Shirakawa-gō

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Shirakawa-go, is a historical village in Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Together with Gokayama in Toyama, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on December 9, 1995. The village is famous for its farms, which are built in a unique architectural style known as gassho-zukuri (合掌)  . The name means “hands together”, as for a prayer, referring to the steep thatched roofs that prevent snow from accumulating in the winter. Under the roofs, the large attic space was used to house silkworms.

Another thing that made the village famous is the recent Japanese series of games Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2002) and the animated series that followed. Although the villagers are not so happy that a very violent animated series is taking place in their village, it has nevertheless attracted more tourists. A number of places in the animated series can be visited in Shirakawa, the most common site being the Hachiman Shrine, the site where Rika Furude experienced an unfortunate end and also the major shrine of the village.

Access : Coordinates: 36.270944, 136.898556 / Shirakawa-go can be reached by bus from most major cities in Japan. In addition to these, one can take the Shinkansen train to Nagoya, then change to a standard train to Takayama and finally take a bus from Takayama Bus Station to Shirakawa-go. The train ride from Nagoya to Takayama is particularly enjoyable, offering the passenger much of the mountainous beauty that Japan has to offer . Another possibility is to rent a car (Takayama) and drive to Shirakawa-go. A  highway  will take you to the village in less than an hour.

Renting a car is also recommended if you want to access the different areas near Shirakawa-go: places like Hirase Onsen or Kawai village (and some mountainous areas). Keep in mind that during the snow season most of the roads leading to the mountain will not be open.

Joining a guided bus tour is a simple way to visit Shirakawa-go. iSiteTAKAYAMA  offers a daily half-day tour from Takayama by comfortable bus. The fare is 3 800 JPY (~ 30,32 € – course of 13/02/2019) for the round trip, it is the cheapest price.
/ Shirakawa-go is best accessed by bus from JR Takayama. From Nagoya and Gifu, take the JR Takayama Line to Takayama. Buses to Shirakawa-go leave from the Takayama Bus Center and take around 50 minutes.

Getting Around : Ogimachi is easy enough to get around on foot or bicycle.

Highlights :

  • Nagase House . 9AM-5PM. The house is well-known for its 11-meter length which comes from single trees used as horizontal beams inside the house
  •   Wada House , 997 Ogimachi. 9AM-5 PM. This is the largest of the farmhouses in Ogimachi.
  •  Kanda House , 796 Ogimachi. 9AM-5PM. A well-preserved farmhouse that always has its fire lit
  • Gassho-zukuri Minkaen  , 2499 Ogimachi. This outdoor museum recreates a village which features functional buildings such as storerooms and a temple
  •  Jin Homura Art Museum . 9:30AM-4PM. The modern art of Jin Homura’s works featured in a traditional farmhouse
  • Shiramizu Falls . A scenic waterfall near Shiramizu Lake.
  • Shirakawa-go Gasshozukuri Village. The most famous attraction, composed of 112 Gassho-styled houses that remain from historic times.
  •  Tajima House Museum of Silk Culture : The Tajima House museum is a place dedicated to reviving the history and process of the traditional silk farming industry as it is one of the main industries in pre-modern Shirakawa-go.
  • Myozenji Temple Museum : The monk’s residence next to the main temple has been turned into a museum of the temple’s history since 1748, since it’s no longer in use.

Events : Doburoku Festival
Doburoku is the local booze, a form of sake so popular that the autumn festival is built around it. It is an unfiltered sake that is a bit like moonshine—a “home” brew that is illegal to produce in all but a few designated special zones.

During mid-October, you can consume the drink while watching performances of the Shishi-mai lion dance. The rest of the year, the Doburoku Matsuri Hall can teach you all you need to know.

Respect : ome of the houses are still residences and are therefore understandably closed to the public. Others, however, are open and are definitely worth checking out.

Go next : Takayama / Kanazawa / Tonami / Takaoka / Hakusan / Gujo

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