Exploring the historic villages of Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Shirakawa-go by Rap dela Rea via Unsplash
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Villages of Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, Japan

After making my very own wax food replica in Sample Village Iwasaki, we headed straight to the villages of Shirakawa-go. The bus ride from Sample Village Iwasaki in Gujo Hachiman was an hour-long, but I nevertheless enjoyed viewing the beautiful sceneries from our luxury bus. And aside from the lush mountain ranges and at the famous Hida River, what accompanied me and kept me wide awake on the way to Shirakawa-go was my excitement and eagerness to be able to cross out another UNESCO World Heritage Site off my bucket list!

Birds-eye view of the villages of Shirakawa-go
Birds-eye view of the villages of Shirakawa-go

Our first stop was at Shiroyama Tenshukaku Tenbodai (Viewpoint). The view from that spot was perfect—it showed a bird’s eye view of the historic village of Shirakawa-go. From there, I realized that the houses in the village had thatched roofs that look like praying hands. What was more stunning was that I noticed that all the houses were all facing the same way. I immediately asked our tour guide about that, and she said that the houses were built to align with the direction of the winds.

Souvenir Photo at Shiroyama Tenshukaku Tenbodai View Point
Souvenir Photo at Shiroyama Tenshukaku Tenbodai View Point

This—the peculiar and delicate beauty of how the entire village responds to environmental and social change—is the reason why the village was included in the December 1995 list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Before we left, we all had our mandatory selfies and groufies with the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage as our background.

Group Photo at Shiroyama Tenshukaku Tenbodai
Group Photo at Shiroyama Tenshukaku Tenbodai

After that short stopover at Shiroyama Tenshukaku Tenbodai (Viewpoint), we proceeded to the designated parking lot where we all headed out for our fun group walking tour.

Foot Bridge going to the Village
Foot Bridge going to the Village of Shirakawa-go

We crossed a footbridge that housed a tranquil Shokawa riverbank. Hearing the sound of the water flowing in the river was relaxing, and the autumn colors of the trees made the view spectacular.

Kanda House in Shirakawago
Kanda House in Shirakawago

We reached the Kanda House from the Shokawa river. It was starting to get really cold because it is currently autumn in Japan, so we all huddled close together while walking. We were all quite relieved, however, when we entered the Kanda House. The Irori fireplace literally greeted us warmly at the ground floor of the house!

Irori fireplace
Irori fireplace

After we briefly warmed ourselves up with the orange glow of the fireplace, our tour guide instructed us to get on with the tour. We were served beautifully brewed tea as well, which warmed us up as we explored the historical house.

View from the Attic of Kanda House
View from the Attic of Kanda House

The Kanda House is built by the Kanda family, which was at the time, known for brewing Japanese rice wine sake. And true enough, the Kanda House still emitted the aura of the olden, traditional days. In the second floor was an exhibit where the old-school machineries used for farming and brewing sake were displayed. On the mezzanine floor was a fire watch window where one would be able to check on the grandiose centerpiece on the ground floor, the Irori fireplace.

Mr Kanda
Mr Kanda

After exploring the interior of the house, we proceeded outside, where we were shown the Hasagura—a small Gassho-style house that functioned as a grain-drying shelter.

Group Photo outside Kanda House with Mr Kanda
Group Photo outside Kanda House with Mr Kanda

We were given time to roam around the village after seeing the Hasagura. But of course, we didn’t let the chance for us to take pictures with one of the owners of the house to slip! We took groufies with Mr. Kanda before heading to the souvenir shops.

Village Tour in Shirakawa-go
Village Tour in Shirakawa-go

I separated from my group and rushed to look for the perfect Shirakawa refrigerator magnet. It has been a habit of mine to collect refrigerator magnets wherever I go.

I wandered around a bit before heading back to the rendezvous point with the group. I walked along the narrow garden roads, rice fields, and Gassho-Zukuri houses. The still beauty of the village made me think as if I have traveled back in time, in a cold autumn afternoon.

On my way back to the rendezvouz
On my way back to the rendezvouz

After 30 minutes, we all headed back to the bus stop to visit our next destination. It was already getting cold by then. The warmth of the Kanda House’s Irori fireplace and tea was already evaporating into the cold, so we all rushed inside the bus.

Shirakawa-go Bus Terminal
Shirakawa-go Bus Terminal

We said goodbye to the historic villages of Shirakawa-go and readied ourselves for our next trip. I enjoyed my autumn trip to this village, but I’m definitely going back here on winter to see the village covered in snow next time!

Shirakawa-go during Winter
Shirakawa-go during Winter

Where to Stay in the Villages of Shirakawa-go

Traditional and Historical Japanese village Ogimachi - Shirakawa-go Japan
Traditional and Historical Japanese village Ogimachi – Shirakawa-go Japan

How to get to Shirakawa-go

Accessible by Nohi Bus and Hokuriku Railway Bus either from JR Takayama Station on the Takayama Line (about 60 minutes away) or from JR Kanazawa Station on the Hokuriku Main Line (around 75 minutes away).

Shirakawa Village during Winter by Colin Tsoi
Shirakawa Village during Winter Photo credit: Colin Tsoi via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Shirakawa Village and Takayama Tour Packages

Do you want to explore the historical sites of Gifu Prefecture in a day? You can book your Shirakawa Village and Takayama tour via Klook.com to experience these cultural treasures of Gifu Prefecture.

Shirakawa-go by Rap dela Rea via Unsplash
Shirakawa-go by Rap dela Rea via Unsplash

Flights from Manila to Nagoya, Japan

Cebu Pacific Air, the leading airline in the Philippines, flies between Manila and Nagoya (Chubu Centrair International Airport) every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Book your flights through the CebuPacificAir.com. For updates and seat sale announcements, check out www.facebook.com/cebupacificair.

Villages of Shirakawa-go
Address: Ogimachi, Shirakawa-mura, Ono District, Gifu | Map
Shirakawa-go Tourist Association Telephone Number: 05769-6-1013
Website: http://www.shirakawa-go.org/english/index.html

Our Nagoya Familiarization Tour last October 6-10, 2015 was sponsored by Cebu Pacific Air and Centair. Many thanks for this wonderful opportunity 🙂

Check out our complete list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

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Originally published January 7, 2016, updated August 13, 2018.

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