Shirakawa-go: A Winter Wonderland in Gifu

Snow is mesmerizing, magical and enchanting. Almost everyone living in tropical countries is dreaming of it. Memories of my first snowfall is still vivid and I can attest that I was bewitched the first time I saw it fell down from the skies.

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One of the best destinations in Asia to experience snow is Japan. In mountainous areas, snow can pile up a nice layer of cotton-like crusts when there’s nonstop heavy snowing during winter.

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 Shirakawa-go is one of winter destinations in Gifu, Japan. Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go is the largest village and main attraction which is a good day trip when you visit Takayama. They became famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses (some of which are more than 250 yrs old) that were architecturally designed to withstand heavy snowfalls during winter. Their roofs were interestingly made without nails.

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View of the Ogimachi from Shiroyama Viewpoint
Ogimachi was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, being home of several preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses that were designed to withstand harsh winter conditions. These farmhouses are best seen when covered in snow. They were also amazingly drafted and designed to provide a place to work and reside; some became restaurants, museums or minshuku (where you can book to stay overnight).

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gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer”

 


Getting Around The Village

Gassho-zukuri Minkaen

Hours: 8:40 to 17:00 (9:00 to 16:00 December to February)
Admission ends 20 minutes before closing
Closed: Thursdays from Dec to Mar (or Wed if Thurs is a holiday), Dec 27 to Jan 4
Admission: 600 yen

“This open air museum lies across the river from the village center. It exhibits farmhouses and other structures relocated to Ogimachi in order to save them from destruction.” –Japan Guide

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Minkaen viewed from Pedestrian Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge

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A concrete bridge that connects gassho-zukuri minkaen to main Ogimachi. This bridge, though concretely made is literally shaking upon crossing. Don’t worry ‘coz Japan is known for prioritizing safety so all will be well for sure.

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Doburoku Festival Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: December through March, October 13-16
Admission: 300 yen

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“This museum has displays on the Doburoku Festival held every year on October 14th and 15th. A feature of the festival is Doburoku Sake which is produced by the shrine and can be sampled at the museum.” – Japan Guide

Wada-ke House

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: Irregular closing days
Admission: 300 yen

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“The Wada family was one of the wealthiest families and village leaders of Ogimachi. Their former home is the largest gassho-zukuri farmhouse in the town, and is now open to the public as a museum.”- Japan Guide

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Shiroyama Viewpoint

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“The Shiroyama Viewpoint is north of the village center and offers nice views of Ogimachi and its farmhouses. The viewpoint can be accessed via a walking trail (closed during/after heavy snow) in about 15 to 20 minutes from the village center or by a shuttle bus, which stops near the Wada-ke House.” – Japan Guide

The Shiroyama Viewpoint is also the place where photographers capture scenic images shown in the web. The village is famous for its winter illumination that is scheduled on weekends from January to February.

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Getting around Ogimachi is FREE (you have the option to enter museums and pay the corresponding fees). However, one must bear in mind that the village has also residents that need to be respected and considered; so being a disciplined traveler/tourist is a must.

Every corner of the village is IG-worthy and here are some photos to prove it.


How To Get There

  1. Bus tours. There are bus tours offered by private companies getting around Takayama region that includes Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. For details, please refer here. *This link provides specific instructions depending what area in Japan you want to depart from to reach Shirakawa-go.
  2. Private cars. Google navigator is a big help. That’s where we seek help from when the driver was doubtful in between turns and intersections. Parking fee is JPY500.

Enjoy and have fun!

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