Gifu Prefecture is located right at the center of Japan. The town of Yaotsu in Kamo-gun is a small town with a population of just 11,000, located in the Chuno region of this area.
Kiso River flows East-West through the town. It is this Kiso River that has raised the town of Yaotsu to what it is now. Long ago, before land transport developed, timber cut in Kiso (Nagano Prefecture) was carried down the Kiso River, landing at a river port in Yaotsu area to make rafts, then at Kuwana (Mie Prefecture) and Shirotori (Nagano City). Some say the name Yaotsu is said to originate from the multiple river ports and some say it’s from the busy pass over of so many goods. Either way, the history of the town of Yaotsu is apparent in its name.
The magnificent landscape centering Kiso River is the town’s best feature. The beautiful views of Sosuikyo and Tabisoko Keikoku (valley) are also there by Kiso River. You can find a different beauty with each season.
Chiune Sugihara, a diplomat known as the ‘Schindler of Japan’ was born in Yaotsu. Be sure to make time to visit the memorial hall and park named after Sugihara.
Although the town is small, it is incredibly interesting for sightseeing with the remains of the first water power plant along Kiso River, which revolutionized the power supply in the region, as well as Goho Falls, which is known for its connection with Musashi Miyamoto.
It’s also a little-known fact that Yaotsu is the birthplace of Kurikinton, a dish made of mashed chestnuts. You can find this sweet at many shops around the town now. Kurikinton is not the only snack you’ll find here. Yaotsu Senbei, one of Yaotsu’s specialities, is a biscuit made with eggs as an ingredient, gives it a subtle taste.
The long-running spring festival is another thing that makes Yaotsu appealing. The Yaotsu Festival is a truly dynamic and epic festival that features three floats carried through the town and joined together to make one ship at the end.
Another long-running festival is the Kutami Festival in the Kutami area. It is an another Danjiri festival in which six gorgeously decorated floats are carried through the festival, creating a solemn atmosphere.
These two Danjiri festivals have a different appearance respectively. It is encouraging to think that such a small town still holds two festivals a year.
Recently Yaotsu has gained another scenic spot. Construction of the huge new Tabisoko bridge was completed in 2010. The top of the bridge towers 200 meters from the bottom of the valley. While the bridge is 462 meters long, its structure has only two retainers. The bridge is supported entirely by only these two piers. The dynamic bridge is a sight to be seen from down below of the Tabisoko Keikoku (valley), and also offers a fantastic view from the bridge itself when looking down into the valley.