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Shirakawa-go Solo Guide: How to Get there & Day Trip Itinerary

Shirakawa-go is a small village in the Shokawa River Valley in the remote mountains of Gifu Prefecture, in Central Japan. The picturesque village is famous for its steep thatched-roofed farmhouses known as gassho-zukuri (“gassho” means hands meeting in prayer in Japanese), which were designed and built to withstand heavy snowfall during winter.

And it is possible to see Ogimachi, the largest village in Shirakawa-go and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in one day. Many travellers join day tours from Takayama, Kanazawa and Nagoya to spend a day in Shirakawa-go. The benefit of joining a tour is that all the transportation logistics are covered.

But if you are like me, someone who prefers independent travel, it is possible to get to Shirakawa-go on your own from Takayama, Nagoya, Kanazawa, Toyama, and Takaoko.

Follow my guide and find out how to get to Shirakawa-go on your own and learn how you can effectively see the picturesque village by following my Shirakawago day trip itinerary.

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Shirakawago Day Trip: what you need to know

Before jumping on the bus to spend a day in Shirakawa-go, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of tips on how to get around Japan and other travel tips.

Here are a few additional travel tips that you may find useful for your Shirakawago day trip:

  • Shirakawa-go can be visited all year round. Spring is best for cherry blossom. Summer can be fun, too, but it can also be hot. Fall is excellent for fall foliage. And winter is the best time to see the snow-covered thatched roofs Shirakawa-go is famous for. However, not many places are open during the colder months.
  • Luggage lockers are at the back of the bus terminal. There is an actual luggage storage counter in a separate building behind the bus terminal (9am-5pm).
  • Plan your trip to Shirakawa-go around these festivals and events:
    • Shirakawago Winter Light-up (January) – Ogimachi village is lit up for 6 days from 5:30-7:30pm.
    • Doboroku Matsuri Festival (October) – offerings made to the gods of the mountain. See lion dances, traditional folk dancing and try special sake made with melted snow in the region.

How to Get to Shirakawago, Japan

Shirakawa-go can only be accessed by highway buses via cities and towns around Shirakawa-go. Most travellers will start the trip to Shirakawa-go from Takayama, Kanazawa, Toyama, Takaoko or Nagoya.

Highway Buses to/from Shirakawa-go

Takayama – Shirakawago – Kanazawa – Toyama – Takaoka

Nohi Bus, Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus, Kaetsunou Bus, Iruka Kotsu, and Toyama Chihou Tetsudou have similar routes from Takayama to Shirakawa-go (50mins; ¥2,600). A few bus continues to Kanazawa (85 minutes; ¥2600) while other buses go to Toyama (80 minutes; ¥2,400) and Takaoka (100 minutes; ¥2,200).

The complete bus schedule to and from Shirakawa-go is online and also at each bus terminal.

Some highway buses require reservation and some don’t. If you are travelling during high season or want to secure a seat, it is possible to purchase bus tickets online. Or you can always get one at the bus terminal.

Nagoya – Shirakawago – Kanazawa

Gifu Bus, Meitetsu Bus and Hokuriku Railroad (Hokutetsu) Bus have bus routes that travel from Nagoya to Shirakawa-go (2.5 hour; ¥3,400-4,200 depending on the day) and some continue to Kanazawa (50 minutes; ¥2,600).

Check the online bus schedule for this route for more info.

I also took a photo of the bus schedule for Shirakawa-go at the Shirakawa-go Bus Terminal. See below.

Pro tip: Secure an outbound ticket as soon as you arrive. Shirakawa-go is a popular day trip destination and many travellers go in and out of the town each day. Many of the later buses are full pretty early on so make sure to secure a bus ticket for leaving Shirakawa-go if you are only there for the day.

How to Get around Shirakawago on your own

Walking is the way to go when you visit Shirakawa-go. The village is small and completely walkable. Plus, that’s how you can see all the nooks and crannies of the cute village.

There is one transportation option: Observatory Shuttle Bus. The bus stop is south of the Shirakawa-go Bus Terminal and close to Wada House. The hike up to Shiroyama Tenshukaku Observation Deck is not difficult but if you prefer to take a ride up on the shuttle, it costs ¥200.

Shirakawago One Day Trip Summary & Attractions Map

Here is the summary for my Shirakawago itinerary:

  1. Shirakawa Kaido
  2. Gassho-Zukuri Minka-en
  3. Shirakawago Three Houses
  4. Myozenji Temple
  5. Myozenji Museum 
  6. Nagase House
  7. Kanda House
  8. Wooden Walkway
  9. Wada House
  10. Tenshukaku Observation Deck
  11. Ogimachi Castle Observation Deck
  12. Ogimachi Castle Ruins

Below is an interactive map with all the highlights for my Shirakawago itinerary. Red pins are all the must-see attractions during your day trip to Shirakawago while the blue pins are other things to do in Shirakawago if you have more time.

And I organized all these attractions into an efficient itinerary. All you have to do is follow the numbered pins and read the description for each attraction.

Shirakawago 1-Day Itinerary

1. Shirakawa Kaido

When you spend a day in Ogimachi, the largest village in Shirakawa-go, you can see the many unique Japanese thatched-roof farmhouses and barns and where most of them were built about 200-300 years ago. 

And in the middle of Ogimachi village is the old Shirakawa Road, or Shirakawa Kaido. It is said that the road itself has been around since medieval times.

Start the day trip by walking through the main street and soak in the scenery. Many of the traditional farmhouses line the main avenue are souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.

2. Gassho-Zukuri Minka-en

Cross the Ogimachi Suspension Bridge, turn left and walk towards Gassho-Zukuri Minka-en, an open-air museum with 26 buildings on 5.8 hectares, which are part of the Shirakawa-go World Heritage Site Gassho Style Preservation Trust.

Many of these gassho-zukuri houses were relocated from the old Shirakawa Village in order to recreate the mountain village scenery from the past. These buildings include private homes, storehouses, rice mill house, horse stables, barns, watermill, and temple.

And nine of these buildings are designated as important cultural properties and some are open to the public (although some buildings have signs that says closed in winter but was still closed in April).

Follow the signs around the open-air museum to see the historical buildings. Plus, there a few spots that are excellent for photos. See the first photo below.

Address: 2499 Ogimachi, Shirakawa | Hours: 8:40am-5pm (April to November); 9am-4pm; closed Thursdays (December to March) | Admission: ¥600

3. Shirakawago Three Houses

Near the south entrance of Shirakawa-go is the Shirakawa-go Three Houses, also known as gassho-style triplets or the three gassho-zukuri houses of Shirakawago.

At first I wasn’t sure what was so special about the houses. One of them is a restaurant for group tours, one is a souvenir shop and the third one is …I’m not sure?!

But I saw a lot of people standing in the paddy field in front of the three houses taking photos. I went over and took a look myself. When you stand in the middle of the field, you can capture a symmetric photo of the three houses.

And if you google Shirakawago, the three houses are always featured in tourism packages and advertisements. I tried to take one with my tripod but didn’t quite work. Maybe you will have better luck.

Address: Ogimachi, Shirakawa | Hours: 24 hours | Admission: free

4 & 5. Myozenji and Myozenji Museum

Walk past the two-storey Bell Tower Gate and behind it is Myozenji Temple, one of the most important religious sites in Shirakawa-go. This Buddhist centre has been around since 1748 and the main hall is connected to Myozenji Museum, which was previously a residence for the head priest and his family.

To see the museum and temple, enter from the museum. See paintings, everyday household items, and tools for cultivating silkworms within the five-storey building. Then continue down the corridor to the main hall and admire the ornate interior.

Address: 679, Ogimachi, Shirakawa | Hours: 8:30am-5pm | Admission: ¥400

6 & 7. Nagase House & Kanda House

In Shirakawa-go, there are three traditional gassho-zukuri houses open to the public. You can take a glimpse of how people used to live back in the day.

The first one on this itinerary is Nagase House, a family home for doctors for the past 250 years. Tour inside the five-storey thatched house and see the Buddhist altar, arts and crafts and medical instruments.

Next is the Kanda House, a four-storey traditional gassho-style house that was used for silkworm cultivation and sake brewing. It is said that this is also where gunpowder was made under the floor of the house. Take note of the open floor plan with high ceilings and traditional architectural elements like irori fireplace (open hearth).

Address: Ogimachi, Shirakawa-go | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: ¥400 each

8 & 9. Wada House and Wooden Walkway

The third gassho-style house is called Wada House and is located next to the picturesque wooden walkway. This is a popular spot for taking photos.

The Wada House is the largest gassho-zukuri house in Shirakawa-go and it was built in the late Edo Period for the Wada family, who was the largest landowner in Ogimachi. Today, the house is designated as a national important cultural property.

Part of the house is still a residential home. But you can tour the public areas on the first and second floor and see the traditional irori fireplace, Buddhist altar and various farming tools.

Address: Ogimachi, Shirakawa-go | Hours: 9am-5pm | Admission: ¥400

10. Tenshukaku Observation Deck

After roaming around the entire village, walk up the paved road to Tenshukaku Observation Deck and see the village from above. The view is absolutely breathtaking. And depending on the season, you could see cherry blossoms in spring, fall colours during autumn or snow-covered houses in winter.

When you walk up the road, there is a spot next to the castle ruins (which you will see next). But continue walking up around the parking lot. There is a viewing platform tucked between the houses. The left side of the platform is free to visit. The right side is a booth with an area for paid customers for professional photos.

It takes 20 minutes or so to walk up. Or you can take the shuttle bus from the village for ¥200.

11 & 12. Ogimachi Castle – Observation Deck & Ruins

On the way back down to the village, stop by the Ogimachi Castle Observation Deck to see the panoramic view of Ogimachi one more time.

And walk around the Ogimachi Castle Ruins and see the remaining parts of the castle. Originally it was built hundreds of years ago before all the gassho-zukuri houses were built in the valley. But the earthquake in 1585 destroyed most of the structure.

To go back to the Ogimachi valley, either retrace your steps down the paved road or walk down a flight of stone stairway on the other side of the castle ruins; it that will lead you closer to the bus terminal.

Other Things to Do around Shirakawago

Besides all the things to do in Shirakawago in my one day itinerary, there are other things you can check out if you are staying longer. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Shirakawa-no-yu hot spring (7am-9pm; ¥800) – stay overnight or use the hot spring during the day. Bring a towel for day use.
  2. Tajima House Sericulture Museum (9am-4:30pm;¥400) – learn about the history of sericulture (silk farming).
  3. Suganuma (30 minutes, ¥870) – one of the two villages of Gokayama. Visit nine UNESCO gassho-zukuri houses and Gokayama Gassho no Sato. It is not super easy to get to but Suganuma be reached via bus route from Takaoka to Shirakawa-go. Going by car is much easier.
  4. Ainokura (45 minutes, ¥1,300) – the other village of Gokayama. There are 20 UNESCO farmhouses which includes residences, museums, restaurants and guesthouses. Similar to Suganuma, Ainokura be reached via bus route from Takaoka to Shirakawa-go but of course, a car is easiest.

Where to stay in Shirakawa-go by yourself

Staying overnight in a Shirakawa-go minsuku (Japanese-style farmhouse) is one of the most unique things to do. You can experience staying in a traditional farmhouse and have a meal cooked by the host. Search for a farmhouse stay in Shirakawago before you go; make sure you book as early as you can (they fill up quickly).

There are other guesthouses and hotels in Shirakawa-go too, but not many. I found three (tried the first one) in the area that may be worth checking out:

  1. Shirakawa-go Inn ($) – the cheapest accommodation in Shirakawa-go with basic rooms and shared bathroom. They can arrange a pickup and drop-off at the bus terminal if you don’t want to walk.
  2. Curio Shirakawago ($$) – get a modern room with an ensuite bathroom.
  3. Shiroyamakan ($$$) – 4-star hotel across from the Shirakawa-go bus terminal.

What and Where to eat in Shirakawa-go

There are several restaurants, soba noodle places, coffee shops and food outlets scattered around Shirakawa-go. During your day trip, you can find many local specialities including:

  1. Hida Beef – skewers, croquettes or set meals at restaurants
  2. Soba Noodles – hot or cold buckwheat soba noodles by itself or with other toppings
  3. Goheimochi – grilled rice ball with soy sauce

I didn’t have time to enjoy a proper meal in Shirakawa-go but I researched and found these places I wouldn’t mind trying. Note: many of them are open for lunch only. If you stay overnight, there are only a handful of places open or buy food from convenience store near the bus terminal.

  • Shirakawago Restaurant Irori (10am-2pm, 5:30-9pm) – variety of set meals available
  • Shiraogi (?) – variety of food available
  • Zensuke (9:30am-4:15pm) – sell many skewered snacks and drinks
  • Shirakawago Putin no Ie (Pudding House) (10am-4:30pm) – famous place for pudding. They sell out quickly so go early
  • Kyoshu Traditional Coffee Shop (10am-4pm) – get one of the seats along the windows
  • Gassho (9am-4pm) – get Hida beef or soba noodles
  • Hanamizuki Shirakawa (11am-4pm) – local cafe serving soba noodles and desserts

Is Shirakawa-go worth visiting as a solo traveller

I definitely think so especially if you are already travelling around the Chubu region and visiting Takayama, Nagoya, Kanazawa, Toyama, or Takaoko. A day trip to Shirakawa-go is absolutely possible with the efficient bus system from any of these cities.

Plus, you can see many gassho-zukuri farmhouses in this UNESCO town; they are some of the most unique structures in the area.

So if you are considering taking a day trip or even staying overnight in Shirakawa-go, I hope you find this post useful. Let me know in the comments if you visited all these attractions during the day trip and what your favourite part of your day is.

Thank you for reading my Shirakawa-go itinerary

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Japan:

Introduction to Japan

Chubu region

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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