Picture postcard beautiful and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago is stunning village hidden in an isolated valley in the far north of Gifu Prefecture.
Instantly recognizable by the steeply sloped, thatched roofs of the traditional wooden houses that dot the landscape. Far from being just an attractive design, these specially crafted roofs are an important part of their construction and this unique architectural style is known as Gassho-zukuri, literally “prayer hands” style.
Shirakawa-go, and the nearby village of Gokayama, receive a great deal of snow throughout winter, so the steeply angled roofs are essential to help them shed snow so that they don’t collapse under the weight. Repairing one of these roofs is difficult so the whole village will pitch in, making it a real community event.
You can even go inside some of the houses, which might contain gift shops or cafes and experience the interesting architecture from within.
Indeed it is the sight of these houses, covered in a thick white blanket, that attracts the most visitors but actually they are breathtaking throughout the year. Looking down over Shirakawa-go from above during spring or summer, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a village straight out of a fantasy novel.
Both Shirakawa-go and Gokayama sit along the Sho River and Shirakawa-go’s famous footbridge over the river is a wonderful sight, if slightly slippery in winter! Gokayama still receives much fewer tourists that Shirakawa-go allowing for more peaceful exploring.
Other Great Tours include: