Shirakawa-go in the Winter

Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in the mountainous regions of Gifu Prefecture, and has been on my list of must see places in Japan for years. This need is mostly due to the village being the setting of “Hinamizawa”, a village in the infamous Japanese anime series Higurashi no naku koro ni. Thus making this my first “Anime Pilgrimage”.
– This short-ish blog post will reflect some aspects of the village depicted within the series, but also hopefully show just how beautiful and serene this historic village is.

We made our way to the village from Kanazawa by the Nohi bus, which takes a little over an hour, and costs 1800yen for a one-way fare. The bus ride from Shirakawa to Takayama takes about one hour and is 2300yen one-way. Note that both buses require reservations from their respective Nohi bus offices in Kanazawa, Takayama, or Shirakawa-go’s Tourist Information Centre. The bus drops you off across from the Sho-River and you cross the above suspension bridge to get into the main village.
For those who were passing through with big pieces of luggage like we were, the Information Centre has coin lockers of varying sizes on-site, a number of which that are large enough to put two decent sized suitcases in.

The simple, and generally normal-ish looking shrine within the village, but highly significant to those like me who were drawn to Shirakawa-go by Higurashi.

The highlight of my visit, known to me as the “Furude Shrine.” (I’ll admit I was quite emotional here, given my attachment to the series.)

Wooden “Ema” plaques typically written with preys or wishes hung near shrines. Clearly there are a number of people who have come here to pay respect to “Oyashiro-sama”.

The “Gassho-zukuri” houses the village is so famous for are designed to withstand the heavy snowfall here.

For a small fee, (for the sake of preservation) you can enter these homes-converted into museums and see what these homes are like on the inside. Above is a photo of the second floor of these houses.

Apparently, the remote valleys here in the Chuubu region receive some of the heaviest snowfall of Japan. On a clear day like we had, it makes for a stunning scene.

The more “normal” buildings within the area require roof-top climbs to clear the heavy snow it seems…

For us Aussies however, seeing this much snow piled up is just waiting to be played with!

I think it’s amazing how many icicles was able to built up on this poor tree…

Those familiar with Higurashi should identify this as Rika and Satoko’s House…

…and this the “Irie Clinic”. In the real world, this is the would appear to be a clinic for the Shirakawa area. Maybe Irie-sensei heads this place too…

And finally the view from the Shiroyama Viewpoint is well worth the short trek!
(Note the normal path from the village is closed during Winter. We ended up walking all the way around and up the mountain by following the highway. Turns out there is a scheduled bus form the Information Centre to the point for 200yen I believe. It’s worth paying instead of taking a small hike around the cliff-face)

I would have loved to have spent more time here exploring, as well as visit the lesser-known villages of Gokayama. Whether your passing through from Kanazawa or Toyama through to Takayama or Nagoya, or vice-versa, Shirakawa-go is well worth a stop-over. (I imagine it would be even better if you had the luxury of your own car too.)
This is a place I will most definitely make my way back to some point in my life. Hopefully a summer of June sometime, mainly for being the month Higurashi was set in, as well as to see the village not blanketed in snow. From a fellow blogger’s photos, the place just looks so different!
Next time I’m here, I’d love to hear the cicada’s cry.

5 comments to Shirakawa-go in the Winter

  • Carol Clement

    We will be there in June! Very much enjoyed these winter photos – thank you. May I ask if you have any advice regarding booking and reserving the Nohi bus? We are Aussies and have no Japanese so we are mindful about booking the bus and making sure we make all our connections (we are thinking we may ask our B&B hosts in Kyoto the previous week to book for us if they don’t mind). We will be leaving Kanazawa and stopping off for a few hours in S-go before going on to Takayama for the night. Great info on the luggage lockers too – thanks and enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • gochisou

      If you’re staying in Kanazawa for a while, you can book the tickets from the bus centre across the road from the east exit of the train station. (If you’re lost the staff at the Tourist Information Centre within the station will point you out in the right direction.) From our experience, we had no problems booking our bus down to Shirakawa-go/Takayama from there, as the staff speak and understand enough English to know what you’re after. Just mention where you plan on going, and if you know what time bus you’re after, that should make things even easier.
      Hope that helps, and I hope you enjoy the your visit there as much as I did!

  • Carol

    Thanks for that – feel reassured now. Appreciate your help!

  • jim

    hi, may i know when were u in shirakawa-go? when were these photos taken? im planning a trip there in late march and am worried there might not be snow :(

  • Hi. I came across your website while researching. Just a quick question, if you remember – were the lockers at the Information Centre of decent size? My parter and I will have our full size international suit case with us, just checking if they will fit :)

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