Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are the villages located in an area of heavy snowfall in Japan, where the inhabitants have created many unique Gassho-style houses with the steep thatched roofs and the landscape which represents the good old Japan. There are still some people living there and keeping the light on their tradition. The villages were registered as the World Cultural Heritage Site in 1995 since their original culture and landscape were highly appreciated.
Shirakawa-go Shiroyama Observatory Deck (Ogimachi-jo Castle Ruins Observatory)
It is located on the hill a little apart from the village, which is called “Shirakawa-go Shiroyama Observatory Deck” or “Ogimachi-jo Castle Ruins Observatory”. There is another observatory called “Tenshukaku Observatory” nearby, but I think these are almost the same.
It offers a panoramic view of the unique Gassho-style houses in Shirakawa-go which seems as if it represents the good old Japan, and I think you must visit this observatory during your stay in Shirakawa-go. You will be able to enjoy a different landscape in each season, and it is said that the night view is also great. It is about 20 or 30 minutes’ walk from the village to the observatory. Although there is a parking lot near the observatory, it is often crowed with the tourists.
It is the largest Gassho-style house in the village, and also designated as the national important cultural property. The house which was built in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868) serves as a residence now, but some rooms are open to the public. It must be great experience for you to see the traditional hearth and the sericultural facilities in the unique house.
Neighboring Tourist Spots
Let me introduce some additional tourist spots near Shirakawa-go. If you have plenty of time, you should make a travel plan including them.
It is famous for its beautiful preserved old town “Sanmachi” and also called “Little Kyoto in Hida”. There are some restaurants and folk crafts shops along the traditional streets, and many tourists enjoy eating out and shopping. It must be also a great experience for you to visit Hida Beef restaurant or Japanese sake brewery in Takayama.
In addition the Takayama Festival is very popular although I have never seen yet. It is ranked as one of the Japanese three most beautiful festivals, and held on April 14-15 (the Spring Festival) and Octover 9-10 (the Autumn Festival) every year. It is famous for its festival floats decorated with carvings, dolls and so on.
Gero-onsen Hot Spring
It is one of the three great hot springs in Japan along with Arima and Kusatsu, which has a history of over 1,000 years. It is about 50km south of Takayama and some tourists stay here not only to visit Shirakawa-go and Takayama but also to enjoy hot spring. Actually I like the hot spring here and have visited several times.
It is a small town on Nagara-gawa River which is famous for its clear waterways. Many tourists enjoy walking on the street along the waterway such as “Yanaka Mizu-no-komichi” paved with stones and “Igawa-komichi” used in the daily life of local people. There is also Gujo Hachiman Castle on the hilltop which offers a panoramic view of the castle town.
You can find a bus bound for Shirakawa-go via Gujo Hachiman at Nagoya Station, and also find a bus between Shirakawa-go and Takayama (Click here for details). After visiting Shirakawa-go and getting to Takayama, you can take a train or a bus back to Nagoya by way of Gero-onsen Hot Spring. Of course you can rent a car at Nagoya to make a tour around this area by yourself, but you have to drive carefully in winter since it snows heavily.
I have summarized an example of travel route by public transport with Nagoya as the starting-point. There are 3 scheduled bus services a day, but only one of them stops at Gujo Hachiman. If you want to visit Gujo Hachiman, I think you have to stay there one more night. Although I have visited this area several times, I have never stayed the night at Shirakawa-go and hope to do in the near future (Click here to check the accommodations in Shirakawa-go).
|1||Nagoya -> Gujo Hachiman -> Shirakawa-go (Gifu Bus)||Shirakawa-go Shiroyama Observatory Deck
|2||Shirakawa-go -> Takayama (Nouhi Bus)||Takayama (“Sanmachi”)||Takayama|
|3||Takayama -> Gero (JR or Nouhi Bus)||Gero-onsen Hot Spring||Gero|
|4||Gero -> Nagoya (JR)
Nagoya -> Next