SAM IN JAPAN: SHIRAKAWAGO

Shirakawago is a small town located in the CHUBU region and is famously known for its traditional thatched houses.  Shirakawago is not accessible via trains so you must catch a bus from Takayama in order to access the town.  I had planned to stay the night as I had wanted to experience a “farmhouse stay” for quite some time.  The town is small and from what I could find there was only one bus doing a circle route about the town.  Since the town is quite small  you can easily walk to where you need to go as long as you don’t mind a little foot work.  The local tourist centre is at the bus stop and the maps are in English making tourist spots and accommodation places easy to find.

I made my way to my accommodation after a brief 20 minute walk from the main bus stop and was greeted by the hosts who quickly escorted me to my room.  They explained a couple of the sites to see and things to do in the town as well as some of the rules and brief history about their establishment.  Most of the tourist spots focus on the history of the town, how the town was built, the architecture of the buildings as well as old antiques of what the people used decades ago.  You can stroll around and see several souvenir shops specialising in their local craft work, hats, footwear and other nick nacks and also many little shops which are literally just a window that offer snacks such as dango (a rice cake covered in a sweet salty sauce) and croquettes.

After covering most of the town and checking out the top view from a nearby look out peak (which was a bit of a hike for me) I made my way back to my accommodation and decided to rest up until dinner.  Around 6.30pm dinner was served and I got to meet the rest of the occupants staying at the accommodation.  After a little light dinner conversation we received our meals and tucked into the lovely home cooked meal provided around the wooden hearth.  Shortly after dinner I decided to visit the local bathing house to end the evening with a nice hot soak.  Since my accommodation was quite a distance from the bath house it took at least 15 mins to walk there.  It being a country town it was a little dark and quite quiet so on my way to the bath house it got a little scary so if you do decide to visit the bathhouse (which I highly recommend), try to find accommodation in the central part of the town or quite close to the bath house.  After the heavenly soak I made my way back to the house and tucked myself away for the night into the nice warm futon.

The next day I checked out after breakfast and did a few more laps around the town, taking photos and seeing the sites till it was time to catch the bus back to Takayama.  Overall my stay in Shirakawago was interesting.  It was good to see the village, learn about it’s history and experience a night’s stay in one of the “gasshou zukuri” houses.  I think the best time to go would be during the summer or winter seasons, I went whilst it was during the transition from winter to spring so everything was in a sludgy mess.  This place really shines during the winter period (according to photos I’ve seen) whilst still enjoyable I think if you decide to visit Shirakawago best to make it during the winter when the snow is falling.

I hope you enjoyed that post on Shirakawago.  Next week it’s Kyoto and Osaka until next time :)J

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