While I was searching for ideas what to do in Takayama, I stumbled across pictures from Shirakawa-Go. From the first second I saw them I knew that this is a place I want to go!
Ogimachi village in Shirakawa-Go is a beautiful tiny village in the middle of Japanese Alps. Because of its unique architectural style houses – gassho-zukuri, it has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995. There are around 110 houses, and there is no other place in the whole Japan that has that many of them.
You might remember from my previous post about Takayama that I mentioned Hida Folk Museum. Some of the houses can be seen there. But I think going to Shirakawa-Go is much more fun!
So what are those gassho-zukuri and why they are so special?
They are steep straw-roofed houses made of wood. They have very steep roofs as during the winter there is a lot of snow. What is exceptional about them is that some of them have withstood harsh winters and earthquakes for 250 years!! To put a roof over the house, the whole village has to help. And unfortunately, the art is dying, as for now there is only ~600 people living there.
I fell in love with the place. I admit the scenery was not as impressive as the pictures I saw (during winter and summer) as I was at the beginning of the spring. The flowers didn’t start to bloom yet, and the snow did not disappear yet.
For more information about the village click here.
How to get there
There are two ways to get there. Either from Kanazawa or Takayama. The buses depart quite often from both of them. The only downside is that the ticket is not covered by JapanRail Pass.
Remember also to reserve a ticket beforehand! You can do it here. I booked mine three weeks before the trip and got the last ticket for the time slot that I wanted.
There are lockers at the bus station so you can leave your backpack there and go around without any problems.
How long to stay
That is a good question. Depends on you and how you want to immerse yourself. I have arrived there at ~9 am straight from Takayama, and my bus to Kanazawa was at ~1pm. I could have taken a later bus, but then I would not be able to see some things in Kanazawa.
For me that 3,5h was enough, but I walk quite fast. If I had more time, I might have taken it a little bit slower. But I managed to see and do what I wanted so I am quite happy.
There is a possibility to sleep in the village. It might be good idea to arrive with the last bus from Takayama/Kanazawa, enjoy the village without all the crowds, sleep there and then head on to the road. I was thinking about it, but onsens in Takayama convinced me to go there instead 😛
What to see
Now that we went thought all the facts it’s time for the pictures:D
If you want a map, click here. But you don’t need to print it, it is available for everyone in the visitors center when you arrive.
It is must be place!! You can either take a bus for 200 Yen that will take you up the hill or just walk. It takes around 15 min of walking from the visitor center. I was lazy and the bus was just there so I took it up the hill and walked down.
From there you get an overview of the valley and the village. It is truly stunning! Just take a look.
Wada, Kanda and Nagase house and other buildings
Wada is the largest gassho-zukuri house and has been declared a National Treasure of Japan. It belonged to silk-trading family and village leader, while Nagase belonged to the doctors family. All three houses are now museums, which means you have to pay an entrance fee, but it is worth it. You get access to the top floor, and from there you can see the whole village! You can also see the traditional tools and other cool artifacts.
The Heritage Museum
Right across the river, there is a museum where village from Shirakawa has been reconstructed as an open-air museum. You should go and see it. Most of the buildings are from the 19th and 20th century. You can enter the premises, see how they look inside. In one of them, I was offered a nice cup of tea.
Remember to wear shoes that are easy to put on as you will have to take them off regularly. And I mean it! At some point, I just gave up with tying shoelaces in my hiking shoes and was just stuffed them in. That was quite the exercise to take them off and put them on again and again in every single house I went to!