2. Access to Shirakawa-go
3. Gassho-zukuri Inn "Magoemon"
4. Restaurant in spring and summer, guesthouse in winter, “Yamamoto-ya
5. Wada House, Biggest in Shirakawa-go
1. Getting around Shirakawa-go Village.
Shirakawa-go, nestled in at the edge of the Shokawa River, is famous for its Gassho-zukuri (houses with thatched roofs) village. From the village, there is a fine view of snow-covered Mt. Hakusan. The uniquely shaped houses and their roofs have been passed down and protected from generation to generation since 400 years ago. In 1976 the village was selected as a national preservation district for these historic buildings, and then was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The entrance to Shirakawa-go is “Seseragi Park” where there is a bus terminal and car parking. To get into the village, you will cross a pedestrian bridge over the Shokawa River. The town's main street runs parallel to the river, which divides the village; the mountains to the east and the river to the west. The east side of town has lots of shops, restaurants, and old houses. The west side is relatively calm and peaceful.
2. Access to Shirakawa-go
1) Meitetsu/ Gifu Bus from Nagoya (2hrs 50min; reservation needed)
2) Nohbi Bus from Takayama (50min)
3) Kaetsuno Bus from Takaoka (2hrs)
4) Hokuriku Teshudo or Nohbi Bus from Kanazawa (1hr 15min; reservation needed)
Click on the titles to watch a video.
3. Gassho-zukuri (houses with thatched roofs) Inn “Magoemon”
Magoemon, a typical Gassho-zukuri house, is a riverside inn located in the west side of Shirakawa-go. They charge just a little over 10,000 yen a night, including two meals. They only have a communal lavatory and bathroom, but we didn’t feel stress because not many people stayed there that night, and everyone was friendly.
At the entrance, there is a wooden board to hit to inform them when a visitor has arrived. The first room is a wide-open tatami mat room with a traditional fireplace. We had dinner and breakfast here. Several small rooms next to this dining room are guest rooms. Our room was down the hall and about 10 square meters. It was simple but very neat and clean. Ouside the sliding doors, there was a wooden veranda with a small table and two straw cushions. We really enjoyed a tranquil time here in the evening and the morning, looking outside and watching people passing by.
By the way, in this village, the head of a family passes on their name from generation to generation, and so did the name of “Magoemon.” But the owner told me that custom was ended several decades ago. No matter what people try to do to preserve the old ways, our life style seems to change, little by little, doesn't it?
After the completion of a new expressway, access to Shirakawa-go has become much easier than before. More than a million visitors stop by this mysterious remote spot each year. And at the same time, the life of the residents has changed step by step. Most of the tourists who visit this village spend only a few hours here, and leave after a quick walk around and taking several snap shots. They don’t know how beautiful it is before sunset and after sunrise, how diligent and tidy the local people are, and how peacefully time is flowing under a sky full of stars. If you have a chance to visit here, please enjoy the nature of Shirakawa-go by staying overnight!
For reservations, contact: TEL 05769-6-1167 FAX 05769-6-1851
4. Restaurant in spring and summer, guesthouse in winter, “Yamamoto-ya”
The World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go, is famous for its Gassho-zukuri houses (a traditional house with a rafter roof). Yamamoto-ya, located in the heart of Shirakawa-go, is a lovely Gassho-zukuri house. Luckily, we happened to find this amazing restaurant just after we arrived here. We ordered bukkake (cold soba with sesame and pickled plum) and a Lady’s Set, which includes cold soba, a small dish of stewed tofu and beef, and three pieces of bracken mochi. The soba was quite thin and felt good going down. The stewed tofu and beef was also good.
Yamamoto-ya serves soba at lunchtime (11:00 AM to 2:00 PM) from mid April to late November. And in winter, it becomes a guesthouse. You can make a reservation for an overnight stay by phone or through the Internet. They begin taking reservations for December in November. Reservation: TEL 05769-6-1064
5. Wada House, Biggest in Shirakawa-go
The Wada Family had been one of the leading families of the village from generation to generation. Some parts of the Wada House are open to the public today, and we can see a little of what their lives were like in the old days.
Since 1573, the head of the Wada Family had passed down the name of “Yoemon” therefore protecting the family lineage. Short of land for cultivation in Shirakawa-go, people worked on sericulture in addition to growing rice and vegetables. Lots of workers were necessary for this silkworm business, and kids were engaged in the work from a young age. Only the first son could marry and inherit the family estate. Other children, who were born out of wedlock, were raised in their mother’s house. The Wada's had a big family and that was the base of their home business.
In addition, people secretly produced gunpowder and sold them to feudal clans. Shirakawa-go was an isolated spot located in a deep mountain area. The Wada family kept the rights for this gunpowder commerce and did well with this business, as well.
The Gassho-zukuri (thatched roof houses in Shirakawa-go) are reasonable and functional. They people made gunpowder under the floor, lived on the first floor, and kept silkworms on the upper floors. Within the living space, they had a traditional-style fireplace. The fire for cooking made the house warm, and made the building stronger. The angled roof is good for heavy snow, and also good for collecting sunshine because of its wide surface. The roof itself is quite simple. It is made of logs that are tied together with vines of trees. So, shaking from storms or earthquakes doesn’t come down to the pillars and the base. The house protects itself!
By the way, the thatched roof needs to be repaired after winter, although a total re-thatching should be done every 30-50 years. The partial repair is usually done in spring. The Wada’s storehouse contains various farm tools and dry grass for the restoration of the roof.