Japan Fairy Tales Village, Shirakawago, the Truly Romantic Place

Shirakawago village, one of the most beautiful village in the world
Shirakawago village, one of the most beautiful village in the world

Feel the peace and wonder at Japan’s Fairy Tales Village in Shirakawago, where your dream of dancing in the fairyland do come true!

The Rare Villages of Shirakawago

Shirakawago (白川乡, “White River Old-District,” originally named as Shirakawa-gō) is in Gifu Prefecture, where in central Japan. The hidden villages surrounded by the rugged high-mountain which on the list of places to see before you die and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

To be more precise, this World Heritage Site has three historic mountain villages, Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma, located in Shirakawago and Gokayama.

Traditional gassho-zukuri house in Shiarakawago, Gifu
Traditional gassho-zukuri house in Shiarakawago, Gifu

It is best known for its triangle-shaped houses. It’s gassho style farmhouse which the steep roofs resemble praying hands or lovely gingerbread houses coated in white icing.

Each roof of gassho-zukuri style farmhouse in Shirakawago only last up to 30 years and required up to 100 villagers to preserve the thatch. Why they build these cumbersome and unique architectural farmhouses? This is because Shirakawago is designated as a heavy snow area.

Modern-style house in Shirakawago
Modern-style house in Shirakawago

Shirakawago is the top place to go when traveling in Japan. It is not just for me, it also the same for countless tourists who travel to Japan. Realistic scenes are more fairy tale than photos, making me proud of myself because I chose to come here. Also, I could cross off the wish of traveling to a fairytale village in the bucket list of my life.

It sounds like a super touristy place. Yes, it is. Everyone wants to visit here for crossing off their bucket list (Just kidding). However, there were only a few tourists here, because the time I’ve been there was evening and has not snowed.

Shirakawa-gō in Autumn
Shirakawa-gō in Autumn

Although it took 4 hours ride by bus from Yamanashi, it was definitely worth it. And I recommended you stay overnight and bring your fairy tale dress to take awesome Instagram photos.

Why Is Shirakawago A Must Visit Place in Japan?

In the past, it was just secret villages until listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995. Since then, increasingly tourists flow to this village, and now it is a very touristy place during peak season.

Culture close up to traditional life of Shirakawago
Culture close up to traditional life of Shirakawago

The traditional way of life and the ancient architectural style of Shirakawago remain and make these villages special. Another special feature is that no nails or metal materials were used to build the farmhouses. Using the ingenious structure of combining wood, and only fixed with ropes and wooden branches. The farmhouses have been through hundreds of years of heavy snow.

Such a rich cultural village attracted 1.8 million visitors each year, which is also the first choice for winter in Japan.

Note: Smoke only in designated areas. Love the nature, your cigarette butt will set fire to the thatched roof and destroy the beauty.

Things to Do in Shirakawago

Traditional farm life of Shirakawago villages
Traditional farm life of Shirakawago villages

1. Shirakawago Light-Up Event

The dates of the Shirakawago Light-Up Event are different every year. The six times of Shirakawago Light Up in 2019 are from 17:30 to 19:30 on 14Jan, 20Jan, 27 Jan, 3Feb, 11 Feb and 17Feb, which have been announced on Jul 2018.

This is the hottest to do in Shirakawago village, so you know that if you want to stay overnight, there are fully booked according to their website. But don’t be sad, you can still visit this wonderland on day time.

*Important Notes:
– It’s important to note that starting in 2019, each visitor must make a reservation on their website to gain access to these villages.

The reservation system is made to protect the natural environment from pollution and traffic congestion in the tourism industry. Japanese are truly good at protecting their natural wealth.

2. Observation Area

Panorama view of Shirakawago
Panorama view of Shirakawago

If you come to Shirakawago, you must go one of the observation areas, Tenshukaku Observatory at Castle Keep or Ogi-machi Castle Ruin observation area to have a fantastic panorama view of Shirakawago village. It is free entry and notes that Ogi-mahi Castle is closed in winter.

1. Wada House

Wada House (和田家) is the oldest and biggest gassho style house in Shirakawago was built around 1800.

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
Admission Fee: Adult ¥300, Children ¥150

2. Myozenji Temple Museum

Myozenji in Myozenji Temple Museum, Shirakawago
Myozenji in Myozenji Temple Museum, Shirakawago

The known of Myozenji Temple Museum (明善寺乡土馆) is Myozenji, built in 1748. The other is 5-story gassho style building in Shirakawago. This is a temple kitchen built in 1817, you can clearly see how the building is stabilized with rope and the ancient cooking way.

5-story temple kitchen in Myozenji Temple Museum, Shirakawago
5-story temple kitchen in Myozenji Temple Museum, Shirakawago
Traditional farming way of Shirakawago
Traditional farming way of Shirakawago

 

Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:00 (Apr to Nov), 09:00 – 16:00 (Dec to Mar)
Admission Fee: Adult ¥300, Children ¥100

3. Tajima House Museum of Silk Culture

In the past, silk farming was one of Shirakawago’s key industry. The Tajima House is also a gassho style building and dedicated to reviving the traditional silk farming. 

Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:00 (Apr to Nov), 09:00 – 16:00 (Dec to Mar)
Admission Fee: 12 years and older ¥200, no charge for children

4. Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum

If you have limited time in here, Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum has nine gassho style houses for you to explore. Taste a sake ice cream and learning about their history and culture of Shirakawago villages. 

Opening Hours: 08:40 – 17:00 (Mar to Nov), 09:00 – 16:00 (Dec to Feb)
Admission Fee: Adult ¥600, Children ¥400

5. Ogi-machi Park Rest Area “Yururi”

Considered as a gift to the village because it is free of charge for you to rest area for you. Facilities are toilets, auto water supply equipment, breastfeeding, baby changing room, Wifi, and Wheelchair. 

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:00

6. Former Fujisaka Residence Rest Area

Another free of charge rest house. A tatami room, a baby changing and breastfeeding space free for you to rest, but no facility provided. 

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:00

Note: The latest admission fees and opening hours on Shirakawago Village Official Website

Best Time to Visit Shirakawago

Deai-Bashi Suspension Bridge in Shirakawago, less tourists during non-peak season
Deai-Bashi Suspension Bridge in Shirakawago, less tourists during non-peak season

If I live in Japan, I wish to visit Shirakawago in all four seasons. Beautiful cherry blossoms in spring; golden rice fields in summer; colorful villages in autumn; fairytale romance in winter.

Of course, most visitors want to find their fairytale romance at Shirakawago. So, it is the peak season and it might not as romantic as you think because of too much tourists in the same season. For me, I would say that regardless of the season you go, look at it with your eyes, not your camera. There must be some places has fewer tourists somewhere around

View from Deai-Bashi Suspension Bridge in Shirakawago
View from Deai-Bashi Suspension Bridge in Shirakawago

I didn’t choose to go on the winter season as I leave it for my next trip to this wonderful place. I visited in between autumn and winter season. Anyway, it was still beautiful.


The peak hours from 15:00 to 17:00. If you are not following a tour like me, you should come earlier as the last bus to catch up is 17:00 as well.

How to Go to Shirakawago from Tokyo

Bring your fairy tale dress for your Instagram photo
Bring your fairy tale dress for your Instagram photo

1. Fastest Way to Get There by Train and Bus

Take Hokuriku-Shinkansen line from Tokyo Station to Toyama Station
Train Fare: ¥25,460 (2 ways)
Time: 2.1 Hours (1 way)
Travel Tips: Buy JR pass before traveling to Japan – 17,000 for 5 days unlimited use of train

After that, take Nouhi bus from Toyama to Shirakawago
Train Fare: ¥4,420 (2 ways)
Time: 1.50 Hours (1 way)
Timetable: See here

2. Cheapest Way to Get There by Bus only

Take Nouhi Bus from Tokyo to Takayama
Bus fare: ¥12,040 (2 ways)
Time: 5.5 Hours (1 way)
Timetable: See here

After that, take the other Nouhi bus from Takayama to Shirakawago.
Bus fare: ¥4,420 (2 ways)
Time: 1 Hour (1 way)
Timetable: See here

*Important Note:
If you go Shirakawago by bus for light-up event, you must purchase two ways ticket to make to apply for the villages entry pass.

3. Go Shirakawago By Car

Car without snow chains are not allow to enter Shirakawago
Car without snow chains are not allow to enter Shirakawago

You can get the route from Google map, so I only advise the parking fees.
Parking fees: Cars ¥1000, Motorcycles ¥200
Hours: 08:00 – 17:00

Check the latest fee here

*Important Note:
If you are staying in a village, please use the parking lot of your accommodation. Otherwise, public parking will be available at the “Seseragi Park Parking Zone” operated by the village. If you are visiting during the winter, make sure your car is equipped with studless snow tires or snow chains.

Travel Tips in Shirakawago

– If you really hate touristy places, go visit Gokayama (五箇山, “Five Mountains”) in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture instead. Despite Gokayama has 32 gassho-style houses whereas 114 houses in Shirakawago, you can enjoy the peace and explore in this less touristy place. And you can experience papermaking, ancient musical instrument or watch their traditional performance- Kokiriko. Check their light up event over here.

– If you want to stay in Shirakawago villages in the winter, you should book the hotel 3 months in advance or even earlier.

– Wanna see the live camera at Shirakawago village now? Click here

If you don’t like the crowd, go Gokayama instead
If you don’t like the crowd, go Gokayama instead

Time passes so quickly, you literally don’t notice it until it begins to show. So don’t find excuses that you don’t have the time and money. Go on the trip, dance in fairy tale snow place and watch starry star you always dream of. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Set your time and go to Shirakawago or Gokayama.

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