Japan tourism is not just about cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or the ski resorts on the mountains, beautiful hot springs (onsen). Japan is also famous for its small beautiful ancient villages, typically Shirakawa-go, which is located in a small valley like in fairy tale. It is said that the artist who created Doreamon – who was live in this village during the time of drawing the first volumes of a famous comic book once associated with each of our childhoods. So, are you planning a trip to the one of most beautiful ancient fairy villages in Japan, Shirakawago? Let’s check out our shirakawago travel blog (Shirakawago blog) with the fullest Shirakawago travel guide (Shirakawago guide) from how to get there, where to stay, best places to visit, top things to do in Shirakawago.. to find out the answer!
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Shirakawago travel blog: Overview of the village Shirakawago
Shirakawago is located in central Japan in Gifu Prefecture, the ancient village of Shirakawago is recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage. Shirakawago in Japanese means the village of white rivers, perhaps to describe the village when engulfed in snow during the snowy days.
This is one of the oldest villages in Japan with houses built in the style of “Gassho” with roofs forming triangles, slopes and very high. When you first come and looking at these houses perhaps you must be somewhat overwhelmed and interested.
Shirakawago travel guide: The best time to go to Shirakawago village
You can visit Shirakawa-go ancient village all year round, experience all beauties of 4 seasons of the year. However, in order to see a true “fairy” spectacle, people often come here in the winter. The time when snow was thick and covered the roofs and roads in the village. In the evening, standing up from above and see Shirakawa-go shimmering under the lights, reminds me of a beautiful village similar to Zermatt in Switzerland.
In addition, during the winter in January and February, Shirakawa-go also has winter light-up festivals. The whole village will be light up from night till the next morning, ensuring you will see the brilliant Shirakawa-go all night.
Shirakawago guide: How to get to Shirakawa-go
Usually when you make a self-sufficient trip or solo travel, visitors often spend the night in Takayama before taking the bus to Shirakawa-go village. From Takayama, it only takes about 50 minutes to Shirakawa-go for ¥ 2600 by Nohi Bus or Hokutetsu Bus. I also went to Takayama first and asked the hotel to book a bus in advance.
From Kyoto to Takayama, take a express train that takes about one whole morning, free because it was covered by JR Pass. I stayed 1 night in Takayama and early the next morning taking the bus to Shirakawa-go. After visiting Shirakawa-go, I had taken the (pre-booked) bus to Kanazawa at 3:00 pm, which takes about 2 traveling hours for ¥2000. You can refer to the bus schedule here.
How to get from Tokyo or Osaka to Shirakawa-go
From Tokyo or Osaka normally you will have to go to one of the 2 cities closest to Shirakawa-go are Takayama or Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a large city, so you can go by bus or Shinkansen from Tokyo and Osaka (included in the JR Pass).
Alternatively you can take the Shinkansen from Tokyo, Osaka to a farther location is Nagoya. From Nagoya Station, you go to the Meitetsu BC station to catch a bus going to Shirakawago (it takes about 3 hours).
Another transit point you might consider is Toyama. This is a coastal city and has many attractions for you to combine your itnerary to visit Shirakawa-go.
Shirakawago travel blog: Where to stay in Shirakawa-go?
As mentioned above, it is common for tourists to stay in Takayama town before taking the bus to Shirakawa-go. In the town, actually there are not many options for hotels or accommodation, but mostly shops, the houses of local people. You can find more, check rates, availability & book for Takayama hotels on Agoda.com or Booking.com.
I stayed in Takayama and stayed at the lovely little Hostel K’s House Takayama (Agoda.com or Booking.com) right near Takayama station. This hotel is located in the center of town and has a single room for one person with a pretty good price. Staff are super friendly to help guests with everything you need, also advise me a reasonable itinerary for my trip.
Shirakawago blog: The itinerary and best things to explore in the village of Shirakawa-go
The experience of traveling to Shirakawa-go is that you only needs spend nearly one day to visit this beautiful little village. I arrived at the village quite early at around 9am and wandered around slowly to 2pm to almost see the whole village. And at 3pm, I taken the bus to move to another location.
After arriving at the bus stop in Shirakawa-go, my first thing to do is to send your luggage at the station. They have lockers with variety size for visitors, the price for the extend day is 500JPY, and the next day is 1000 JPY. If you have no coins to put in the locker you can exchange money at the counter. Below are the highlights in Shirakawa-go.
See Shirakawa-go from the Shiroyama Observation deck
This is a place where you can see the whole fairy village from above. Where you can take pictures of the village that you often see on super-cute postcard pictures of Shirakawa-go, just a 10-minute climb from the main village.
As soon as I got out of the bus stop, I walked up to the observation deck because this road was on the way from the bus stop to the village. There are quite a few great photogenic spots but the top is still the best. You should go to early because around 10am there will be a lot of tourists coming here, taking pictures will become more difficult.
Visit the Wada House
These are typical houses and represent the Gassho-zukuri architecture of Shirakawa-go village. From a distance, it seems quite similar to the Rong house in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Gassho-zukuri Minkaen Museum
This museum also stores many artifacts on the once-hand-made handicrafts of Shirakawa-go. They have traditional works such as dyeing and weaving.
Opening hours: Mar – Nov 08:40-17:00 / Dec – Feb 09:00-16:00 / Close: Thursday of 4th week in Dec to Mar
Admission: Adult: 600 yen / Child: 400 yen
Deai-bashi suspension bridge
The bridge spans a narrow river in the middle of the village, also playing role as a village entrance. This small suspension bridge allows you to enjoy the cherry blossoms covered in the spring, and the panoramic view of Shirakawa-go village.
Shinto Shrine Shirakawa Hachiman
This temple is quite deserted at the end of the village, not many tourists pay attention to it. But this is a great virtual check-in spot, with the singature Shinto shrine torri gate of Japan.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and to Shirakawa-go you can refer to
- A Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama
- Gokayama Ainokura & Shirakawago Bus Tour
- Takayama and Shirakawa-go Day Trip from Nagoya
- Shirakawago Ogimachi Village Half Day Tour from Takayama
- Shirakawa-go, Takayama, and Kamikochi Day Tour from Nagoya
- Takayama Spring Festival & Shirakawago Tour
- [Klook Exclusive] Shirakawago Illumination Wonderland Trip from Nagoya or Takayama
Shirakawago Minkaen Illumination & Festa Forest Museum Round Trip Bus Trip from Takayama
- Shirakawago Day Trip with Exclusive Illumination Winter Event and Round Trip Transfer from Takayama
Are you looking for more Shirakawago travel guide and top things to do in Shirakawago: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Read more: Explore 5 things to do in Shirakawa-go — One of the most beautiful Japanese traditional village hidden behind the mountain.