At the western edge of Gifu Prefecture, resting between the mountains and Ibigawa river lies Yoro, a daytrip idyll. Gifu can be short of ideas for those with children during the warmer months, but Yoro provides an inexpensive, varied and fun day for all.
Yoro park has grown around Yoro Falls, placed among the top 100 waterfalls in Japan (seriously, who compiles these lists, and can I have the job?) and claimed by Emperor Gensyou to not only give silky smooth skin after only one wash, but to cure all diseases as well.
The waterfall is reached after a 1.5km walk through lush vegetation and perfect picnicking country. In summer it’s a hot walk and the shops on the right bank of the river sell drinks, including beer made from the special water, which presumably also cures all diseases, except those of the liver.
If the walk tires you out and posing for pictures in front of the falls doesn’t bring the energy back then you can take the “lift”, a cross between a ski lift and a child’s swing that supports you a few feet off the ground and deposits you halfway down the hill, all to the bombast of Wagner-esque music blasted from a tinny tannoy.
At the bottom of the hill is Yoro Park itself. Featuring crazy golf, tennis courts, food courts and an area called Kid’s World (I wasn’t allowed past the border control, so I can’t tell you of its joys), the main draw for families is the large grassy area perfect for games, sunbathing, sleeping and other summer activities. I love this place mainly because it is the only spot I’ve found in Chubu with proper soft, green, lawn-type grass. On sunny weekends arrive early as the space fills fast.
To the right of the grassy area is the strangest place in the world. “Site of Reversible Destiny” is described as an “experience park conceived on the theme of encountering the unexpected”. It does exactly what it says on the tin. You enter by way of a house. A normal house in that it has walls, a floor, and various domestic appliances. Here all similarities with reality end. Called “The Critical Resemblance House”, the floor is actually quite a steep hill covered by a map of Gifu prefecture.
The walls are five or six metres tall and about half a metre apart. Some of the furniture is where you would expect it to be, except bisected by a wall. There are walls through sofas, through fridges, through baths. Half the table is in one room, half in the next. Above, you may find a section of an upside down sink. Kitchen units lunge out from all angles. The only words spoken in this house while I was there were nani kore (what’s this?) and muri (impossible).
From here you climb a slope decorated with a New York street map. At the top you encounter a place that cannot have justice done unto it by mere words. Shaped like a huge amphitheatre, “The Elliptical Field” is, to quote the leaflet, “an array of complementary mounds and hollows”.
It’s basically another world through which one wanders muttering confused exclamations and marvelling at such names as “Exactitude Ridge”, “Imaging Navel” and “Trajectory Membrane Gate”. Equally wonderful for kids and adults, you can spend hours climbing up and down the steep sides, resting in armchairs suspended at 45-degree angles, or admiring the view from the summit walkway.
Yoro is an experience unlike any other and rewards repeated visits. It is best reached by car, however there are trains from Ogaki. The park is a ten-minute walk from Yoro station.