Shirakawa is a beautiful village located in the Ono District of Gifu Prefecture. It is located in the northwestern part of Gifu and is next to Gokayama Village.
The village is at the east side of Hakusan Mountains, which forms a border between Ishikawa and Gifu. The most remarkable feature of the town is the traditional architecture style of the houses known as gasshō-zukuri. This town is designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
These buildings are characterized by their huge roofs. “Gasshō-zukuri” is so called because the roof’s shape is similar to two hands held in prayer. Normally the upper floors were used for sericulture (silk farming). Shirakawa experiences some of the heaviest snowfalls not just in Japan but in the whole world. This is the main reason for its thick thatched roof houses.
This town is indeed an amazing place to visit and has a few places that we want to highlight:
The traditional houses:
Of course, as the buildings are the main distinctive feature of this village, so just walking around it is a good way to enjoy its architecture. There’s a total of 114 thatched roofs in the town. The entire village can be observed from Ogimachi-Jyoshi, an observation platform with some amazing views.
We want to specially mention:
•The Wada House: a well-preserved house is the largest remaining Gassho style house that dates from Edo Period.
For the public this house is open for visit from 09:00 to 17:00, and the admission fee is 300 JPY for adults and 150 JPY for children.
•The Kanda House: another gassho-style house were a branch of the Wada clan who established their sake brewing business. The same opening hours and prices for the Kanda house is the same as that of the Wada House; 9:00 to 17:00 and 300 JPY for adults, 150 JPY for children.
•The Toyama House Museum: this important house was built in 1827 and was designated as an important National Cultural Asset in 1971 as an example of the Gassho style; this house is 14m tall. The 1st floor was used as a living area and the 2nd,3rd and 4th floors were used for sericulture. For the public, it is open from 10:00-16:00, and the admission fee is 300 JPY for adults and 150 JPY for children. It is closed every Wednesday.
•Michi no Eki (Travelers Plaza): This building houses the information and tourist center together with the Gassho museum and a souvenir shop. It opens from 9:00 to 17:00.
•Myozenji Temple Museum: is a temple, unique because of its gossho roof, which was built 230 years ago. It has a main gate built in the Tendai Sect style; inside there’s an exhibit with some historically important materials on display. It is open from 8:30-17:00 (from April to November) and 9:00-16:00 (from December to March). The admission fee is 300 JPY for adults and 100 JPY for children.
•Outdoor Museum Gassho Folk Museum: is an open-air museum that includes many Gassho style houses transferred from the Kazura Area to Shirakawa Village for restoration. “Soba-dojyo” is located very close to the museum and offers workshops on how to make soba noodles. (Advanced booking is needed). The admission fee is 500 JPY for adults and 300 JPY for children. They are open from 8:40-17:00 (from March to November) and 9:00-16:00 (from December to February). It’s only closed on Thursdays from December to February.
If we talk about Shirakawa-go, we cannot forget their onsen (hot springs). From Hirase Hot Springs to Ojirakawa-Onsen-Shiramizu-no-yu in the town to the Oshirakawa Open-air Bath in the Hakusan National Park, there are several options for those who want to relax. The hot springs contain sulfur and sodium chloride that makes the skin very smooth. Located along a mountain stream, the spring is said to enhance fertility.
1.Tokyo to Nagoya: 2hrs. (JR Nozomi Shinkansen)
Nagoya to Takayama: 2hrs. (JR Wide view Hida Train)
Takayama to Shirakawa-go: 50min. (Bus)
2.Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go: 1hrs 15min. (Bus)
3.Takaoka to Shirakawa-go: 2hrs 30min. (Shuttle bus)