Feb 21, 2017

Shirakawa-go, Japan

We boarded the bus (Gifu Bus) at Meitetsu Bus Center at 9:00am and was expected to reach Shirakawa-go at 11:53am, it took a little longer and we reached Shirakawa-go Bus Terminal 白川郷バスターミナル at around 12:30pm.

Image courtesy of Meitetsu

Located in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is the first place I parked in our Nagoya trip itinerary as it has become an increasingly popular travel destination - I've seen friends posting photos of their trip to Shirakawa-go on Facebook and Instagram back in 2016. It thus became the highlight of our trip this time round and I certainly prayed for a smooth journey there.

Looking out of the bus window on our way up the Gifu mountains and the amount of snow was surely something that reminisce my student exchange experience in Sweden. I was surprised at Kenneth's calmness when he told me that that's his first time seeing snow (well, I would have been overly excited like a little kid if I were him).

The moment I alighted, I regretted that I was pretty underdressed for this harsh weather - merely a long sleeve T-shirt underneath my winter jacket, a pair of gloves, a pair of jeans and a single pair of socks underneath my usual pair of shoes, and it's −2°C.

Pickup point for Tenshukaku Observatory

We started walking southwards and realized there's this spot that people are queuing, and of course, it's the pickup point for the observatory. We boarded and paid ¥200 fare when we alighted at the Tenshukaku Observatory 天守閣展望台.

The view of the village from the observatory was simply mesmerizing.

There's a professional photographer there who helps to take photos of you with her DSLR and your camera(s) as well. The photos are immediately printed at the back and you can buy them if you wish to.

There's a canteen and souvenir store at the observatory so since we needed shelter from the cold we went in to have lunch and buy souvenirs.

Tempura udon @ ¥700

飛騨手造り工房 ぜん
We didn't have much time in Shirakawa-go as we needed to depart for Takayama on the same day itself, so we took the shuttle bus back down to check out the village.

We would probably stay till night time if there were illumination display event, which was only available from late January to early February, so obviously we've missed it.

Gifu is very well known for their Hida Beef 飛騨牛, a kind of beef from black-haired Japanese cattle breed, raised for at least 14 months.

We bought a 飛騨牛まん (Hida Beef Bun) from a store called ぜん (Zen), it was pretty good.
And basically anything warm will just cheer you up under this kind of weather. XD

飛騨牛まん @ ¥450


Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine 白川八幡神社 is a Shinto shrine which was barely noticeable due to the abundance of snow, due south from the bus terminal. It makes walking towards the shrine a chore because some of its paths are slippery - Kenneth almost slipped a few times. The surroundings of it really look very different from how they are in other non-snowing seasons.

Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine 白川八幡神社

Check out how thick the snow was.

Nodaniya House お宿 のだにや
Apparently, one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama, featuring their gasshō-zukuri-styled minka houses (合掌造り民家).

We've seen some but not many, as we didn't explore further into the deeper regions due to time constraint and again, the snow. Basically we walked along the Shirakawa Highway, or in other words, the town of Ogimachi 荻町.

As we stepped on some snow, we expected the inside of our shoes to be wet, but it was so cold that our feet and toes were too numb to feel it.

I changed to my 35-100mm lens after having the beef bun and after visiting the shrine I wanted to change back to my 12-32mm lens but was so reluctant to do it because it was just too cold that I refused to get my hands out of the jacket.

It's about time and we had to head back to the bus terminal for the 3:15pm bus (Nohi Bus) to Takayama. No reservation is required for the Shirakawa-go⇔Takayama highway bus journey so we just need to queue up and show our Shoryudo highway bus open ticket without a seat reservation ticket.

There was already a pretty long queue when we reached the bus terminal, we weren't able to board the first Nohi Bus but fortunately they prepared a second one for the remaining passengers in the queue.

Being a paranoid who's always burdening himself with possible unforeseen scenarios of disastrous unrecoverable events like missing flight/train/bus and having no place to stay over etc, I boarded the bus, sat down and felt very grateful that everything went well as planned, that we will have slightly sufficient time to walk around Takayama and be able to depart for Nagoya from Takayama at 7pm as we already reserved the tickets for that. Thank God.

For more photos, please check out my photo album Shirakawa-go, Japan on Facebook.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

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