The Gokayama-Shirakawa-go area is still graced with homes built in the traditional 'gassho-zukuri' style and is included on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list. Villages in the area are still lived in, just like in the past. With historic architecture, natural environments, traditional crafts, and gastronomic cultures that have all been carried on respectfully from the past and that express the 'real Japan,' these villages are becoming popular sightseeing spots for both domestic and international visitors alike.
A convenient way to make your way around the Gokayama-Shirakawa-go without losing too much time is the fixed-route sightseeing bus service run by Nohi Bus Company (Takayama City). This fixed-route sightseeing bus runs one service per day, leaving from and returning to JR Takayama Station Bus Center. It travels around Shirakawa-go and the Ainokura area in Gokayama. The service includes an English-speaking guide and lunch in Shirakawa-go. It takes about six hours to complete the journey.
Allow us to explain the fixed-route sightseeing bus schedule to you.
8:30 a.m. Depart from Takayama Nohi Bus Center
(The Takayama Nohi Bus Center is beside JR Takayama Station. Please complete reception procedures at the ticket counter.)
The bus then heads to the thatched-roof village of Ainokura in Gokayama, traveling along the Tokai-hokuriku Expressway and through the Hida Tunnel!
The Thatched-roof Village of Ainokura, Gokayama
Time required: approximately 50 minutes
Ainokura Village is located on a terrace a short distance from the Sho River and spreads itself out along a narrow plateau that slopes gently towards the northeast. Of the 32 homes in the village, 20 feature steeply pitched thatched roofs in the gassho-zukuri style. Many of the existing gassho-zukuri houses were built between the end of the Edo period and the Meiji period, while the oldest house was built in the 17th century.
Depart Ainokura and head to Shirakawa-go
Thatched-roof Village in Shirakawa-go and the Shiroyama Observatory
Among the three villages listed as World Heritage sites (Shirakawa-go, and Ainokura and Suganuma in Gokayama), Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go has the greatest number of homes at 152. The turbid, white waters that are formed when the Oshira River flows down from the sacred Mt. Hakusan and joins the Sho River is said to have inspired the name of the region--'Shirakawa-go.' The Shiroyama Observatory is in the northeastern part of Ogimachi, Shirakawa-go and offers a panorama view of the Hakusan mountain range with its thatched roof villages.
Customers can enjoy a lunch of Shirakawa-go regional cooking at the observatory. We recommend a Shirakawa-go specialty--ishiwari tofu.
After lunch at the observatory, we head towards the thatched roof village of Shirakawa-go
Time required: approximately two hours.
First of all, our guide will show you to the entrance of the Gassho-zukuri Minkaen.
The Gassho-zukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum lies on the opposite side of the Sho River from the village and is home to a total of twenty-six buildings, nine of which are designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan in Gifu. The museum features a shrine, temple hall, and water mill in addition to the main buildings, which can be viewed fully, even including the attics. In particular, the Yamashita home is one of the few 18th-century buildings that exist in Shirakawa Village and is the oldest gassho-zukuri building in Shirakawa-go.
The tour allows two hours' time to walk around Shirakawa-go, including the time spent at the Minkaen.
Board the bus and return to Takayama via the Hida Tunnel.
3:10 p.m.: Arrive at Takayama Nohi Bus Center