Shirakawago in winter

About Shirakawago

Gassho-style houses are hidden behind piles of snow, powdered snow falls heavily on their steeply pitched thatched roofs, and the town is lit up when the sky turns dark.
It is the winter scenery so fascinating that urges hundreds of tourists travelling to Ogimachi, a remote mountainous village in Shirakawago region, to witness the magical moments in winter.

Shirakawago Minkaen Exclusive Illumination Event

Credit: Shirakawago Minkaen Exclusive Illumination Event (Photo for illustrative purposes only, courtesy of Etsuji Anno)

Composed of 3 major villages, Ogimachi in the Shirakawago-region, Suginuma and Ainokura in the Gokayama region, the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were awarded World Heritage by UNESCO in 1995.

Shirakawago has since then become a favourite destination for foreign and local travellers due to the unique structure of the traditional thatched-roof houses, which can cost up to millions of Japanese Yen to build and maintain. In a picture exhibited in one the houses in Minkaen Outdoor Museum, at least 20 workers can be seen thatching up the roof. They are required to complete the work within one day. The house withstands a large amount of snow owing to its thick and 60-degree inclined roof.

While you are in Takayama, indulge yourself in the local delicacy, Hida beefsteak on Hoba leaf. Hoba in Japanese means Magnolia leaf. Miso paste, some thick beef cubes (seafood could be an alternative) and some vegetables are served on a Magnolia leaf and grilled on a charcoal stove. It is available in most of the restaurants in Takayama. You can even buy some packets of Hoba miso back home as a souvenir in the shops in Ogimachi village.

Hida beefsteak on Hoba leave

Credit: Dinner at Tenshukaku – Hida Beef Hoba Miso Set Meal (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

The new hype: Exclusive illumination event in Minkaen Outdoor museum

Held on 17 and 18 February 2018 only

Soak in the beautiful scenery of the Gassho-style houses with the snowy mountain range visible in background.

While the annual illumination in Shirakawago attracts a massive crowd of tourists, this event is no doubt a better alternative for travelers who do not want their pictures to be obstructed by others.

Minkaen Outdoor museum is located across the river from the Shirakawago Village Center. The government has relocated some of the gassho zukuri houses to the museum in order to preserve them better. 9 of the 26 buildings are designated as Important Cultural Properties by Gifu prefecture. According to the reviews online, this place is mostly appreciated of its magical scenery in winter with the mountain background.

Travellers can enjoy having a close look at the famous thatched-roof houses and observe the old ways of living in Edo era. Snap photos and selfies to your heart’s content without having to queue up for the best spots in the freezing cold. Here are some of the scenic shots taken in this Open-air museum during this exclusive event.
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Credit: Shirakawago Minkaen Exclusive Illumination Event (Photo for illustrative purposes only, courtesy of Etsuji Anno)

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Credit: Shirakawago Minkaen Exclusive Illumination Event (Photo for illustrative purposes only, courtesy of Etsuji Anno)

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Credit: Shirakawago Minkaen Exclusive Illumination Event (Photo for illustrative purposes only, courtesy of Etsuji Anno)

From April to October, you can even taste seasonal ice-cream made from local ingredients, with various flavours, such as sake, millet, mugwort and soba flavoured ice-cream.

What to prepare for the event

Check the weather before you go via the live cam. The photos will be taken every hour from Shirakawago Shiroato Observatory.
Since the weather is snowy, it is recommended to wear a pair of waterproof boots, as well as, bring along a raincoat and a flashlight. Getting your feet wet under the freezing temperature is not what you might want to experience in this weather.

See more optional tours

Around Takayama city

Festa Forest museum

Takayama Spring Festival is one of the 3 largest festivals in Japan. Millions of people flock to this small town every year to witness the splendid parade featuring gigantesque and dazzling floats, dated from the 15th century.

Festa Forest museum exhibits 8 most impressive large-scale floats, crafted in Heisei era, marionettes and floats miniatures. The museum is located in Geo-dome which is built under the mountain. Visitors have to pass through a 70 meters long path to reach the dome.

Takayama-Spring-Festival

Credit: Takayama Spring Festival – ©JNTO

Take a stroll around the town of Sanno-machi Historic District and bring yourself back to the Edo period.
Learn more about Takayama.

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Credit: Old Streets of Hida Takayama (Photo for illustrative purposes only, courtesy of Takayama City Hall Tourism Division)

Hotel recommendations

Shirakawago accommodation is selling out fast during January and February due its famous scenery in winter.
You can access Shirakawago from either Takayama or Kanazawa.

Takayama

– Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan (from JPY 33,700 per room per night / Japanese room with breakfast & dinner)
– Takayama Ouan (from JPY 29,100 per room per night / Western room with breakfast)
– Takayama Green Hotel (from JPY 29,100 per room per night / Western room with breakfast)

Kanazawa

– Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kanazawa (from JPY 19,500 per room per night / Western room, room only)
– Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (from JPY 21,500 per room per night / Western room, room only)
– Yoshidaya Sannoukaku (from JPY 24,300 per room per night / Japanese room with breakfast & dinner)

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