GIFU & SHIRAKAWAGO TRAVEL GUIDE IN WINTER!
The past one month has not been the best for my health and I have no one to blame but me (I guess?), two days ago when I was in Bali marked the third time me being hospitalized in one month and all for the same reason: utter exhaustion! Lucky that I managed to survive the second one just before my Japan trip otherwise I wouldn't go and experienced the beautiful white Winter in Japan! The trip was something that I highly grateful for: it was my first ever snow experience and the whole time was such a bliss, and now that I already regain a little energy to finish all the picture edits, I am going to start my latest Japan Winter travel diary, and going to kick it off with my Gifu & Shirakawago experience!
Shirakawa-go is a small village that's nestled among the Shogawa river in Gifu area and truth be told, has been around for a long time, decades maybe to the point where UNESCO awarded Shirakawago as one of the appointed World Heritage Sites, but for the past few months, I have noticed more and more people posted about this place on social media (particularly Instagram) and it appeared to be just charming even from my phone screen and you can almost felt how cold it was! Knowing that this was going to be one of the destinations of the tour just couldn't make me feel happier! I have been dreaming about this and at that moment it was just days away!
I will put a more complete transportation information at the end of this post so if you're only interested in reading that scroll to the end of this post.
JAKARTA -> NAGOYA -> GIFU/SHIRAWAKA-GO
I flew Cathay Pacific (red-eye flight) from Jakarta (Soekarno-Hatta International Airport) to Hong Kong (Hong Kong International Airport) then had a four hour layover before taking another flight from HKIA to Nagoya (Nagoya Centrair Chubu Airport). The flight was very enjoyable, and the business cabin flight was occupied with flatbed seat that's always a plus! Might blog about the independent flight experience and that's for another post.
Chilling at The Pier - Cathay Pacific's First Class Lounge, seriously did not feel like 4 hours, the whole time felt like I was just in my house doing what I usually do: take a bath, drinking coffee, browsing the internet only this time *ahem* fancier.
I highly suggest you guys taking bus from Nagoya to Shirakawa-go, even better that you guys book the day tour package with lunch included and I'll provide the complete details below! The bus ride should depart from Nagoya Station and should cost around 2 hours road journey via highway, but mine stopped at Gifu for around 30 minutes to go to the Gujo-Hachiman where I experienced the food dummy production, almost like a factory but in a house. Here I made my own mini fruit tart wax keychain as souvenir to bring home!
Had just around 5 minutes to go around the Gujo-Hachiman so me, Anaz and Sierin quickly took some decent OOTD snaps here (and the mild snow was falling at that time).
I have never seen nor surrounded by that much white in my entire life almost like snow queen exploded, throughout the bus ride the scenery was literally everything covered with thick snow and was so pleasing to the eye. I sat by the window alone and secretly opened the bus window a bit to have the chill air in. Lucky for us, it was the thickest snow fall recorded after years, we might be seriously freezing all the time but I'd rather be in somewhere cold rather than hot.
During Winter the day hours in Japan is shortened and by 4:30 PM it started to get dark. Arrived there around 3 PM-ish so we had just around 1,5 hours to go around and shoot, and boy first things first I have to let you know that YOU SHOULD NOT BE UNDERDRESSED when travelling in Japan during Winter, when I was travelling to Seoul back in the Fall the weather could reach down to 0 degree celcius and I felt like I still can survive with whatever that was on me back then, but this time was different, the weather was about -3 degree that time in Shirakawago but it was like 1,5 times colder than Seoul! It might seem like a short number transition but seriously it was REALLY COLD to the point where my nose was red all the time and my ears felt like they're continuously stung by a bee.
We weren't supposed to go to Shirakawago on the second day but reports appeared to surface that the snow was falling super hard in Takayama that on that day a lot of transportation schedules had to be cancelled including ours. I knew it was going to be extremely cold so I prepared the whole thing but I accidentally left one very essential accessories: GLOVES! Seriously guys a pair of warm gloves is everything, and I found that it can help you survive way more than not wearing long john and it affected me a lot while taking photos because my hands couldn't stand too long outside, but again everybody reacts to cold in different ways and I was purely telling you guys how I felt that time.
I will write about the complete Japan Winter travel guide on a separated post, what you have to prepare and more and I'll prioritize that so that I can upload that as soon as possible in this blog!
Arrived in Shirakawago, greeted by this view and heavier snow fall! Call me dramatic but I seriously almost shed a tear because it was too beautiful :')
PS: go to the tourist information center and ask for an English map
We stayed in Shirakawago for around 1,5-2 hours that day and it was a day trip so we didn't stay overnight, because I was on tour then I had to follow the itinerary but if you travel here solo, I would suggest that you guys go here earlier because by 5 PM. Make sure you guys know where your buses park because on that day ours weren't allowed to stay where it dropped us and luckily we got our tour guide with us because if not then I would be totally lost and panicking (even worse when you know no one and in a situation that cold). Considering not every traveller is fearless, that's why I think it's a lot more comfortable and safer that you book a day tour and have someone to guide you around.
But to be frank I think it would be all safe if you just follow where the crowd goes, because everything was covered with snow including the signage that might miss, my route was basically all straight with a right turn to reach the iconic Shirakawago bridge with Shogawa river (or should I say ice river) flowing below.
The main attraction in Shirakawago has got to be the Wada House in Ogimachi village which was this Gassho-zukuri style farmhouses which has been surviving for around 250 years and now functioned as a museum to preserve the culture value and prevent them from destruction, my tour guide told me a brief story about the Wada House which previously owned by the Wada Family aka the wealthiest family in Omigachi village at that time. Another interesting tourist attraction here in Shirakawago is the Shiroyama viewpoint, unfortunately we barely had time to go (again another reason to come earlier and to actually stay overnight).
Gassho style farmhouses, the word 'Gassho' means 'hands together' as in forming the hands of prayer, the shape of the roof holds the snow perfectly as you can see on the photo below and underneath the roof was the attic where they house silkworms.
Randomly found a great photo spot as we were strolling around. I seriously haven't been ultra excited about branches my whole life, as simple as random tree branches with snow on it seemed like the most beautiful thing a first timer like me has ever seen.
Anaz was my favorite subject to shoot throughout the trip, I mean look at how well composed she is, and being the top fashion blogger in Indonesia she defo knows how to strike poses! Do read and follow her blog -> BROWNPLATFORM.COM, can't wait to read entries on this trip on her blog.
Even looks so stunning yet vibey in black and white!
It's almost an entertainment to see great amount of snow falling on people's cars!
I was too excited with picture taking to the moment where I saw this big group in front of me and realized that my group was nowhere to be found, luckily back to my initial plan, just keep straight and follow where everyone else's heading but remember to turn right if you're heading to the bus parking area!
Me with Susan and Adam from PergiDulu, they own an awesome travel blog that you should follow as well!!! PERGIDULU.COM
The lighting here made selfies so chio!
The iconic bridge connecting the path to the exit and bus parking area.
Credit to Sierin for this shot!
As we didn't stay overnight in Shirakawago, we headed to Takayama and our home was BestWestern hotel Takayama which was pretty comfy, room wasn't too big (Japan standard) but the bed was soft and throughout the trip I didn't even turn on the AC and prefer to open the window a bit and have the cold night breeze in! That night in Takayama was SUPER COLD!!!
When in Takayama, eat HIDA BEEF! Might cost you a little fortune to have this (usually ranging around 5000 yen/100 gr) but seriously worth it! Had this at the hotel's restaurant and it was pretty good! Didn't ask specific temperature preference but they managed to serve me a beautiful medium steak that melt in your mouth, prolly barely waste any calorie cutting the steak! It was THAT tender.
So many of you recommended me to go to Kitchen Hida for the best Hida beef steak in Takayama, unfortunately no chance to go but I will defo go back here, make that a reason to come back.
The dinner that night was a set course with salad and pumpkin soup to start then followed by the steak and dessert, I found it a bit unique that they actually served the steak with choice of rice/potato LOL.
The delicious Hida beef, a special name given to the beef that's breed and raised in Gifu prefecture!
GETTING TO SHIRAKAWAGO/GIFU/TAKAYAMA
GIFU BUS // WEBSITE
Departing from Nagoya Station by 9 AM to Shirakawago and return from Shirakawago by 3:35 PM
Ticket fare: 3.600 yen (one way)
JR RAIL PASSES
JR Takayama-Hokuriku tourist passes, 5 consecutive days for 14.000 yen (adults) // 6.750 yen (children)
Unlimited rides on buses convenient for visiting World Heritage Site (Shirakawago/Gokayama) and the Hokuriku Shinkansen running between Kanazawa and Toyama.
More info: http://touristpass.jp
Recommended bus tour: MEITETSU KANKO BUS DAY TOUR // WEBSITE
Price: 8.000 yen (adult) // 7.000 yen (children aged 2 to 11), infants are not allowed to participate
Reservation is REQUIRED by 12 PM one day before departure
Phone: 052-582-2896 or visit this link for direct reservation page
Upcoming tour dates for March 2017: 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
Departing from: Nagoya Station Meitetsu Bus Center 4F by 8:10 AM! Don't be late Japanese people are super punctual.
Facilities included: Wi-Fi and all you can eat lunch
Nohi Bus from Takayama Station (50 minute bus ride) // WEBSITE
Ticket fare: 2.400 yen (one way)
If you have flexible budget to spend on Taxi then you can book your ride from:
Miyagawa Taxi Tour -> WEBSITE
Hato Taxi Tour -> WEBSITE
Nohi Bus - departs three times daily and reservation is required // WEBSITE
Ticket fare: 1.800 yen/one way
PS: reservation via Nohi official website will require you to make an account in order to proceed with the booking.
No direct bus from Tokyo to Shirakawago, you might have to transit to Nagoya/Takayama/Kanazawa, it's easier to fly to Nagoya and skip the long train 3,5 hours train ride. Be sure to have the JR pass otherwise you'll spend a lot more on individual tickets.
No direct bus from Kyoto/Osaka to Shirakawago, you can take the JR train from Kyoto to Kanazawa first (2 hours ride for 6.510 yen/one way), if you're only travelling around Nagoya/Takayama/Kanazawa then I highly suggest going for the Takayama-Hokuriku 5-day tourist pass (mentioned earlier above) for 14.000 yen (price might vary by time)
Shirakawago map -> CLICK HERE
Takayama and Shirawakago Practical Travel Guide presented by JNTO -> CLICK HERE
Best Western Takayama address:
Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
FIND ME HERE