Exploring the Villages of Shirakawa-go

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I had not heard of Shirakawa-go until one night, as we were having our me-time after completing the household chores, misterchewy casually mentioned that he came across some photos of this village in Japan. He went on to rave about how beautiful the entire village was captured in photos, especially during winter, but also remarked that Shirakawa-go would be totally out of the way and inconvenient to be included in our itinerary. I merely listened because I wasn’t so keen initially and less than two weeks before our trip, misterchewy decided to try his luck again. I figured it would be a nice change to include a small village in our itinerary, since we were had planned to go to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

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We tried searching for a ryokan in Shirakawa-go that could accommodate us for a night, via Japanese Guest Houses, but we were informed that all the ryokans were fully booked for the second half of March. As mentioned in our previous post, we stayed in a hotel in Kanazawa instead. From Kanazawa station, we boarded the 8.40am Nohi route bus. We had reserved our seats the day before at the Nohi Bus Reservation Centre located at Kanazawa station. A round trip ticket costs ¥3290 (~S$30). Prior our trip, misterchewy checked the Nohi bus timetable online and planned our itinerary accordingly. We reached Shirakawa-go at around 10am.

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Of all the places in our itinerary, Shirakawa-go was the coldest! Little misschewy was already dressed in numerous layers of thick clothing, so we made her don a knitted owl beanie. Hehe.

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Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, Shirakawa-go is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. If you notice, the farmhouses’ thatched roofs actually resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer, and that is exactly what Gassho-zukuri means — constructed like hands in prayer.

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Most of the beautiful photos we saw online were of gassho-zukuri farmhouses covered in thick snow during winter. In fact, Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go typically gets covered by one to two meters of snow during the peak of the white season. However, we were there in March and although it was still very cold, all of the snow had already melted by then and we got to see a different side of Shirakawa-go instead.

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Myozenji Temple from afar. It has the biggest thatched roof in the village, which when covered in snow, is simply magnificent.

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Breathtaking, isn’t it? This is the Shiroyama Viewpoint, which offers nice views of Ogimachi Village and its farmhouses. We took a shuttle bus at about ‎¥200 (~S$2.50) per adult and we were glad we did because even though the viewpoint can be accessed via a walking trail in about 20 minutes from centre of the village, the walking trail is a steep upslope!

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We strolled back to our starting point, which was the place where we alighted the Nohi bus, and had lunch at this small cafe. The place was packed with cold and hungry tourists like us!

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Curry udon to warm ourselves up!

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Since we had plenty of time before our scheduled bus back to Kanazawa, we decided to walk around and take more photos.

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We were so surprised when it began to snow! :O

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Little misschewy was also very thrilled and she even tried to ‘catch snow’ (in her own words) with both hands. 😀

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We spent about 4 hours in Shirakawa-go which we felt was more than sufficient. However, if you prefer to explore every nook and cranny of Shirakawa-go, it is highly recommended that you stay in a ryokan. I would definitely love to visit Shirakawa-go again and witness its idyllic winter landscape!

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THE CHEWYS’ MARCH 2016 JAPAN 10D9N ITINERARY
(Tokyo – Osaka – Kyoto – Kanazawa – Shirakawago)

Day 1: Singapore to Narita Airport > JR Narita Express to Tokyo > Check into Airbnb at Kita-Ikebukuro > Asakusa Temple & Shopping Street > Shopping and dinner at Sunshine City

Day 2: Tokyo Disneyland

Day 3: Tsukiji Fish Market > Ueno Park > Shopping at Ameya-Yokocho Market > Tea at Fujiya Peko-chan Milky Restaurant > Pokemon Centre at Sunshine City > Dinner at Ichiran

Day 4: Tokyo DisneySea

Day 5: Fujiko•F•Fujio Museum (Doraemon Museum) and Doraemon Cafe > Shopping and dinner at Harajuku

Day 6: Shinkasen from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka > Check into Airbnb at Shin-Osaka > Osaka Castle > Dinner at Dotonburi (Namba station, Midosuji line)

Day 7: Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto > Kiyomizu-dera Temple > Kimono rental and outdoor photoshoot > Dinner at Kichi-Kichi Omurice > Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka

Day 8: Thunderbird Limited Express from Shin-Osaka to Kanazawa > Check into Hotel Nikko Kanazawa > Kenroku-en Garden > Kanazawa Castle > Lunch at Sushi Zanmai > Omicho Market > Higashi Chaya District > Tonkatsu dinner at Tomikinton (富金豚)

Day 9: Nouhi bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go > Sightseeing around Shirakawa-go > Nouhi bus from Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa > Thunderbird Limited Express from Kanazawa to Shin-Osaka > Dinner at Dotonburi (Namba station, Midosuji line)

Day 10: Kansai Airport Limited Express “Haruka” from Shin-Osaka to Kansai Airport > HOME SWEET HOME