Winter in Japan: Why you should visit Shirakawago

Winter in Japan: why you should visit Shirakawago

If you want to experience amazing winter scenery in Japan, you need to visit Shirakawago. Shirakawago is in Japan’s mountainous Gifu Prefecture. Gifu is located in the center of Japan, and it has many popular tourist attractions, bringing visitors from all over the world. Gifu is famous for its hot spring, historical streets, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa’s historic village. The historical village in snow was the prettiest scenery I had ever seen. In my opinion, winter is the best season to visit Shirakawago. Through this article you will find out what to expect and where to explore the neighborhood.

What to Expect

Shirakawago winter

Shirakawago is a beautiful historic village, and it is actually one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. They are famous for their traditional farmhouses, and some of them are more than 250 years old. Their houses are known for their “prayer hands construction” style, which resembles the A-frame roofs as if hands join for prayer. This design helps the snow slide off easily. The winter scenery with all those houses is out of a fairytale, and every photo you take will be a piece of art.

How to Go

From Tokyo to Shirakawago

Tokyo to Shirakawago

From Osaka to Shirakawago

Osaka to Shirakawago

If you want to travel from either Tokyo or Osaka, it might be easiest to go to Nagoya first by either a bullet train or a highway bus. Then take a bus from Nagoya to Shirawakago. From Nagoya it usually takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to arrive in Shirakawago.

What to Prepare

Shirakawago winter

I visited Shirakawago in January, and temperatures were cold and skies were cloudy. It snowed while we stayed and the road became icy. Be mindful if you are planning to drive around. Although the weather was not ideal, the place was crowded with many tourists. Due to the fairytale landscape, winter is the most popular season to visit Shirakawago. Make sure you dress warm and take care of your steps during the snowy day. If you want no crowds at all, I would recommend visiting around 9AM. It usually gets crowded with tourists by the afternoon.

As temperatures vary, depending on the season in Shirakawago, you should definitely check the forecast beforehand to decide when to visit.  Here are the temperatures for each season. I hope you find it useful.

  • Spring: 9°C to 22°C
  • Summer: 18°C to 31°C
  • Fall: 9°C to 20°C
  • Winter: -5°C to 3°C

What to Eat

Hida beef skewer in Shirakawago

There are several shops selling old-fashioned Japanese sweets and the local food. My favorite local food is mitarashi dango and rice crackers.  I definitely recommend you try mitarashi dango (skewered rice balls covered with soy sauce and sugar), rice crackers, and Hida beef skewer. The shops in the area are typically open daily from 11AM to 5PM.

Where to explore (neighborhood)

Takayama Old Town

If you are in Shirakawago, you also want to visit Takayama Old Town. The town reminds me of Gion, Kyoto but I like Takayama more because many shops have been running their business for hundreds of years, and it makes you feel you were back in their older times. Plus it is less crowded than Kyoto. The village is well preserved, and the buildings here are like the ones you see in old Japanese dynasty movies. It’s like heaven for people who are big history buffs or simply love to take pictures.  While admiring the old wooden architecture and historical streets, you will encounter lots of nice restaurants, which serve grilled Hida beef, ramen, sushi, ice cream, and many more appetizing treats!!  There are many gift shops for souvenirs as well.  It is a beautiful street to stroll while you eat delicious local food.

I hope this article is helpful for your future travels to Shirakawago. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! 🙂


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