Japan’s number one winter wonderland is the little preserved village of Shirakawa-go in Gifu prefecture. The Unesco World Heritage Site features a number of gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which are constructed to withstand heavy snowfall thanks to their sharply slanted thatched roofs. When blanketed with snow in winter, it looks just like a fairytale village. Today, some of the buildings have been converted into restaurants, museums, souvenir shops and guesthouses.
The best time to visit this cosy village is during its annual light-up event at the beginning of the year. This winter, you can join the light-up bus tour that departs from Takayama Nohi Bus Center at Takayama Station on January 16, 23 and 30 as well as February 6, 13 and 20.
The bus takes you directly to Shirakawa-go and there are two tours to choose from:
The basic illumination tour (¥5,800, children ¥3,800) includes admission to the Minka-en open-air museum that lets you explore some of the old farmhouses. The bus departs from Takayama Nohi Bus Center at 3.40pm and arrives at Shirakawa-go at around 4.40pm. You’ll have about three hours to explore the village on your own before boarding the bus back to Takayama at 7.30pm.
Observation deck plan
The second plan (¥6,800, children ¥4,800) includes access to the open-air museum plus a ticket to the Ogimachi Castle Ruins observation platform, which boasts mesmerising views of the village. Note that you’ll have to walk up a hill to reach the lookout, which takes about 15 minutes one-way.
The bus leaves the Takayama Nohi Bus Center at 3.10pm and arrives at Shirakawa-go around 4.20pm. You can explore the village for about 3.5 hours before the bus returns to Takayama at 8pm.
Tickets are on sale now. Unfortunately, the observation deck plan is fully booked, but tickets are still available for the standard plan. Click here to make your reservation.
This article was originally published on December 3 2021 and updated on January 5 2022.
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