When we talk about visiting Japan, besides the good food in the main cities, I am sure many of us are also interested in Japan’s natural scenery,if you want to visit the countryside and don’t want to go too far, I believe that the World Heritage Site – Shirakawa is one of the relatively well known places to visit.
Shirakawa’s most famous snowing scenery (picture source Flick Flickr_pangyuliu）
It is located in central Japan; it is one of the important itineraries when you are planning to visit Nagoya. You will find yourself submerged in the beautiful countryside and unique Gassho houses. Especially in the winter when it snows, the romantic and fairy-tale like landscape is the bomb! If compared to other countryside attractions, it is not too far from the city, it only takes 1.5 hours from Takayama, whether it is a day trip or a one night stay in the Gassho houses, it is the most recommended accommodation for those individual travelers.
Gassho houses are everywhere in Shirakawago, it is one of the only remaining ancient Japanese buildings, the thatched roofs are handmade by the vilaggers using unique woven techniques.
It is easy to travel from Nagoya to Shirakawa, it is pretty straightforward and it only requires two coaches. The first trip is from Nagoya to Takayama-shi and the second trip is from Takayama-shi to Shirakwa, it is the same for the return trip. For more details, you may refer to the Nohi Bus website. It is recommended to purchase tickets from Nagoya to Takayama, and Takayama to Kanazawa (get off at Shirakawa-go, the one way trip costs 2980 Yen and 2470 Yen respectively, there is a discount for a round trip ticket. Eventhough there are options for online purchasing and over the counter purchasing, due to its popularity, advance reservations are recommended. ) Takayama is also one of the popular attractions, the streets are filled with an ancient Japanese atmosphere, there is a lot of hotel choices, you might consider staying one more day in Takayama!
To get to Shirakawa, you take the bus where you are droped off travelling from Nagoya to Takayama. Don’t be afraid of getting lost, there are English-speaking staff at the ticketing centers who can assist you.
The traditional market is in Takayama, before 11 o’clock in the morning, there will be different stalls setting up along the river, it’s very lively and yet it has the characteristics of an ancient morning market, worth a visit.
Besides traditional Japanese ingredient, such as pickles and fruits, you can find many delicious street food along the road, a string of grilled beef like this is less than 300 yen, it is very delicious.
After visiting the morning market, you can also visit the old trail road beside the market, you will find traditional Japanese decorated shops along the street, and there are many worthwhile souvenirs to buy too.
Upon arriving at Shirakawa-go, I believe that everyone will be shocked by the scenery. There is two things that you need to be aware of. First of all, absolutely no fires in the village, because the Gassho houses are built of wood and thatch structures, in case of fire, it is really unimaginable, of course, if you are a smoker, the village has designated smoking areas available. Second, pay attention to your trash, it is difficult to find a trash can in Shirakawa (in fact, Japan was not in favor of garbage on the streets), if there is any garbage, the best solution is to find a bag and bring it with you everywhere you go until you get back to the hotel. And of course, you can also be as cheeky as the author, ask help from the store keeper (its best if you also buy something from them!).
When you first step into Shirakawa-go, you will see the stone bridge which connects the village to the bus station, it might feel shaky, but it is very solid.
Shirakawa mainly has T-route, you will never get lost in here, if you want to be carefree, you are free to wander in the streets and discover many unique souvenir shops on the street.
Most of the Gassho houses are residential areas, you are not allowed to visit. If you want to visit the Gassho house, you can pay an admission fee to those which is open for visitors, such as the Kanda House in the above picture.
Most of the villagers are living a self-sustainable life , besides handicrafts, there are many farmland in the village.
Shirakawa is not very big, the main visits are the museums, Gassho houses, and the traditional souvenir shops etc.. It took me three hours to wander around, if you have good stamina, you might want to spend 30 minutes walking to the hilltop to get a whole view of Shirakawa. Most of the shops are closed before 6 o’clock in the evening, if you are not staying over, it is the best time to take the last bus back to Takayama.
There are several musuems near the station, if you get bored while waiting for the bus, you can visit the museums.
In fact, many people think that the bestway to experience Shirakaw-go is to stay in the local homestay, waking up in the quiet and peaceful village, it must be an unforgetable memory.
However, it is not easy to make a reservation, there are limited numbers of homestays, most of the homestays are fully booked a month before the peak season. As most of the homestays are operated by the older generations, most of them only receive reservation by fax or phone, if you do not speak Japanese, it is best to ask for help from the hotel staff or the tourism center.
Eventhough i was here during the off-season, when i was making reservations two days earlier, most of the homestays were fully reserved, if there is any special occasions such as Lantern Day, it is impossible to find a room.
The Bed and Breakfast is mostly traditional cottage-style, most have shared toilets and bathrooms, while some of them are fitted with Gassho decorations, while others are ordinary houses, to those who are interested, and you have to pay attention while you make a booking for your stay.
In addition to experiencing the bustling city life of Japan, it is also worth spending a day or two or even a few days, experiencing the relaxing pace and enjoying the antique Japanese tour attractions, Shirakawa is one of the Japan’s famous attractions, and it is different from the city center. The itinerary is quite simple, it is recommended to first time travellers, and the special local souvenirs, it is recommended to include Shirakawa while travelling to central Japan, Nagoya.