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Shirakawa-go is an area with a lot of traditional Japanese houses with steep, rafted roofs, typical of an area with heavy snowfall. The steep roofs are thatched from a plant called kaya, and are at a characteristically steep angle to withstand the heavy weight of the snow. In 1995, it became the third residential area to be registered a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shirakawa-go is the largest out of the three thatched-roof residential communities registered as a World Heritage and there are many thatched-roof traditional houses in the village. It portrays a nostalgic hometown landscape. Today, there are several cafes and accommodation renovated out of traditional thatched roof houses and it has become a top Japanese tourist destination.
- Ogimachi, Shirakawa, Ono-gun, Gifu
- Contact No.
- From JR Takayama Station, take Nohi Bus (reservation required) for 50 min, get off at Shirakawa-go and walk 5 min.
- Official Website
- Time Required
- Half day - one day
※ Some information is displayed in Japanese and machine-translated English, which may not be accurate.
For the latest information, please check the official website for each spot.
Limited Season Winter Light Up
On certain days, during January and February every year, Shirakawa-go gets lit up for a limited time for winter illuminations. The traditional houses glowing in the dusk is in itself as beautiful as a piece of art. When there is snowfall, the reflection of the soft light shimmers against the snow and shows a unique view that can only be seen here.
Ogimachi Castle Ruins Observation Deck
The Ogimachi Castle Ruins Observation Deck is located on the north side of the community and is a view point that overlooks the entire Shirakawa-go. When seen from above, one can clearly see how steep the angles of the roofs are. The rural landscape pulls you in and makes you forget about time.
Wada Family Residence
Within the community of traditional houses standing side by side with their nostalgic atmosphere, the largest residence is the Wada family house. While still being used as a residence, it is partially open to view for the public. The characteristic structure of the thatched roof can be observed from the second floor. The roof made only of wood and ropes and without any nails is filled with ancestral wisdom.
Old Toyama-ke Minzokukan
Inside the Toyama family residence built around 1827, there are products on exhibit that portray the life in Shirakawa-go from back in the day. The first floor of the building is the residence, the second to fourth floor is a silk farming space and in the basement, gunpowder for explosives were produced.
Outdoor Museum: Gasshozukuri Minkaen
In the Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum, 26 buildings with thatched roofs have been transported and preserved. From spring through autumn, there are interactive programs that allow you to participate in Shirakawa-go culture such as straw sandals weaving and soba making (reservation required).
Doburoku Festival Hall
A festival called Doburoku festival is held in autumn in Shirakawa-go. It is a festival to make offerings of a sake called Doburoku and pray for a good harvest and home safety. In Doburoku Festival Hall, the scenes of this festival can be seen all year round. Experience the festival with dolls, models and references reenacting the scenes of the festival. You can also taste the actual Doburoku sake.
Myozen-ji Temple Museum
Myozen-ji is a temple with a thatched roof, which is rare even in Shirakawa-go. It is said the wood for the main hall was collected from 1806 and the temple required around 9,000 workers until it was finished in 1827. Today, the second floor is a museum that displays items such as agriculture equipment from the Edo period.
To enter into the thatched roof community, one must cross the 107-meter suspension bridge called Deai-bashi that spans across Sho River. Cross the Deai-bashi and enter into the community where the landscape of old times still remains. In autumn, the mountain in front takes on the color of the leaves and unfolds a vivid view of the changing leaves.
See a Once in a Year View at the Fire Drill
The fire drill held every year in November has become a specialty of Shirakawa-go. Water is poured onto the thatched-roof houses, producing a curtain of water in all corners of town. It is an impressive sight that can only be seen once a year in the otherwise quiet town of Shirakawa-go.
Spend the Night in a Thatched-roof Accommodation
If you’ve traveled all the way to Shirakawa-go, why not spend the night in a World Heritage thatched roof accommodation? Inside Shirakawa-go, there are minshuku (traditional Japanese accommodation) such as “Gassho no Yado Magoemon” and “Gassho no Sato Riheie,” where you can spend a quiet time in a traditional atmosphere.
Shirakawa-go Specialty Suttate-nabe
Shiraishi-go local gourmet “Suttate-nabe” is a hotpot dish with a base soup made from soy beans ground in a stone mill, miso, and soy sauce. In “Gassho” near the Shiraishi-go bus stop, it is possible to have a steaming hot Suttate-nabe with the local delicacy Hida beef. The soft sweetness of the soups is sure to ease your travel stress.