Visit a fairy-tale village of traditional thatched-roof houses and step back to a bygone era

Shirakawa-go, located at the foot of the sacred Mt. Hakusan in Gifu, is a destination that should not be missed. This beautiful traditional village, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is like stepping into a fairy-tale. With its traditional thatched-roof houses and picturesque scenery, Shirakawa-go is the definition of picture-postcard perfect.

To reach Shirakawa-go, the best way is to take a bus from Takayama. If you are coming from Nagoya or Gifu, you can take the JR Takayama Line to Takayama and then catch a bus to Shirakawa-go. The bus ride takes around 50 minutes and will transport you to this magical village.

The largest hamlet in Shirakawa-go is Ogimachi, which is home to many gassho-zukuri style houses. The name gassho-zukuri literally means “like praying hands,” and each house is a masterpiece of carpentry. These houses were built without nails, with every beam fitting perfectly into the next. Despite being built in the 1800s, these houses have withstood the test of time, even in a country prone to earthquakes.

Walking through the streets of Ogimachi feels like slipping into the past. The gassho-zukuri houses serve as museums, offering insights into the history of the region, the unique architectural style, and the key industries of Shirakawa-go. Some of these houses also double as guesthouses, allowing visitors to experience the traditional Japanese farmhouse lifestyle firsthand.

For a more immersive experience, visit the Gassho-zukuri Minkaen, an outdoor museum that recreates the traditional way of life in Shirakawa-go. The museum features functional buildings such as storerooms and a temple, as well as the iconic gassho-zukuri houses. Here, you can witness demonstrations of local crafts and even try your hand at some of them. The museum also has restaurants and souvenir shops, making it a perfect place to rest and unwind.

If you visit Shirakawa-go in mid-October, you can also experience the Doburoku Festival. Doburoku is a local specialty alcohol, an unfiltered sake that is illegal to produce outside of designated special zones. During the festival, you can partake in the drink while enjoying performances of the Shishi-mai lion dance.

While some of the houses in Shirakawa-go are still private residences and not open to the public, there are several that are worth visiting. The Wada House, located near the bus stop in the center of Ogimachi, is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese garden. The Kanda House, believed to be over 150 years old, has writing on the roof frame by the original carpenter from the 1850s. The Nagase House, once home to a family of doctors, showcases fascinating medical equipment from the Edo period.

For a deeper understanding of one of the key industries in Shirakawa-go, visit the Tajima House Museum of Silk Culture. Silk farming was a major industry in the village, and this museum explains the history and process of silk production. The Tajima House is dedicated to reviving the traditional silk farming industry.

Another interesting museum in Shirakawa-go is the Myozenji Temple Museum. This former monk’s residence has been transformed into a museum showcasing the temple’s history since 1748. The temple itself houses a large Buddha, and the bell tower and nearby yew tree add to the ambiance of old japan.

One of the highlights of visiting Shirakawa-go is experiencing the changing seasons. The town looks splendid throughout the year, from the blooming cherry blossoms in spring to the lush greenery of summer, the vibrant autumn leaves, and the serene white winter landscape. Return visits to Shirakawa-go are highly rewarding, as each season brings out different aspects of the town’s charm.

While it is possible to cover Shirakawa-go in a couple of hours, to truly immerse yourself in the atmosphere and appreciate the timeless beauty of rural Japan, it is recommended to stay overnight in one of the lodging houses. However, it is important to note that booking in advance is necessary due to the popularity of this destination.

In conclusion, Shirakawa-go is a must-visit destination for those seeking to experience the charm and beauty of traditional Japan. With its thatched-roof houses, rich history, and stunning natural scenery, this fairy-tale village offers a glimpse into a bygone era. Whether you choose to explore the gassho-zukuri houses, visit the outdoor museum, or simply soak in the tranquility of the village, Shirakawa-go is sure to leave a lasting impression. Plan your visit to this World Heritage Site and embark on a journey back in time.

Address And Maps Location:

Ono-gun, Gifu-ken

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