More than ten thousand kilometers from Spain is one of the most special countries that attracts our attention the most. Japan has countless ancient places that are surprising to our eyes. And among all of them we find a historic village, which due to its beauty and for having maintained its traditions over time, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Shirakawa-go (Japanese for white river) It is such a fascinating place that it seems like a storybook setting.

What to visit in Shirakawa-go

Snowy landscape in Shirakawa-Go with three gassho-zukuri (gassho means “praying hands”) style houses with gabled roofs that are built without nails and their beams fit together perfectly
Snowy landscape in Shirakawa-Go with three gassho-zukuri (gassho means “praying hands”) style houses with gabled roofs that are built without nails and their beams fit together perfectly

Crossed by the Shogawa River and surrounded by mountains, the first contact with this village in central Japan is crossing a short suspension bridge. It is known for its typical gassho-zukuri style houses (some standing since the 19th century), with sloping thatch roofs, a shape that allows them to withstand the harsh climatic conditions of this mountainous region. As with the rest of Japan, Shirakawa-go offers very different faces depending on the season of the year, but it is during winter, with the houses covered in snow, when it shows its most striking and magical image.

Shirakawago Kaido, the main street

Shirakawa-go, Japan - November 8, 2019: Tourists are walking along the street at Shirakawa-go, Gifu, Japan.
Shirakawa-go main street..

On Shirakawago Kaido Street there are numerous traditional houses converted into craft shops, where in addition to other souvenirs, you can buy products made from silk. Of course, on this central street there are also numerous restaurants and small street food stalls where you can get closer to local food by tasting gohei mochi (rice cakes that in this mountainous area are made with miso and soy sauce) or the appreciated wagyu.


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The Tajima Silk House Museum

In addition to purchasing products made with silk, you can also learn about the manufacturing process of this ancient tradition. Silkworm breeding was the main way of life in Shirakawa-go in ancient times and at the Tajima House you can get closer to all the secrets surrounding this traditional industry.

Myozen-ji Temple

Myozenji Temple in Shirakawa-go, a former residence of monks now converted into a museum that tells the history of the temple since 1748.
Myozenji Temple in Shirakawa-go was a former residence of monks and is now a museum.

This temple, which It is the largest in the village, is also built in gassho-zukuri style. The original temple has been converted into a museum where its history has been told since 1748. You can enter the former chambers of the temple’s main monk and discover curiosities about the local culture. Next door, and surrounded by nature, is another sanctuary, that of Shirakawa Hachimangu. It was built in the 8th century and has a sacred cedar tree that is more than 300 years old.

Staying in a gassho-zukuri house

The remote village of Shirakawa-Go in Japan is home to traditional thatched farms, as well as religious temples, shrines and numerous festivals.  The passing of the seasons only beautifies this town where cherry trees bloom in spring and is covered in snow in winter.
The passing of the seasons only beautifies this town where cherry trees bloom in spring and is covered in snow in winter.

You are in the ideal place to relax and discover a part of Japanese culture. And this discovery also involves living a unique experience: spending a night in a gassho-zukuri house (which would be equivalent to our farms) to experience first-hand what daily life is like in this remote village. Some of these houses are more than 250 years old.

Among all of them, the Wada Housewhich has a beautiful Japanese garden and Nagase Househome to a family of doctors, and which has been converted into museum of medical utensils and equipment from the Edo period (1603-1867). Staying in these traditional homes costs about 50 euros (8,000 yen) per person and includes accommodation, dinner and breakfast.


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An onsen experience

Thousands of Japanese take advantage of Christmas to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities and immerse themselves in the hot springs of their popular spas, the onsen, an ancient form of relaxation that is at its best in the cold.  When temperatures begin to drop throughout Japan, the high season begins in these natural spas distributed throughout the country, which total more than 3,000 establishments thanks to the volcanic activity that bubbles under the Japanese archipelago.  In the photo, Takaragawa onsen, one of the largest and most beautiful open-air spas in the country.  This onsen, which has more than a hundred years of tradition, is located in a narrow valley between mountains, spread between the two banks of a stream, in the province of Gunma, a couple of hours from Tokyo.
These natural spas are all over the country, there are more than 3,000 establishments thanks to the volcanic activity that bubbles under the Japanese archipelago.

There is no trip to Japan without a relaxant dip in a traditional onsen. And Shirakawa-go also has these popular waters that have healing properties. Take the opportunity to enjoy the peace that is breathed in one of these natural spaces that attract tourists so much. The feeling that time passes more slowly in this part of the world will accompany you throughout the experience.

How to get to Shirakawa-go

Being located in a mountain area, getting to Shirakawa-go is not easy. The most practical thing is to go by train from Nagoya or Gifu, on the JR Takayama Line to Takayama. Then, take one of the buses from Takayama Station and you’ll be in the village in about 50 minutes.

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