Shirakawa-go Travel Guide: How to get there, Itinerary, Budget and more
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Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture is a quaint mountain village with a very small population. In fact, the latest population census in 2017 states that Shirakawa-go had less than 2,000 people.
With a very low population density and the average temperature not going any higher than 30 degrees Celsius, Shirakawa-go is the ideal tourist destination with rice fields, water channels, and forests that are reminiscent of picturesque Japanese cartoons.
Although it is a very small town, Shirakawa-go is one of the most visited places in the area. It is almost like a picture of a countryside brought to life—people are drawn towards this little village, especially its traditional gassho-zukuri houses, whose roofs resemble praying hands. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go has gained much recognition, and even the difficulty of getting there is hardly enough to stop tourists from visiting this village.
Best Time to Visit Shirakawa-go
The best time to visit Shirakawa-go is undeniably during winter, or around November to March, where temperatures start dropping. There is simply no other way to enjoy this mountain village than by seeing the snow accumulate atop the old-fashioned gassho-zukuri houses, but if you prefer to visit during the warmer months, Shirakawa-go is still as lovely.
How to Get to Shirakawa-go
There are currently no direct commercial flights from Manila to Shirakawa-go, however, you may choose drop off from several landmarks, from which you will have to commute again to reach the mountain village. Here are some of the possible routes.
From Chubu Centrair International Airport. You will have to ride a Takayama Bus. To do so, leave the airport by riding a bus bound to JR Takayama Station. From Takayama, you can reach Shirakawa-go via the reliable Nouhi Bus Line.
From Nagoya Station. From the station, go to the Meitetsu BC Bus Stop, which is just a short walk. Purchase a ticket to Shirakawa-go via Gifu Bus. Ride your assigned bus, and you will get to Shirakawa-go in less than 3 hours for ¥ 3,900 (Php 1,834).
From Tokyo. Ride a Shinkansen (bullet train) Hokuriku to Toyama Station. Once there, ride Nouhi Bus, which will take you as far as Shirakawa-go BT Bus Stop. Total travel time is 3.5 hours, and cost approximately ¥12,520 (Php 5,888) for the Shinkansen fare and ¥ 1,700 (Php 800) for the Nouhi Bus fare.
From Kyoto or Osaka. Go to Kyoto Station, where you can ride the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Nagoya Station, where you can reach Shirakawa-go by following the steps above. If you are coming from Osaka, go to Shin-Osaka Station, then proceed to Nagoya Station by riding the JR Tokaido Shinkansen.
JR Pass Great Deals:
- Get a discounted 5 Day JR Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass via Klook.com
- How to Get a JR Pass in the Philippines?
Getting Around Shirakawa-go
Be ready to hit the legs if you want to tour around Shirakawa-go. The major mode of transportation here is either walking or cycling. You can get a bicycle from the bicycle rental shops, which charge per hour. There are some bus stops in the village, but their routes are mostly outbound or bound to the observatory deck further up the mountains and back.
Things to Do in Shirakawa-go
- Take a selfie in Shiroyama Viewpoint. If you go further north enough, you will find the Shiroyama Viewpoint, where you can get an unobstructed glimpse of Ogimachi, the largest and most visited village in Shirakawa-go.
- Take pictures of the Ogimachi farmhouses. After the viewpoint, you can go straight to Ogimachi to take a closer look at the farmhouses or the famous gassho-zukuri. Some of them are over 250 years old, and they blend perfectly with the rice paddies and farmlands of the village.
- Attend the Doburoku Festival. The Doburoku Festival is an annual occasion held between October 14 and 19. The festival is held to celebrate a good harvest, so expect prayers, cultural dances, and, because Shirakawa-go is granted a certain privilege, classic delicious rice wine.
Where to Stay in Shirakawago
Location: Onogun Shirakawamura Hatogaya 49-1, Shirakawago
Price: Php 5,236 via Agoda.com
This guesthouse offers large and clean rooms that have three futons. Showers are shared, so make sure to be neat and tidy when using the bathroom. This has a fairly good location from major tourist destinations like Ogimachi Castle.
Location: 331-1 Hatogaya Shirakawa-mura Onogun
Price: Php 14,007 via Agoda.com
This is located just one kilometer north from the Ogimachi Village. Perks of staying here include spacious rooms that are good for at least four people, garden view, and of course, an exclusive terrace.
Shirakawago no Yu Hotel
Location: 337 Ogimachi, Shiwakara-mura, Onogun, Shirakawago
The homey atmosphere of this places is heavenly. The location is also excellent as it is at a fair distance form central Shirakawa-go. Rooms are connected to the WiFi, but you will probably have no need for your phone once you enter the hot spring baths.
Location: Hirase 325-1, Sirakawago
Price: Php 17,908 via Agoda.com
With complimentary breakfast and dinner, you will surely fall in love with this guesthouse. Rooms are good for two people, and the accommodation has a traditional Japanese bath.
Where to Eat in Shirakawa-go
- Shiraogi – Shiraogi serves dishes like Hida Beef and Maitake Mushrooms, which are very popular in the region.
- Soba Dojo – If you hear the word “dojo”, you probably think of an area where people train. But what if that dojo is exclusively for people making authentic, delicious, handmade soba?
- Yoze – Located in Shirakawago no Yu, this quaint restaurant offers several classic dishes…including rice wine!
- Kodaijin – If you plan to go to Seseragi Park, stop by Kodaijin, a traditional restaurant where you can several tasty Japanese beef dishes, among others.
Shopping in Shirakawago
Shirakawa-go has several tourist shops with a variety of souvenirs items available. One of the recommended unique items that you can buy from Shirakawago is the ‘Sarubobo’ doll. Sarubobos are red human-shaped dolls, with no facial features, made in a variety of sizes. Traditionally, sarubobos are made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as dolls, and for their daughters as a charm for good marriage, good children and to ensure a well-rounded couple.
Shirakawago Village and Takayama Tour Packages
Do you want to explore the historical sites of Gifu Prefecture in a day? You can book your Shirakawago Village and Takayama tour via Klook.com to experience these cultural treasures Japan’s Gifu Prefecture.
From Takayama, you can also join a half-day Bus Tour to Shirakawa-go. The half-day trip from Takayama is available every day via a comfortable bus. The roundtrip fare is 4,400yen and it is the cheapest Round-Trip Bus Tour to the famous village of Shirakawa-go.
Important Travel Tips
- Do not confuse Shirakawa-go with Shirakawa-shi. The latter is a huge city that is located in Fukushima Prefecture. The UNESCO World Heritage Site and mountain village we talk about here is in Gifu Prefecture.
- You can stay in a Minsyuku or guesthouse instead of a hotel, but due to the remoteness of the village, there is almost always no way of booking in advance online or elsewhere. You will have to talk to the local owners when you get there.
- Try to go out at night and find a good spot to see the village from a distance. I can’t even describe in words how lovely the scenery looks like.