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