Shirakawa-go, a centuries-old village in the Japanese Alps

Japón es un destino donde, fuera de sus grandes urbes, la naturaleza esconde lugares increíbles y fotogénicos, entre ellos la popular Shirakawa-go. Como país montañoso, su geografía está marcada por los Alpes japoneses, una cordillera  que divide en dos la isla, formada por las montañas Hida, Kisa y Akaishi.


In the Shirakawa and Gokayama regions, mountains and forests occupy more than 90 per cent of the territory. There is “the village of the white river”, referring to the river Shō: Shirakawa-go, a village declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995 along with its neighbor Gokayama.

It should be noted that this fact, along with the beauty of the surroundings and its famous traditional houses, has included this village in one of those essential for every traveller, which has inevitably made it more crowded. When we visited it, it was impossible not to feel like another tourist visiting an amusement park. However, if you avoid the more touristy dates and seasons or get up a little early, you can visit it with more peace of mind.

Bienvenidos...Bienvenidos...Welcome…...a Shirakawa-go...a Shirakawa-go…to Shirakawa-goGrupo de turistas de visitaGrupo de turistas de visitaVisiting tourist groupA pesar de la multitudA pesar de la multitudIn spite of the crowdVale realmente la penaVale realmente la penaIt’s really worth it

What’s in Shirakawa-go?

The protagonist element is its gassho-zukuri style houses, large houses with triangular, gabled and pointed roofs, where straw replaces tiles, preparing the structure to withstand the abundant winter snow. Its name means “in the form of praying hands”, which makes clear reference to its characteristic roof. They can have around 180 m2 of floor space and several floors up to the attic, where silkworms were traditionally bred.

Casa típicaCasa típicaTypical houseDesde otra perspectivaDesde otra perspectivaFrom another perspectiveDetalleDetalleRoof detailDetalle del tejadoDetalle del tejadoRoof detail

This is a historic village where some of the houses are over 250 years old and of course many can be visited. Some of them are actually museum houses.

Querrás parar delante de cada casaQuerrás parar delante de cada casaYou’ll want to stop in front of every housePasea y piérdete por sus callesPasea y piérdete por sus callesTake a walk and get lost in the streetsY no pierdas detalleY no pierdas detalleAnd don’t lose any detail

Where to start the visit to Shirakawa-go

A good start is to go up to the Shiroyama viewpoint, which you can reach on foot or by bus and where you will have a perfect panoramic view of the places you want to see later, as if it were a 3D map…

VistasVistasViewsShirakawa-go desde arribaShirakawa-go desde arribaShirakawa-go from aboveY sus arrozalesY sus arrozalesAnd their rice paddies

Then, two options: to pay or not to pay, there is the dilemma. Practically everything that can be visited is paid for, although you can always simply walk around the streets and observe the architecture of the houses, which is a cheaper option.

If you choose the first option, don’t miss Shirakawa Hachimangu Shrine and the Gassho-zukuri Minkaen open-air museum, which consists of several gassho-zukuri style houses that you can also access. You will see inside representations of local culture and craftsmanship.

Continuing with the traditional houses, the most visited are the Wada-ke or Wada family house, the Kanda-ke and the Nagase-ke, which was the doctor’s house.

Pasea por el puebloPasea por el puebloWalk around the villageDescubre las casas típicasDescubre las casas típicasDiscover the typical housesY sorpréndeteY sorpréndeteAnd be surprisedCon cada detalleCon cada detalleWith every detail

Accommodation in the village

Many of the traditional houses are minshuku, family lodgings, or ryokan, traditional Japanese inns. They usually offer accommodation in addition to dinner and breakfast. They are not cheap but they include dinner, so maybe to see the village at night and with less people it is worth it. Calculate about 9,000 yen per person. I told you, it’s not cheap. There is also a hotel with thermal baths that includes packs, the Shirakawago no Yu, in case you want to afford it… We leave you a link in case you want to look a little more about the offer of guesthouses.

Con estas vistas...Con estas vistas...With these views…... ¿a quién no le apetece quedarse?... ¿a quién no le apetece quedarse?…who doesn’t feel like staying?

How to get to Shirakawa-go

Even if you have the Japan Rail Pass, it’s worth taking the bus for this visit. This is a regular line at various times that connects you in about an hour with Kanazawa or Takayama. The Nohi bus company does this tour, on their website you will see prices, schedules and some offers even with accommodation in Shirakawa-go.

Llegada del busLlegada del busArrival of the bus

When to go

Although we have scared you a little with the overcrowding, something that you can smell as soon as you arrive and see a big parking lot at the entrance of the village, it is always possible to avoid the worst moments.

Más gente en sus callesMás gente en sus callesMore people on the streetsHora puntaHora puntaRush Hour

Any time of the year is good to visit this place, whether it is spring with the cherry blossoms, winter with the snow or autumn with the colours of the deciduous leaves of the forest, but we recommend going during the week and if possible outside traditional summer dates. So choose your date wisely and go enjoy the most beautiful villages in the Japanese Alps.

Anota Shirakawa-go en la listaAnota Shirakawa-go en la listaPut Shirakawa-go on the listY no te pierdas imágenes como estaY no te pierdas imágenes como estaAnd don’t miss images like this