Sunday, August 12, 2018

Japan Travel: Shirakawa-go 白川郷

How did the Japanese in the past build a gassho-style house without using any nail? I am always amazed by this unique architecture. Gassho-style house has a steep-sloped thatched roof that looks like a person's two palms facing inward. One of the famous villages with gassho-style houses in Japan is Shirakawa-go 白川郷, it has been in my must-go list and I am glad that I have finally visited this place!

We departed from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go by bus, and we had to bring our luggage along as we would then travel to Nagoya. When we reached the bus terminal at Shirakawa-go, the coin lockers there were all occupied. Luckily, there was a small house behind the bus terminal for luggage deposit. The cost is 500 yen for 1 piece of luggage, 800 yen for 2 pieces, and 1000 yen for 3 pieces.

After we deposited our luggage, we took a shuttle bus (200 yen for adult, 100 yen for child) to the observatory. The shuttle bus ride took less than 10 minutes.

The scenery from the observatory was spectacular! I was glad that it was a sunny day, unlike the day when we visited Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route.

The stroll in the village was quite enjoyable, there were many photo-taking spots.

photo taken at no.32 of Shirakawa-go map

photo taken at no.33 of Shirakawa-go map

The water was so clear that we could see fish swimming!

One of the famous food in the region is Hida beef, which we already had some at Takayama. It was not enough for me and I wanted to have more! At a restaurant Shiraogi しらおぎ, I ordered Hoba Miso with Hida beef set meal. Well, it was a tad pricey that at about 2000 yen (~SGD24), there were only 4 pieces of beef. The beef was not as tender as I thought, perhaps I had to blame my poor cooking skill.

The design of the manhole cover is so symbolic! You may have seen photos of Shirakawa-go with 3 houses, and I was determined to locate that place! This place is actually a restaurant called Chubee 茶屋 忠兵衛, located at 1+ km from the bus terminal.

Along the way, we walked past Myozenji Temple 明善寺.

Finally we reached the photo spot!

photo taken at no.1 of Shirakawa-go map

Only after I came back to Singapore that I realised we should walk further down the road to take photo so the view would be better. This place is very packed with visitors during the annual Shirakawa-go Light-up in January and February.

As we walked back towards the bus terminal, we were attracted by the snack shops along the road. The children had matcha ice-cream, while I had another serving of Hida beef. But to my disappointment, this Hida beef was cold and not very tender.

From the eatery where we bought that Hida beef, we also bought amazake 甘酒, which is Japanese fermented rice drink. It was sweet, and reminded me of homemade barley drink!

I saw Hida milk at that eatery, but I recalled that it was cheaper at the restaurant where we had lunch. My "aunty-mode" was switched on, so I walked a short distance to save some money.

Near the bus terminal was Wada House 和田家, the largest gassho-style house in Shirakawa-go. The admission fee is 300 yen for adult and 150 yen for child. Finally I got to see the interior of the amazing architecture!

We spent about 4.5 hours at Shirakawa-go, and then we had to head towards Nagoya, which would take 50 minutes bus ride and 2.5 hour train ride. If time permits, I would like to stay longer to visit the part of the village across the suspension bridge.

If I have a chance to visit Shirakawa-go again, I would definitely come back in winter time to enjoy a different feel of the village!

Useful Information on Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go Tourist Association (you can download the maps of Shirakawa-go)
Shirakawa-go Village Official Website

Our Suggested Photo-taking Spots
Refer to the map on Shirakawa-go Tourist Association: Observatory, no. 1, 32, 33

How to get to Shirakawa-go
You can get from Kanazawa or Takayama to Shirakawa-go by bus. Check out the timetable and bus fare from the official website of Nohi Bus. You can make your reservation via phone or online booking system. There are two platforms for online booking, one is in English or Chinese (Japan Bus Online) which you have to make online payment, the other one is in Japanese ( which you can make payment at the bus terminal prior your bus trip.

If you are using Takayama-Hokiriku Japan Rail (JR) Pass, it covers the bus journey, so remember to reserve the bus tickets via online booking system in Japanese or by phone (read Tips #4 of our 10 Tips for Planning Central Japan Trip with Children) so that you do not need to pay extra money.

Our Central Japan Travelogue June 2018

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