Shirakawa - a top Japanese destination

By Murray Bourne, 02 Sep 2007

Shirakawa (白川) was the best place I visited during the 4 years that I lived in Japan. It is in Gifu prefecture, about 100km north of Nagoya. 'Shirakawa' means 'white river'.

We drove from Nagoya in a hired car, arriving after dark. (Driving in Japan always takes much longer than you expect). After checking in to one of the ryokans (inns), we enjoyed an excellent traditional Japanese dinner.

The gassho-style houses of Shirakawa are unique to this village. They have thatched roofs with equilateral triangle A-frame crossbeams. (Gassho means 'praying hands' - hence the name).

The smoke from cooking fires in the middle of large downstairs rooms invaded the large upper attic area, giving an ancient, rustic feel.

After a good sleep (on futon with a rock-hard pillow), we were greeted the next morning by a cold, foggy and eerie silence. What a great atmosphere! I ran around and took a lot of photos:

Shirakawa, Japan. Gassho-style houses.

I especially liked Shirakawa because it was low-key and actually felt authentic. Some of these building are over 300 years old.

The fog lifted around 9:00 am, giving us a delightfully sunny day:

Shirakawa, Japan. Gassho-style house.

This stooped o-baachan (grandma) was about 1m high and busily cleaned the front of her traditional house, oblivious to me:

Shirakawa, Japan. An o-baachan cleaning her gassho house

A short walk takes you to a lookout. This view won't have changed much in 300 years. Unfortunately, there are power lines everywhere, but you get that all over Japan.

Shirakawa - a top Japan destination

There are regular bus routes to Shirakawa, but no trains.

Returning to Nagoya, we spent some time at the 500 year-old Nagoya-jyou (???? - Nagoya Castle).

Nagoya Castle

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