Shirakawa-go and Gokayama — Must See Japanese Historic Villages

Oct 30, 2017


The World Heritage Site — Discover Old Japan

Have you ever visited UNESCO world heritage sites about Japan? Not only for online sight-seeing, but every site also informs about Japan’s profound history and culture, with those pictures and explanations you can understand Japanese tradition much deeper. Even there are a bunch of interesting places to visit, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, located on the border between Gifu and Toyama Prefectures, are one of the most famous destinations in this country. There are many old

Even there are a bunch of interesting places to visit, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, located on the border between Gifu and Toyama Prefectures, are one of the most famous destinations in this country. There are many old minkas (private houses) which are built with traditional construction method, and they shape Japanese traditional rural scenery. Not only Japanese tourists but also more foreign visitors who are interested in old Japanese tradition come to visit lately. Therefore, there is also known for one of foodie destinations which serve locally grown beef or vegetables, sansai (edible wild plants), etc. These are some tips to enjoy visiting the historic villages, and you must go there for the next vacation.

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Why Did the Historic Villages Become the World Heritage Site?

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, the 6th UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan have been registered on December 9, 1995. Because the symbolic and traditional “Gassho-zukuri architecture” houses (houses with a step rafter roof) have remained miraculously, these settlements which keep Japanese ancient tradition (includes the large family system) have been decreasing lately, the Japanese government said that there need to be preserved and registered the villages as important preservation district of historic buildings. “Gassho” means holding the palms and fingers of both hands together, which comes from the shape of the roof. This unique appearance was invented to use their inside reasonably because there is also known for Japan’s one of heavy snowfall areas, and residents (it might be surprising, but many people still live there) have been trying to keep this characteristic scenery like regular rethatching roof or patrolling to avoid fire (it might not need to say, they are all wooden houses and have risk of it). Of course, power lines are put underground there for the scenery. Since there has become the World Heritage Site, there has also changed into one of tourist destinations, and it also gives an evil influence these days.

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When Is the Best Season to Visit the Villages?

The best season to visit these villages depends on your personal preferences, as Japan is well known for breathtaking scenery of each of the four seasons, choose your favorite season for the visit is recommended. However, it is also smart to choose the time when prominent events are held there. For example, you can explore the primeval forest and join sansai picking in spring, experience firefly watching and Bon dance in summer, try harvesting rice and stargazing in fall, and you can enjoy snow-fight in winter. Therefore, Gokayama has a ski resort and some onsen (hot spring) facilities you can stop by after skiing to warm your body.

If you are from a temperate region and have never seen snow, it would be precious experience because it is Japan’s own activity. Moreover, in Shirakawa-go, an illuminating event will be held on January and February. The event is scheduled twice on each month, and hours are from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Its detail, tips, etc. have been already announced on its website. However, the observation deck can’t admit all visitors, and you should understand it before you go. More info; lightup.asia/?lang=en (Japanese only). If you want to book your accommodation on the day of illuminating event, visit www.shirakawa-go.gr.jp/top/.

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Hida Beef; A Must-Try Local Gourmet

One of the pleasures of staying in Japan must be gourmet. Of course, Shirakawa people are also proud of its local food; locally grown beef named “Hida Beef”. Hida is old name of the north part of Gifu Pref., and the cattle must be raised in the prefecture the longest. Unlike other wagyu (Japanese beef), Hida Beef also has marbled fat and it sharpens our appetite (basically, meat is the softer, the better in Japan). There are many restaurants which serve Hida Beef; sukiyaki, beef bowl, curry, and rice, etc. Some of them are operated at the historic house, and particular about local taste like sansei, freshwater fish (there is no sea in Gifu), and Hida Negi (white scallion). If you want to have noodles dish, soba is more common than udon there. Because you are in Hida area, you should try its proudly offering dishes. Not only Japanese cuisine, they also have western style dishes such as croquette burger and steak that are made from Hida beef. Some restaurants and cafes are introduced in the tourist association’s website. You can find out each restaurant’s signature menu and basic information on www.shirakawa-go.gr.jp/search/?m=2 (Japanese only).

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How to Access by Bus from Takayama

You can access Shirakawa-go by JR, highway bus, and car. Bus bound to Shirakawa-go is operated from Nagoya, Kanazawa, and Takaoka Station. However, the recommended route would be the one operated from Takayama Station, because buses starting there are most frequent among the stations. They offer 14 round trips per day(includes 4 round trips each which start from Kanazawa Station or Toyama Station), the required time is 50 minutes for highway bus from Kanazawa/Toyama, and 65 minutes for the route only between Takayama and Shirakawa. In Takayama, the buses start from Takayama Nohi Bus Center near JR Takayama Station. The single fare costs 2,470 yen, and the return fare is 4,420 yen. Reservation required if you choose the buses from Kanazawa/Toyama, but you don’t have to book for buses operated only between Takayama and Shirakawa. If you want to go Gokayama, you need to change for the World Heritage Bus at Shirakawa which is no reservation needed (you can’t go there directly from Takayama). The fare to Suganuma Bus Stop in Gokayama is 860 yen for adults. More detail and reservation; www.hokutetsu.co.jp/en/en_highwa

In Takayama, the buses start from Takayama Nohi Bus Center near JR Takayama Station. The single fare costs 2,470 yen, and the return fare is 4,420 yen. Reservation required if you choose the buses from Kanazawa/Toyama, but you don’t have to book for buses operated only between Takayama and Shirakawa. If you want to go Gokayama, you need to change for the World Heritage Bus at Shirakawa which does not need a reservation (you can’t go there directly from Takayama). The fare to Suganuma Bus Stop in Gokayama is 860 yen for adults. More detail and reservation; www.hokutetsu.co.jp/en/en_highwa Takayama or www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/.

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