A stop over in Shiragawa-go is a must on anyones trip to Japan. An ideal route that is popular for many travellers is the circle trip that takes you from Osaka to Takayama to Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa to Osaka. You can do this in either direction by train or bus or a combination of both, bare in mind though that the bus will get you closer to the World Heritage Listed Gassho houses in Shirakawa-go.
Day 43 – April 15th, 2014 continued.
The bus ride is only 50 minutes from Takayama and we are soon arriving at Shirakawa-go. As you drive in to the village you can see the World Heritage Listed Gassho-zukuri houses with their distinctive high pitched thatched A frame roofs.
“A stop over in Shiragawa-go is a must on anyones trip to Japan”
We get off the bus and head directly over the bridge to the main Gassho house area. We have four hours here and want to make the most of it. There are plenty of people around but not over crowded which is a little surprising but good.
“The Gassho houses in Shirakawa-go is world heritage listed”
We stroll through the village in and out of shops on the way past these thatched houses. You can understand why this area is a world heritage listed, they simply don’t make these houses anymore and have had to protect the area from being changed to more modern homes a good thing really as it certainly is a wonderful place.
We walk along the road to the lookout which takes about 20 minutes, past more thatched A frame houses as the road makes it’s gradual way up.
“The view at the top is often the scene for many postcards and promotional media”
We have our picnic up here and watch many people come and go jostling for the best shot of the village below.
You can get caught up taking so many photos of this place, different angles, sunlight, snow capped mountains, the list goes on and I have to stop myself from constantly snapping away we pick our moment and snap ours then it’s the stroll back down.
“I take a look from inside the Gassho house”
Moni treats herself to an ice cream and sits with some Japanese ladies on a bench while I pop into one of the Gassho houses to see how one looks from the inside.
The place is smoky from the fire that they have lit to keep the house warm and the smoke really stings the eyes at first but after a while you get used to it.
This house has the three floors which I go up via some stairs and have a look around, the place is huge and the steep roof makes for plenty of space, it is very dark inside and almost everything looks like it has a smoked, charred appearance to it.
Back down and I’m ushered around to another corridor that leads to a shrine, back here it is very cold, I can see why they are heating the place at the front, you would struggle to live back here without any form of heating.
The shrine is very nice and I make a couple of photos but don’t hang around for long… Back out to Moni for some fresh air and sunshine.
Next we stroll back along another road and past shops some before heading back over the bridge towards the bus stop where we have time for a look around before we decide to wait at the bus stop for our 4.30 Nohi bus that will take us to Kanazawa.
The bus is on time and we take our seats for the hour and a half drive to Kanazawa, we pass through tunnel after tunnel as we meander our way past the scenery as the sun begins to fall behind the snow capped mountains.
“On route to Kanazawa”
Kanazawa station is our destination and we arrive on time. Getting off we head or the information center to ask about how to best get to our accommodation and to get a map. I’m immediately in awe of the station building and take a few photos as it is very different.
“Our stay at Murataya Ryokan in Kanazawa”
With instructions in our head we catch a bus for a few stops and alight at the where we were told to and from there it’s only short walk till we find our Ryokan…
On entry we immediately remove our shoes which is common practice in Japan, check in is easy and after a quick tour we end up in our room. Two nice futons, tea, biscuits, dressing gowns, towels, etc. oh this is very nice and comfortable.
We dump our gear and head out for a meal, not knowing where to go we just wander and look around. Passing a few places that are all empty, strange as its 7.15pm prime dinner time.
“We follow a young bloke for a few minutes to a restaurant”
A young man hits us up with an iPad displaying food and drinks, prices etc, after a few minutes we are on our way following this bloke to a restaurant that fortunately is not far away, we end up down some ally in a very cosy warm restaurant.
The same guy takes our order and soon two beers arrive. Kampai, a complimentary plate of cooked beans for appetiser, followed not long by our order, a small plate of tofu and pork mince in a slightly spicy sauce, very tasty indeed.
Then a bowl of Ramen, with prawns, mushrooms garlic snow peas was delicious and we both said we could eat another bowl, but we didn’t and after we sat and finished our beers, we were both full.
On paying the bill we see that the beers were discounted, maybe we didn’t quite get that when he was talking to us before we decide to go along with him, anyway happy days. We stroll back home which was only about ten minutes.
“Back at the Ryokan we have a thermos full of hot water”
Ready there for us and we pour a pot of green tea which is enjoyed with our biscuits. Then its off for a shower/bath.
Most baths in Japan are shared, not mixed but shared, not individual. This one has three showers with small plastic stools that are only about 10 inches off the ground that you sit on and soap up and wash, then you rinse off before you can enter the bath.
“HOT HOT HOT… holly cow was the water hot”
Bloody hell, I could only manage it for a minute and even then only my legs, it was almost scolding. Apparently this is normal in Japan but for me it was way too hot, Moni managed to get submerged but only for a few minutes, she was very pink after, believe me.
Once you have finished in the bath you can shower off again if you wish or go into another area where you dry off and use the hair dryers and get changed into the robes.
That was all the excitement for today and we were both happy for a nice bed. Shirakawago is very picturesque and well worth a stop over on your way to Kanazawa or Takayama depending on your route. A great world heritage site that’s free to visit, make sure to add it to your bucket list of places to see.