Shirakawago is a small extremely historic area in the north of Gifu. Declared a UNESCO World heritage site in 1995, Shirakawago is famous for its old farm houses, built with a traditional Thatched Roofs.
These old Farm Houses area aptly named Gassho-Zukuri, or “constructed like hands in prayer”, because their thatched roofs are built to resemble a Buddhist Monk’s hand pressed together in prayer. This architectural style, developed over many generations, protects the farm houses from the heavy snow in the area. The roofs are built with traditional methods and without nails. The attic space is used to cultivate silkworms.
HOW TO GET TO SHIRAKAWA-GO
Head to JR Takayama Station and purchase a ticket from the Takayama Bus Terminal. The return ticket will set you back 4300 yen (currently 23£). Then board the Nohi Bus to Shirakawago Village. The journey should take approximately 50 minutes.
Note: Unfortunately we were extremely unlucky and booked our excursion on a National Bank Holiday. We were stuck in Traffic for 3 hours and almost missed our bus back to Takayama. Make sure you plan ahead for any eventualities and board the bus early in the morning, to avoid bitter disappointment. You never know what might happen.
THINGS TO SEE IN SHIRAKAWA-GO
Ogimachi is Shirakawa-Go’s largest village and main tourist destination. Although Ogimachi is the perect day-trip destination, you might want to stay overnight in one of the farmhouses to get the full experience, if you have a little spare time. The village is made up of several dozen well-preserved gassho-zukuri, some of which are more than 250 years old. Many of the farmhouses have now been converted to restaurants, museums or minshuku ( a Japanese style Bed and Breakfast). Some of the armhouses have been relocated to the open air museum on the other side of the river in an effort to save them from destruction.
MYOZENJI TEMPLE AND HOUSE
The Myozenji Temple is pretty unique. Instead of the traditional tile roof of Japanese Temples, it features a thatched roof, that makes it blend in with the rest of the town. The Temple is connected to a farmhouse, residence to the priest. The 300 yen admission (currently 2£) to the farmhouse include access to the temple hall.
The Nagase-Ke House was the residence of the Nagase Family, a famous family of doctors in the area. The farmhouse displays tools for farming and raising silkworms, as well as several medical tools. Admission to this farmhouse costs 300 yen.
The picturesque Kanda-Ke House is one of the best-preserved farmhouses of the village. The windows on its upper floor offer the most amazing views across the village. Admission will set you back 300 yen.
The Wada-Ke Hosue – home to the wealthies family of the village and original leaders of Ogimachi, the Wada Family – is thelargest gassho-zukuri farmouse in Ogimachi. It is open to the public for 300 yen.
Before you leave Ogimachi, make sure to head to the Shiroyama Viewpoint, to the north of Ogimachi. The walk to the viewpoint takes about 15 to 20 minutes from the village center. It offers great excellent views of Ogimachi and its farmhouses.