BEAUTIFUL SHIRAKAWA-GO AND CENTRAL JAPAN IN THE WINTER
February 26, 2020
The image of Japan in winter is straight to Shirakawa-go. This beautiful village is unique in the form of high-roofed wooden houses that resemble two praying hands called Gassho Style. Since 200 years ago, it was made like that because of the large amount of snow falling in the village surrounded by mountains, so this uniqueness also entered into the UNESCO Heritage Site.
I have visited Shirakawa-go twice in the winter, the first time in 2010. Even though it is getting more crowded, this village still looks beautiful. When it was snowing thickly, the village was seen as only a triangular building. The rest was only white from the roof to the streets and trees. When the sun is shining brightly, the snow on the straw roof slowly slides down.
To see the interior of the Gassho house and the family life that lives, you can go to Kanda House, Wada House, and Nagase House. Those who like museums can go to Myozenji Temple and Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum. If you want to see the whole village from a height, just walk about 20 minutes or take the shuttle bus from the bus terminal to the Observatory.
Shirakawa-go can be reached from the city of Nagoya or Osaka, but there are still many other beautiful destinations in Central Japan that can be traversed as well. My advice, to save on transportation costs, just buy the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) type “Takayama-Hokuriku Tourist Pass”. The price is 14,260 Yen valid for five consecutive days and can take unlimited trains/buses starting from Nagoya, Shirakawa-go, Kanazawa, Fukui, Kyoto, to Osaka and Kansai Airport. Very worth it!
In order not to bother going anywhere other than Shirakawa-go, I recommend this unique destination and activity and can be used as a reference for making the itinerary:
To enjoy the modern architecture of the city of Nagoya, just go directly to Oasis 21, which is connected with the Nagoya TV Tower. The shopping center building is unique, an oval-shaped roof made of glass and filled with water! We can go to the roof to look at the city from above while looking at the ice skating rink below. Also read: WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN
Instead, go to Nagoya Castle to enjoy its ancient architecture. Nagoya Castle is owned by the Tokugawa Shogunate, which was built in 1610 and has been reconstructed many times. Its uniqueness is on the roof of the building, which has a mystical statue in the form of a tiger head with a gold-coated fish so that it sparkles from a distance. Don’t forget to walk in the surrounding park. In winter, plums (ume) bloom like cherry blossoms.
Takayama Old Town, when it snows, it feels like an old Japanese movie setting! Along the way, there are traditional buildings made of black wood built during the Edo period (1600-1868). Although now it has become a commercial area in the form of shops, cafes, museums, and galleries, the originality is very well maintained. What is famous from Takayama is its sake, which is sold in several stores. When it’s winter, you should try the hot sake!
The famous souvenir from Takayama is the Sarubobo or the Japanese talisman doll. Don’t be afraid. This cute doll is made of cloth. They believe the pink Sarubobo can launch a match, black to improve social status, yellow to improve finances, and others. We can learn to make it in class for 30 minutes at Hida Takayama Town Experience Center.
Hotel Recommendations: Associa Takayama Resort – This hotel surrounded by mountains has its own onsen with several outdoor pools that we can even rent private onsen. The buffet dinner at Roriere Restaurant reserved dozens of delicious foods, especially the steaks.
It feels like everyone likes tulips. Although famous for coming from the Netherlands, but in Japan, the center is in the Tonami Tulip Gallery. The good news, they are open all year long, including winter! In addition to displaying thousands of colorful tulips, here we can learn the history of tulips and inter-tulip interbreeding research, which took decades to create a new species.
In the center of Toyama city itself, there is Kansui Park, which surrounds a beautiful canal and lake. Maybe because of the view, there is Starbucks that is predicted as the most beautiful Starbucks in the world. But for me, it’s lovely at night when the fountain and decorative lights are lit in the middle of the lake.
The main destinations in Kanazawa are Kanazawa Castle (castle of the Maeda Clan in 1580-1871, which was used as the University in 1945-1989) and especially Kenroku Garden, which is located right next to it. The park is indeed incredible with a beautiful arrangement, calm water lake, and surrounded by old trees wrapped in ropes to protect it from the heavy snow. In order to feel like in imperial times, I took part in the tea ceremony at Gyokusen’s Rest House. I was served matcha (green tea) and wagashi (sweet mochi) by mothers in kimono.
Those who like to go to traditional markets must go to Omicho Market because this market sells a variety of seafood, especially crabs! You can eat fresh seafood in any restaurant located in the market. My recommendation is Ichi No Kura Restaurant.
Kanazawa is famous for its gold leaf, which has been produced since the 16th century. Just visit the old town of Higashi Chaya District to shop for various crafts decorated with gold leaves, all-round cosmetics containing gold, or eat gold-coated ice cream. I tried it, and it’s like eating tissue. Hehe! But if you want to buy souvenirs in the form of Kanazawa specialties, such as various mochi, you can buy them at Kanazawa Station.
Hotel Recommendation: The Square Kanazawa – Loves the interior design of the rooms with wooden floors. The breakfast is one of the best in a Japanese hotel because it is made a la carte plus a variety of fresh leafy salads plus an amazingly delicious caramel pudding.
The most beautiful natural reserve in Fukui is in Tojinbo, which has a cliff along 1 km on the coast with a height of 30 meters above sea level. Interestingly, some of the rock cliffs are pentagonal and hexagonal due to seawater erosion in the tens of millions of years ago. When the weather is sunny, Tojinbo looks very beautiful against the background of the sea and blue sky.
But Fukui is famous for its dinosaurs to the point where the city is decorated with dinosaurs! Why is that? Because Fukui is the largest dinosaur grave in Japan! Yes, dinosaurs used to live here until there were five special species, including Fukuisaurus and Fukuiraptor. All of its fossils, bones, and history can be seen directly at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. This museum is really cool because it displays various dinosaurs with their original size, it even looks alive because it can move! Uniquely, the food at Dino Cafe was in the form of dinosaurs, like burger buns and cakes.
A unique activity at Fukui is learning to weave at Yume Ole Katsuyama Textile Factory Memorial Hall. This place used to be a former factory for making silk fabrics from cocoons to caterpillars but has been turned into a museum. We learn to weave from yarn using the tools provided. Not bad, I finally managed to make a coaster.
Fukui also has an Old Town to explore that is Monzen Machi. It is referred to as “Temple Town” because it is actually a pilgrimage center centered at Eiheiji Temple. Here it is typically not an old building, but a line of tall old trees along the river bank. The atmosphere is calm, peaceful, and when it snows, it creates a magical impression.