Seki City is located in Gifu Prefecture, in the center of Japan’s main island, Honshu. Seki is known for its master sword makers. Skilled craftsmen have been creating Japanese swords, knives, and tools of the highest quality here for over 800 years. At Hamonoya Sanshu / Seki Cutlery Museum you can learn about the process of forging blades and buy locally produced knives. To explore Seki’s beautiful natural surroundings, take a walk in the mountains outside Seki up to Nichiryubuji Temple. Or visit the Kabusugi Giant Cedar Forest with old trees that look like the enchanted world of Japanese anime.
Takayama City, known as Hida Takayama, is located in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture’s Hida region. In the past, this was a thriving merchant town. In the historic Sanmachi Suji district many stores and buildings date back to the Edo Period (1603-1868). The former local government office (Takayama Jinya) is the only one of its kind that still stands. It is now a museum where you can learn more about the history of the region. The Takayama Festival is known as one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals. It takes places twice a year, April 14-15 and Oct. 9-10.
Kobe is a major port city in western Japan that opened to foreign trade and became home to one of the first foreign communities in the 19th century. The city is on a narrow strip of land between mountains and sea, and has a variety of tourist attractions ranging from a vibrant commercial districts that includes a Chinatown, a ropeway, and a cable car that take you to either a garden or an observatory where you can enjoy a commanding view of the entire landscape of the town with the port in the backdrop.
Japan’s imperial capital from the 8th century until 1868, Kyoto exemplifies Japanese history and culture. Now an extremely popular tourist destination, the old city is famous for its fine cuisine, geisha district, architecture and garden design. The UNESCO World Heritage “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” include Ryoan-ji Temple and its famous rock garden, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and Kinkaku-ji Temple with its iconic Golden Pavilion. Other outstanding places to visit among Kyoto’s thousands of shrines and temples are Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine with its long rows of torii gates and Sanjusangendo Temple with its 1001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy.