The first time I heard about Shirakawa-Go was during my travel in Japan in 2015. I accidentally learned about it when I was searching for things to do in Nagoya. I didn’t go though because the trip will take about 3hrs by bus from Nagoya.
I visited Japan again last January 2017 and this time, I made sure that I visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site. I got really excited because the whole village has a different charm during winter.
Shirakawa-go is a small, traditional village located in Shirakawa, Ono District in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. The village is home to old gassho-zukuri houses dating from the Edo Period. Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer”. The traditional farmhouses features steep thatched roofs that resembles the shape of our hands when we are praying. Today, many of the traditional farmhouses were converted to museums, restaurants, shops, and some you can even stay overnight.
After almost an hour bus ride from Takayama, we arrived at the bus stop area of Shirakawa-go. We then crossed the pedestrian bridge to get to the main village. The bridge was built over Shokawa river and offers a very scenic view.
The winter season covered the village with powdery snow making it look like the scenery you see inside a snow globe. It also felt like I was transported into Christmas village I saw in story books.
Upon arriving at the village, we proceeded to the shuttle bus stop that will take us to Shiroyama Viewpoint. The viewpoint offers a panoramic breathtaking view of the village. The shuttle bus fare to Shiroyama Viewpoint cost 200 Yen per passenger per way. We also have an option to walk going to the viewpoint but the walkway was closed due to heavy snow.
Some gassho-zukuri houses are also open to public for a fee. We weren’t able to do this though because of time constraints.
Takayama is one of the gateways to Shirakawa-go, and it only takes about an hour bus ride to get to the world famous village. You can travel to Takayama from Nagoya by train or bus, but in my case since I stayed in Shiojiri in Nagano, I went there via Matsumoto which took about 2 hours by bus. The round trip bus fare from Matsumoto Bus Station to Takayama Bus Station cost 5,660 Yen.
There are a couple bus trips from Takayama to Shirakawa-go but we opt to join a private tour group offered by our hostel since it’s discounted. We stayed at J-Hoppers Hostel in Takayama and we paid 3,990 Yen instead of 4,400 Yen for our tour. You can check Takayama Bus Station for bus schedules if you plan to DIY. The cost of the round trip ticket is 4,420 Yen. The advantage of doing DIY tour at Shirakawa-Go is you handle your time.
The road from Takayama to Shirakawa-go is very scenic. You will also pass into Japan’s 2nd longest road tunnel, the Hida Tunnel which is 10.7km long. After an hour bus ride, a winter wonderland will welcome your eyes.
You can take the Hokuriku-Shinkansen to Kanazawa then take a bus to Shirakawa-go. The trip will take about 4 hours.
You can take the Limited Express Hida-Furukawa train to Takayama then take a bus to Shirakawa-go. The trip will take about 4 hours.
You can take the Limited Express Kanazawa to Kanazawa then take a bus to Shirakawa-go. The trip will take about 4.5 hours
Shirakawa-go is a must visit destination when you’re in Japan. I was only able to visit during winter but basing on the photos I saw online, Shirakawa-go also offers a different charm during other seasons as well.