One of the prefectures I am most excited to see for this trip is Gifu. This is where the known Shirakawa-go is located. Shirakawa-go is popular for its ‘Christmas Village’, I remember seeing a picture of it online and got mesmerized instantly. I know I have to go to this place to see how beautiful it really is with my own eyes and take pictures of those cute houses covered in snow. Oh and by the way.. Shirakawago is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that alone is a good reason to go.
Travel Date: December 7, 2016
I have the ideal ‘Christmas Village’ picture in my head but I know our travel date will either be a hit or a miss. It is too early for winter and too late for autumn. I googled to research if there’s a possibility that snow will fall on the early weeks of December. Some says it is possible, so it’s decided – Let’s give it a go!
We are traveling from Okubo, Tokyo. Here’s how we get to Shirakawa-go:
|6:56 – 6:58||￥12,320||Okubo to Shinjuku station (arrival track number 13) >
JR Chuo/Sobu Line Local Service for NISHI-FUNABASHI
|7:04 – 7:33||Shinjuku to OMIYA(SAITAMA) via JR Saikyo Line Rapid
|7:46 – 9:31||Omiya to Toyama (Arrival track 13)
via SHINKANSEN KAGAYAKI 503
|￥3.060||From Toyama station Exit South side to reach bus stop|
We have a JR Pass so we no longer have to pay for the train cost from Okubo to Toyama. However, we have to pay for the bus ticket. As you may have noticed, the total fare is not at all cheap especially if you will ride the Shinkansen or bullet train. Aside from that, the travel time is about 3 to 4 hours from Tokyo, so this trip really needs planning and will consume a whole day of your itinerary.
To get more details about the bus timetable, please check this site. Check carefully the schedule for Toyama since there’s few buses on this area. Travel time from Toyama to Shirakawa-go is around 1 hour 20 minutes.
Our bus left the station at the exact schedule. There’s only three of us on the bus so it’s like a private ride. 🙂
We arrived in the village so excited! There’s no snow, so I didn’t achieve my ideal picture. But you know what… everything still excites me! Standing in the middle of those gasshō-zukuri-styled (praying hands) homes and looking at the surrounding mountains covered in snow is so enchanting,.. so mesmerizing.
Things to do in Shirakawago:
- Short trek to have a great panoramic view of the village at Shiroyama Observation Deck. You can get that iconic picture of the village when you do this. They also have souvenirs shop up there.
- Museums and Temples. There are several in the village like the Kanda and Wada houses. Kanda is the best preserved farm house in the village. Wada house belongs to the wealthiest family in the village, it is considered the biggest house there. This house used to belong to Wada family but is now open to the public as a museum.
- Food and drinks. There were cafes and restaurants around so don’t worry you won’t starve. 🙂
- Go around and take lots of pictures. Definitely this place is every inch picturesque. Even though the village is small, it will take you some time to go around because you’ll end up taking pictures in every corner.
It is sooo cold that day. I am only wearing my stan smiths so my feet were getting numb already.
I also noticed that only few residents go out. Actually, I only see tourists around. I wonder how they live everyday with tourists flocking their streets and taking pictures of their houses.
Our schedule for our bus to go back to Toyama is around 4:30PM. Again there’s only three of us on the bus. It’s a tiring day but I felt like I achieved something. I will probably go back to Shirakawago, next time I’ll make sure it’s winter and the houses are lit and covered in snow.