You may have asked yourself at some point “why in the world would the site be named Gifu Crossroads?” I assure you, though, that there is a method in the madness, and I will explain here exactly why “crossroads” is a perfect way to describe Gifu Prefecture!
First, we have to consider what the word “crossroads” means. From our good friend dictionary.com, then, we have the following definitions:
the place where roads intersect.
- a point at which a vital decision must be made.
- a main center of activity.
Each of these sub-definitions applies to Gifu within the context of Japanese history and the roles that it has played in that history. One only need look to the Japanese characters for “Gifu” to see how important the image of “crossroads” is: the first Chinese character, “岐,” means to branch off, a fork in the road, crossroads. This character has been stylized and adopted as one of the emblems of Gifu, the image directly below:
The image of crossroads, then, is buit right into Gifu’s name! And who decided upon this name but arguably the most popular figure in Japanese history, Oda Nobunaga, one of the three great unifiers of Japan. Nobunaga (unusually referred to by his first name) decided upon Gifu Castle as his base and Gifu (or in that time, the country of Mino) as the land from which he would attempt to unite the Japanese lands. Gifu was a place of very strategic importance, from both military and transportation points of view, and Nobunaga realized this and named the land appropriately. Indeed, it was said during that period that “those who control Mino control all the lands under the heavens,” another indication of the importance of Gifu’s location.
In fact, Gifu is located in the very center of Japan in a geographical sense**, and it has historically been a critical crossroads between East and West Japan and a place where much cultural exchange, trade, etc. therefore took place. The Nakasendo, one of the five main routes of the Edo Period (1600-1868), was the most important road crossing through Gifu, and this road is one of the reasons why Nobunaga and others considered it the most vital location to control. Gifu is thus very literally the home of strategically significant “crossroads.”
Returning to sub-definition #2, crossroads also mark a location or point in time at which an important decision was made or an action was taken that propelled one on a particular path as opposed to another. Gifu can therefore also be considered crossroads in this abstract sense, because the Battle of Sekigahara, considered to be the most important battle in Japanese history, also happened here in Gifu in 1600. This “battle that changed Japan” represented the decisive victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu and ushered in a new era, the Edo period that saw peace for 260 years after the long, combative Warring States period. This particular path was a direct result of what took place in Gifu on those days in 1600, and so in more ways than one, Gifu has been the “crossroads” of Japan.
Thus we have “Gifu Crossroads!” Although it may seem an arbitrary name at first, there is actually quite a lot of reasoning behind it!!
**As an interesting tidbit, all postal codes in Gifu Prefecture start with “500,” whereas postal codes throughout the rest of the country range from “001” to “999,” reflecting Gifu’s centrality!