Shirakawago Village is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site where ancient, beautiful Japanese landscapes remain as vivid as long ago. The main street is lined with 114 houses where villagers live, even today. Convenient busses from Takayama make day trips possible.
Winter Life in Shirakawago
This area of Japan receives heavier snowfall than any other, and the picturesque steep house roofs are not only beautiful, they were wisely made to survive the long harsh winter.
The thatched roofs are unique for their sharp 60° tilt that sheds snow. Seen from the ends, they form triangles resembling partly-opened books. They are built so that morning sunshine melts snow on their eastern sides and afternoon sunshine melts the snow on the western sides. The houses all face one direction together creating a beautiful scene.
Enjoying Winter in Unique Ways
In the past, all travel was cut off during the winter, and the area became an island unto itself. Today, people can travel to visit Shirakawago in the wintertime. Here we describe three of the area’s most interesting experiences that are possible only during the winter season.
When winter arrives, thick snow completely envelops houses and fields, and the world turns silvery. The noonday sun reflects from the snow and the light is dazzling.
In the evening, a light-up event is held for seven days during January-February to further complement this beautiful scenery. The roof-ridges of houses rise from the surrounding silver landscape, illuminated by light, in an amazing, fantastic scene. This elegant and warm light feels so different from ordinary urban illumination. Here you can feast your eyes on the beautiful sight.
From Shirakawago’s center of thatched houses, it is a 15-minute drive to “Shirakawago Hirase Onsen HakuYumi Ski,” a family-friendly ski resort directly overlooking the Hakusan mountain range. The three spacious courses, accessible from a single lift, are at an elevation of 913m ~ 660m. The nearby Hirase hot springs are easy to also enjoy in one trip.
3. Hot Springs
A 15-minute drive southward from Shirakawago is Oshirakawa hot springs at Hirase village, the source of which is at the foot of one of Japan’s three famous mountains, the sacred mountain Hakusan. The Hirase hot springs waters contain sulfur and sodium chloride that promote beautiful skin. These hot springs are gaining in popularity and are also called the “Hot springs water for the blessing of children.”
Shirakawago’s attractions are expressed completely differently in winter than any other time of the year. Precisely because it is winter, why not get up and go for an unforgettable experience?