Situated in the remote mountain region of Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is well known for their beautiful winter landscapes with glassho-zukuri farmhouses. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, it's gaining much interest partly due to the influences of the internet and social media.
Though very popular for their winter scene, particularly the winter light-up during the month of January and February. I personally felt the beautifully constructed village is equally scenic in other seasons.
A day trip is the more common means of visiting the village due to the easy access from the surrounding cities like Takayama and Kanazawa to the more popular Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go. I personally recommend an overnight stay in one of the farmhouse to really experience the beauty of this historic place, I will explain why later...
There are very limited farmhouses that are available for visitors to stay in the village so if you plan to stay in one, book well ahead. The link I used is japaneseguesthouses.com, the page for guesthouse in Shirakawa-go can be found here.
Dinner and breakfast are provided for the guests and they are really good, I mean nothing beats a locally prepared meal right?
And the room you will be staying is really traditional. Some say old, I prefer to call them traditional with character.
Due to the age of the farmhouse, some which are more than 250 years old, there are no insulation at all. All you will be getting is a heater and some very thick blankets to keep you warm through the night. Bathing is another challenge itself as due to the lack of insulation, you are literally bathing in cold air. I basically soak in the hot bath not wanting to get out due to the cold temperature once I step out! Oh, and the bathroom is shared by all the guests staying in the house.
Why go through all these unpleasant experience you might wonder? Two reasons, experience and lack of tourist.
The snowing morning
Shirakawa-go, like all popular attractions in Japan, are fill with tourist. I mean they come in buses after buses to this relatively small village during the day. To me it takes away the layer of charm that Shirakawa-go should have been, an isolated village in the remote mountain region of Japan.
By staying overnight in the farmhouse, you get to experience sunrise and more importantly, the quite, peaceful surrounding this village one should always experience.
Ogimachi Village is a relatively small village so exploring the whole village on foot can be done within a day. For the list of attractions found at Shirakawa-go, do refer to their official site here.
In case if you are wondering, the famous panorama view of the village can be experience from Shiroyama Viewpoint at the north of the village. It can be access by a shuttle bus from the pick-up point near Wada-ke House or by foot via a walking trail that usually takes about 20 minutes depending on your pace. The slopes are quite steep so if you prefer the easier way, take the shuttle bus.
One interesting fact, all the ridges of the Gassho-style houses are aligned parallel to the Sho River. No wonder the village looks so unique, check out this aerial shot of the village below!
Ogimachi Village is the transportation hub of Shirakawa-go. The bus station is conveniently located just outside of the village so finding your way to the village from the station is pretty straightforward.
If you have manage to reserve a farmhouse stay, it's recommended to secure a bus seat first. I use japanbusonline.com to reserve my seat from Nagoya. Or you can check out Nouhi Bus if you are travelling from other cities here.
If you are just looking for a day trip, you can check out iSite Takayama here. Book on Klook for a full day tour of Gokayama Suganuma & Shirakawa-go here or a day tour of Takayama and Shirakawa-go here.
Shirakawa Village Official (Official website for Shirakawa)
Japanese Guest Houses (Roykans Booking)
Hyerdia.com (Timetable and Route Search in Japan)
Willer Bus (Bus Booking)
Japan Bus Online (Bus Booking)
Japan Bus Line (Bus Booking)
Shinkansen Ticket (Shinkansen Booking)
i Site Takayama (Bus Tour Booking)
Japan Accessible Tourism Center (Check accessibility at Metro Stations)*
Klook (Discounts while you travel)
*I mainly use this for checking if there are any elevator at a particular station, very useful if you are lugging big luggage along.