Food and Travel

Winter Experience in Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Out of all the places we’ve been during the Japan trip, our winter experience in Shirakawa-go is one of the most unforgettable. Simply because it is beautiful. Shirakawa-go is located in central Japan, in Gifu Prefecture. If you can’t imagine it, think of a fairy tale-like Japanese town enveloped with its own beauty and charm.

It can’t be denied that the best time to visit Shirakawa-go  is during winter. Snow starts to fall late at December and usually ends at March. The weather can possibly go extreme with heavy and thick snowfall, but during the start of snowfall, the white snow kisses the place sweetly. The roofs, trees and fields are covered up with white gentle and powdery snow.

Getting to Shirakawa-go

I tell you that getting to Shirakawa-go in Gifu prefecture from Kyoto prefecture is not so convenient. We rode the Limited Express Thunderbird (Kyoto to Kanazawa), JR Shinkansen (Kanazawa to Toyama) and JR local train (Toyama to Takayama). We stayed overnight at Relax Hotel in Takayama. Then, we rode Nohi Bus from Takayama going to Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go.

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Actually, we took the long cut. In fact, to save you time and effort, you can just have two rides from Kyoto to Shirakawago (Kyoto – Kanazawa – Shirakawago). However, we missed the last bus at Kanazawa going to Shirakawa-go. So, we directly went to Takayama because according to forecast, there’d be a snow fall that night. It was magical.

Winter Experience in Shirakawa-go

What is so special about Shirakawa-go? It’s declared as world heritage site by UNESCO. To belong to this list, it must be of outstanding universal value according to UNESCO. To know more about how to be included in the list, see here:

The main attraction in Shirakawa-go is the Ogimachi Village, famous for its traditional Gassho-zukuri farm houses. Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer”. It can be seen in the steeply-sloped roof with 60-degree angle. Guess what? Some of these farm houses are over 250 years old. No doubt why this village is recognized because it’s exceptional.

Another thing that makes this village stand out is the architectural style developed over many generations. The way it was built made the houses withstand extreme weather conditions (large amounts of snow) which falls in Gifu region during the winter season. The roof’s steep slope helps in slipping off the snow and prevents the whole house from crushing. PLUS, the houses were built without NAILS. Yes, it’s true!

If you also notice, the houses are facing the same direction. Do you know why? The generations made it sure that the roofs face east and west to get sunlight as much as possible – to melt the snow on the roof. Very strategic!

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Here’s what’s inside the Gassho-zukuri house…

View of Ogimachi Village from Tenshukaku Observatory

To have the best breathtaking view of the village, Tenshukaku Observatory is the best place to go to. It is an excellent point with observatory deck overlooking the Ogimachi village. To get there, you need to hike by foot for about 15 minutes from the main village. Don’t worry. It is an easy trek. Alternatively, you can just take the shuttle bus for ¥200, one way.

Overall, Shirakawa-go is a hidden gem in Gifu Prefecture. If you wish to go to Japan, planning a visit to this historic village is worth it.

Did you like this article? Let littlemisadvencha know in the comment section.

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March 26, 2020 7:25 am

There are really a lot of beautiful places to visit in Japan. Thank you for sharing this one, I would love to experience winter too!

Lisa @ Midwest Glam
January 29, 2020 3:13 pm

Wow what a wonderful experience that must have been. It truly does look beautiful. Loved the photos.

Fatima Torres
January 29, 2020 9:14 am

This seems like a great spot to explore. I’d like to check it out sometime with the family.

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