Shirakawago – The story about the village with fairytale-like beauty
Shirakawa-go, being hundreds of years old with ancient houses all over the place, is not one of the top must-go destinations in Japan for no reason. Let's join me on a journey to explore the place which everyone dreams of visiting at least once in a lifetime.
The village Shirakawa-go is located in a valley on the bank of Sho river (Shogawa). This village stretches across the border of Gifu and Toyama prefectures and is surrounded by mountains. Therefore, the weather here is divided into 4 distinct seasons with excessive snow during the winter.
Due to the far distance and geographical difficulties, this village is almost completely isolated from the outside world, thus being able to develop its unique tradition and culture which include the roof architecture called "Gassho zukuri".
Upon coming here, no one can tear their eyes away from ancient houses that are hundreds of years old with thick and steep thatched roofs made from natural grass in Japan.
There are two reasons for this unique architecture:
- Due to the specific geographical location (in a valley and surrounded by mountains), it snows a lot in winter; therefore, people have to make steep roofs so that the snow would slide down instead of staying on the roof.
- Back in the time, this isolated village was the place for hermits to train and practice, and the image of steep roofs resembles hands clapped together to pray for a peaceful world.
In 1995, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were recognized as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Currently, there are only about 150 houses with this architecture all over Japan, about 100 of which are located in Shirakawa-go and Gokayama ancient villages.
Each season here has its own beauty. In spring and summer, this place is covered by a carpet of green and cheerful flowers, whereas autumn brings a chilly feeling with the red-yellow color of trees. Still, according to the people here, the most beautiful season is probably winter since everything would be covered in white and looks like something coming straight out of a fairytale.
I came to know about Shirakawa-go thanks to the pictures that are all over social media. However, I did not fall in love with this place because of the titles assigned to it: an ancient village or World Cultural Heritage, but because of its peacefulness, its traditional houses, its interspersed fields, and its honest and gentle people, etc. Those are all familiar charms of the Japanese countryside.
If possible, try staying one night in a Gassho zukuri homestay in the winter. It is not only beautiful but also very cozy ^^
Transportation: Despite the seemingly inaccessible location, it is relatively easy to reach this place because the Japanese have built a lot of convenient road systems and invested in train and bus systems.
You can buy a JR Pass (for tourists only ^^), which helps save a lot of travel costs.
You can take a look at these routes:
- Tokyo → Toyama (2.5 hours by high-speed train) → Shirakawa-go (1.5 hours by bus)
- Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto → Kanazawa (3 hours by train) → Shirakawa-go (75 minutes by bus)
- Nagoya → Shirakawa-go (about 3 hours by non-stop bus)
Each region in Japan has its own breathtaking beauty that can conquer any traveler's heart. I am always fascinated by the peaceful, quiet, and unique countryside or small towns with little or no tourists whatsoever.
In Japan, you should take baby steps to be able to enjoy all the wonderful things in this charming country. See you in other unique destinations ^^
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