Shirakawa-go is a must see in the Gifu Prefecture. It was established as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, and the families who live there today have been in Shirakawa-go for many generations. The houses are the original designs & date back hundreds of years. The architecture shows incredible use of functional design, as most of the traditional houses with thatch roof are built without nails, but instead tied together by ropes. It really is a must-see site. We were lucky enough to experience Shirakawa-go on a day with blue skies and bright sunlight, as days like these are quite scarce.
If you feel like having a full day trip outside of Tokyo, you can see Shirakawa-go in a day. However, I’d recommend bunking somewhere for one night if you want to relax and make sure you’re not rushing for the train/bus back to Tokyo.
Driving from Tokyo will take you roughly six hours to reach Shirakawa-go.
We took the train for two and a half hours from Tokyo Station to Toyama station, and were picked up by our guides, for a further one hour drive to Shirakawa-go. However, there is a bus that will take you from Toyama station, straight to Shirakawa-go. This journey will cost you roughly 28,500yen for a return ticket.
The highlight of the town is the small village at its centre, which has these houses as their main feature. Once you arrive in town, it’s lovely to explore everything by foot. No one can drive in the main part of town besides the locals, which really preserves the stunning site. The houses here date back for hundreds of years and are protected by UNESCO.
One of the best views you can get of the town is from the observatory. We found a couple shooting their wedding photos up there (so you know it’s pretty!). You can reach the observatory by car, but noticed that some preferred to go on foot. Travelling by foot would take you roughly twenty minutes from the town’s centre.
Hang Around Until Sunset
Unless you have a bus to catch, I’d recommend staying until sunset to see the village lit up from the observatory. So many people were up there when we went with tripods and all. And granted, it was freezing, but nonetheless a sight worth seeing!
After making our way through the town, there is a gorgeous rope bridge (don’t worry it’s sturdy) that crosses the lake in Shirakawa-go. Here, you’ll find a stunning view of the mountains and lake, definitely a photo worthy spot!
We enjoyed Gohei Mochi in Shirakawa-go, which can generally be found in only the Nagano, Aichi & Gifu prefectures. It is basically a rice cake snack covered in a sweet/savoury paste. I could eat so many of these and would definitely recommend trying them!
Even in the cold you’ll find me snacking on Ice Cream whenever I can. I love that the ice cream you find in most small towns in Japan is made from the local milk, and this is also true in Shirakawa-go. You can find many matcha ice cream shops & of course I didn’t say no, despite the sub zero temperatures!
As with any place I visit, I make sure to follow the rules and customs of the people. Shirakawa-go is very rich in history and is quickly becoming a must see for many tourists. I’d put it up there on my list as a must do for a day trip outside of Tokyo.
Dress Comfortably and Appropriately
We travelled to Shirakawa-go during the middle of February. It was cold and the town was snow covered as you’ll see in images. Layer up if you visit in Winter, with gloves and a beanie, and waterproof shoes are a must. When crossing the bridge in town, it was super super slippery and people kept slipping if they weren’t wearing the appropriate footwear (i.e. adidas sneakers hehe.)
Hope you all manage to get around to this beautiful corner of the world! Or if you have already done so like me, I can’t wait to go back for Spring/Summer because I know it will be a totally different experience!