Machiya” that harmonize with the surroundings will be built. The biggest contributor of remaining the streets of Furukawa is the skillful carpenters from this town called “Hida no Takumi”. In old days they were sent to build the capital in Kyoto and Nara, instead of the payment of taxes by rice. The extraordinary carpentry skill has been refined over a thousand years and succeeded until today.

Local Living with Fire

The relation with the fire is very important in Japan where most of houses are of wood. “Machiya” style houses in this town are built next to each other an share a border with neighbors, so the fire must be treated with extreme care. The majority of the town excluding some of the temples were burnt the fire every single day at the small shrines exisiting several placed in town,called “Akiba-sama”, who enshrines the god of the fire.
You might see people, even children, promote “Hino-Youjin”( Beware of Fire ) with wooden clappers, walking among town in the evening.

Finding Tsugite and Kumo of Architecture

The structure material such as pillars and beams, or interiors like ceiling of Japanese old wooden buildings are built by the combinations of woods, therefore no nails or metal parts are not used. Some of the major traditional methods are called “Tsugite”( straight joints), and “Shiguchi”(angle joints). These techniques are the answers to the various demands including its strength, fine view, and ease of repair that “Hida no Takumi” have invented, considering the shapes, nature, and types of woods. Generally it tends to be thought the life span of wooden buildings are shorter than of stone buildings in Europe, but the wooden structures in Japan are designed to last hundreds of years with repair or dismantle and restructuring. For example, Tsugite called ” Kanawa-Tsugi” is used on the pillar of a temple gate built for long-term outdoor use. The lower part of the pillar is easy to be rotten by moisture, so the only part of wood below Tsugite can be replaced. Houses built solely by woods are decomposable and easy to be fixed or moved. It is not unusual to dismantle and reconstruct the house, so the skills of Hida no Takumi are highly sustainable and rational as  well. the kinds of Tsugite vary according to the purposes. You can touch the original one at Hida no Takumi Bunkakan (Local Museum in HidaFurukawa). You will also find actively used Tsugite in all over Furukawa when you walk down the streets.
When you walk around the town of Furukawa, you will see cloud-like wood carved decoration beneath the eaves of the houses. There are about 400 houses that have this “Kumo” (cloud), and there are about 170 varieties of designs. Each chief carpenter has his own design of “Kumo” and it can be distinguished who built the house, by the design. The Kumo can be said as a symbol of the carpenters’ pride. Once carpenters accounted 10% of total population of the town, and it tells how extraordinary skills were accumulated in this town and inherited at the same time, up until now. There are a Totem Pole of Kumos exhibited in Hida no Takumi Bunka Kan, and you can enjoy walking around town fining the Kumo.