Shirakawa-go Winter Light-Up Event

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama is a UNESCO World Heritage site and located in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture. The farmhouses in Shirakawa-go are built in the 合掌造り(gasshou-zukuri) style and are quite known for their unique architectural structures well-adapted to their environment. During winter, it snows heavily in this region, and the farmhouses’ steeply-sloped thatched roofs help snow to fall off. The roof looks like two hands pressed in prayer, which is what the term gasshou means.

The mountains in Shirakawa-go
The mountains in Shirakawa-go
View from the bus stop with some gasshou-style houses
View from the bus stop with some gasshou-style houses

The village of Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go has preserved these farmhouses. During the peak of winter in the weekends of January and February, the village organizes special illumination events. We were there on 1 February 2014 to witness the Winter Light-Up event.

The path leading to the Shirakawa-go Viewpoint
The path leading to the Shirakawa-go Viewpoint
Shirakawa-go during the Winter Light-Up Event
Shirakawa-go during the Winter Light-Up Event
A lit-up gashou-style house
A lit up gashou-style house
Gasshou House with candles
Gasshou-style House with candles

We stayed in J-Hoppers Hida-Takayama and booked our tour through them. The bus departs in front of JR Takayama station and reaches Shirakawa-go in about an hour. Our tour provided us with a simple snack of delicious onigiri and hot tea.

View from the highway
View from the highway

The road to Shirakawa-go offers a beautiful view of the Japanese Alps and countryside.  The snow-capped mountains are glowing in the distance.

Lovely view of the mountains going to Shirakawa-go
Lovely view of the mountains going to Shirakawa-go

After seeing the illuminated houses from the viewpoint we headed to Kanda house, one of the few houses where visitors are allowed to enter for a minimum fee. The house is like a museum which has valuable information on the history of the village and the gasshou-style houses. On the second and third floor, there are displays of farming and sericulture tools.

Inside Kanda House, where a documentary about the gasshou-style house was being played
Inside Kanda House, where a documentary about the gasshou-style houses was being played
Wooden gasshou-style house on display inside Kanda House
Wooden gasshou-style houses on display inside Kanda House
Reading up on the gasshou-style houses with this huge picture book
Reading up on the gasshou-style houses with this huge picture book
A tea to warm yourself inside Kanda house
Tea to warm yourself inside Kanda house
Farm Tools
Farm Tools
Tools for sericulture, a major industry in Shirakawa-go
Tools for sericulture, a major industry in Shirakawa-go
The center of Kanda house
The center of Kanda house
View of the village inside Kanda house
View of the village inside Kanda house

The view of Shirakawa-go during the winter light-up event is one of the most idyllic settings I have seen. I can’t wait to come back and see the village during a different season.

 

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