Nestled deep in the mountainous valleys of Gifu prefecture, Shirakawago’s unique townscape in recent times has become a popular adventure destination for those looking to uncover a different side of Japan. Its meticulously maintained thatched-roof houses are worlds away from the concrete and steel skyscrapers of Tokyo, and its lush green surrounds are a great contrast to the paved streets of Kyoto.
It’s a town populated by long-running local businesses and residents who love sharing their passion for tradition and history. Beyond the shops, the town’s natural surroundings are unforgettably beautiful – especially in the middle of winter when the area is dusted in snow. Touching down in Shirakawago, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped straight into the middle of some folktale wonderland.
How to get to Shirakawa-go from Osaka:
- Train from Osaka/Shin Osaka/Kyoto to Kanazawa
- Take Nohi Bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go bus stop (1hr). Nohi Bus need to be reserved and they can be reserved 1 months before.
We bought Hokuriku tourist pass and use the pass to travel on this area and call the Nohi Bus reservation center by phone
You can also go to Shirakawa-go using Nohi Bus from Takayama. We did this in our way back to Kyoto as we want to explore the old town of Takayama. We didn’t spend time in Kanazawa because we didn’t have enough time. But if you do, it is worth to visit their garden, which is the 3rd biggest in Japan and the town itself also has some interesting attractions.
It was already spring when we came but we could still see left over snow everywhere in the village which have not melted yet. An evidence that during winter this quaint village was wholly covered by snow.
Top Things To Do
Visit the Observatory Top
There is a shuttle bus going to the Observatory Top but we missed it so we had to walk our way up.
Many people only visit Shirakawa-go as day trip because the accommodations in Shirakawago are very limited and you need to book way in advance.
Stroll around the Shirakawago quaint village
Stay in Gassho-Zukuri House
With their thick, woven thatched roofs, the traditional farmhouses of Shirakawago are one of Gifu prefecture’s most recognisable images. While they’re from humble origins, a stay in a gassho-style accommodation is the most immersive way to get a sense of what it was like to live as a Shirakawago resident. Most accommodation options offer daily meals, too, and as they’re very popular, it’s worth booking months in advance.
I initially wanted to stay at the Gassho-Zukuri house but they were all fully booked. So we stayed at the nearby Shirakawago No Yu (a modern ryokan) which comes with its own Onsen. Happy I made the choice to stay there and at the same time bucket list checked for onsen experience 🙂 The accommodation package also comes with dinner and breakfast. We were staying in Japanese room; sleeping in futons and bathing in Onsen 🙂
Bathing in Onsen at Shirakawago No Yu
Bathing is taken so seriously in Japan that it’s considered a worthy activity to base an entire holiday around, and when you’ve visited an authentic Onsen (natural hot spring), you’ll understand. Shirakawa-go no Yu is the only natural hot spring in the Shirakawago area. Its mineral-rich water contains a lot of sodium, chloride and hydrogen-carbonate ions, which supposedly help with physical ailments like muscle pain, bruises and digestive issues. If you’re at full health, it’s just an excellent way to relax and warm up.
Eat Hida Beef
My dinner in Shirakawago No Yu is hands down the best dinner I have ever had in the whole trip. When it comes to quality, hida beef is on a par with more internationally recognised names such as wagyu and kobe.
And also satisfying delicious traditional Japanese breakfast