Now it’s the turn for Gifu prefecture’s pride: the world Heritage village of Shirakawa-gō! It is located in the very heart of Japanese Alps, close to Toyama prefecture’s boarder. You can feel the old times’ atmosphere in every season you visit it.
What’s special about Shirakawa-gō?
What makes Shirakawa-gō a unique village is the architectural style of its buildings: the so-called gasshō-zukuri (合掌造り) style’s main feature is the thick layer of straw that composes the roof and prevents the accumulation of snow during the winter season.
These straw roofs are easily replaceable once they’re old and you can see this operation if you’re lucky enough. Here you can find a relaxing ambiance, while enjoying Japanese Alps on the background. Since Shirakawa-gō’s location is close to Hokuriku region, winters are very snowy here. We recommend you to visit the village around December to enjoy the winter lights decorating the buildings.
How to get to Shirakawagō
Reaching Shirakawa-gō from Tōkyō requires some time. First of all, you should go to Takayama (Gifu prefecture) or Kanazawa (Ishikawa prefecture).
By traveling on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen from Tōkyō you reach Nagoya station, where the “Hida” limited express train will take you to Takayama (the whole journey takes 4 hours or so). From Takayama station you can get to Shirakawa-gō with the “Nōhi-bus” in about 50 minutes, a return ticket costs 4300 yen.
For those who travel from Kinki region, getting to Kanazawa is simple: from Ōsaka or Kyōto, take the “Thunderbird” express train. Once you’re in Kanazawa you take the “Nōhi-bus” we mentioned before.
※ From 2014 it will be possible to travel on the “Hokuriku Shinkansen” line: getting to Kanazawa from Tōkyō will be easier and much quicker.
We’ve been to Shirakawa-gō in Autumn: the contrast of the leaves colors and the snow on the top of the surrounding mountains was awesome.
Walking between the gasshō-zukuri buildings made us fly to the old times of Japan. Some buildings are now small restaurants or gift shops, but there are still some families living in ancient houses. There are also some inns where it’s possible to spend some nights at.
If you have enough time, visit the close Gokayama, where Ainokura and Suganuma villages are located, they are both interesting sites. Accessing there from Shirakawagō is not so easy, but these village worth the visit for the atmosphere of past you can feel. In Gokayama a famous type of Japanese paper is crafted, you can also assist the manufacture of this paper.