In my opinion, the best day trip from Nagoya is a visit to Shirakawago (Japan), the village with beautiful thatched roof houses that remain unchanged through the passage of time and modern development everywhere else in the country. It is like stepping into a time machine to a simpler Japan.
Shirakawago has been recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site and its charm makes it such a popular destination in Japan. Find out everything you need to know when planning a day trip to Shirakawago below.
You can find a list of all day trips from Nagoya here.
Great Deals in Nagoya and the Rest of Japan
This day trip from Nagoya to Shirakawago is available as a guided day tour on Klook.
You can also book your portable WIFI or Sim card with them as well as convenient transport from the airport to your hotel in Nagoya.
Find great deals and discounts for your trip to Nagoya on Klook. We use this all the time when traveling around Japan!
Where is Shirakawago
Shirakawago is on Japan’s biggest island Honshu. It is located in the Japanese Alps in a region called Shirakawa (Gifu Prefecture) a mere 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Nagoya. Because it is high up in the mountains nature is beautiful and the region sees a lot of snow in winter.
Shirakawago is only 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from Takayama, another beautiful town and convenient day trip destination from Nagoya. You can visit both Takayama and Shirakawago in one day if you have a car or participate in a day tour from Nagoya. More information about this below.
The Shirakawago map above is for your orientation, I marked Shirakawago, Gokayama, Takayama, and Nagoya.
Shirakawago and Gokayama
Another 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of beautiful Shirakawago is Gokayama another noteworthy but very similar town to Shirakawago. Shirakawago and Gokayama are both parts of the same Shirakawago/Gokayama UNESCO World Heritage Site because of their beautiful thatched roof houses called Gassho-Zukuri houses.
If you have to decide between a visit to Gokayama or Shirakawago I would recommend Shirakawago because it is the more famous of the two. On the other hand, if you don’t like crowds a visit to Gokayama might be better because it is less popular.
Best Time to Visit Shirakawago
Let’s talk about the best season to visit Shirakawago village. In my opinion, every season is worth a visit. Shirakawago is such a beautiful place and because it is surrounded by nature it changes a lot from season to season.
If you have the opportunity why don’t you try to visit multiple times to experience Shirakawago in all its different colors?
Shirakawago in Winter
The most popular time to visit Shirakawago is in winter when the Gassho-Zukuri houses are blanketed in snow. Every winter there is a Shirakawago light up in the evening which gives the whole Shirakawa village a completely different atmosphere.
Be warned that Shirakawago gets so crowded for the light-up that even parking spaces need to be reserved way in advance (in case you are driving yourself) and the different bus tours from Nagoya are quite expensive and booked solid well in advance, as are the hotels, Ryokans and other types of accommodation in the area so book your tour or accommodation as soon as possible.
Shirakawago in Spring
The snow starts melting in March and will be gone completely sometime in April or sometimes as late as May. Shirakawago is a beautiful place to visit in spring when the first flowers begin to bloom and especially the beautiful cherry trees are a draw to visit Shirakawago at the end of April to the beginning of May during the Shirakawago cherry blossom season.
Shirakawago in Summer
The whole village turns lush and green in the summer months as the rice in the many rice fields around the Shirakawa village starts growing. It is the perfect time for a visit as it is cooler, less humid and therefore much more comfortable than the lower parts of Japan, such as Nagoya. A beautiful place to flee the summer heat.
Shirakawago in Autumn
Autumn arrives with beautiful flowers and the harvest of the now brown rice. You can see the rice being dried upside-down on long poles in the fields.
Like in many places around Japan the persimmon trees begin to bear brightly colored fruit and by the end of October, the whole village and the surrounding mountains are all blanketed by the beautiful fall colors, reds and yellows. In early November the autumn leaves are illuminated in the evening.
Things to Do in Shirakawago
Shirakawago is a little village that is best explored on foot. The visit to Shirakawago itself is free of charge so you do not have to pay an entrance fee. Just walk the little pathways crisscrossing the whole Shirakawago Gassho village to find your personal perfect spot. Great photo opportunities are everywhere.
If you were wondering what to do in Shirakawago, here are a couple of different options.
While walking around don’t forget to visit Myozenji Temple. This Buddhist temple was built in 1800, it used to provide housing for monks, but nowadays the inside has been turned into a museum exhibiting everyday items from the past. The entrance fee is 300 yen (3 US dollars).
One interesting aspect of Myozenji is the thatched roof bell tower gate at the entrance of the temple.
Wada House and Kanda House
Wada House, the former residence of the Wada family is the largest Gassho-style house in Shirakawago. It has been turned into a museum where visitors can view some of the traditional everyday items used by members of the Wada family. The inside of the house is surprisingly cool even in the hot summers and the view from the second story windows over the village is stunning. The entrance fee is 300 yen (3 US dollars).
Kanda House is another cultural treasure. The house of the Kanda family a branch of the Wade family built this house around 1850. It is a refined example of Gassho-style architecture and worth a look inside. The entrance fee is 300 yen (3 US dollars).
Another thing to do in Shirakawago is a visit to the Shiroyama observation deck from which you have an amazing view of the whole village below. You can get there most easily if you have your own car, but you can also walk up from the village in about half an hour.
Shirakawago at Night (Winter Illumination)
A nighttime visit is also one highlight of Shirakawago. On select view days in winter the village is lit up beautifully, as are parts of the village during an autumn illumination event.
The Shirakawago illumination in winter is so famous and popular that it draws huge crowds. The dates for the illumination in 2019 are January 13., 19., 26., and February 2., 9., and 16.
The only way to see the illumination is as part of a group tour as self-driving visitors had to apply for their visit in September of 2019.
If you don’t want to miss the spectacular and exclusive winter illumination in Shirakawago you can join a bus tour from Nagoya. It includes a visit to Takayama, Hida Beef Lunch, beef Sushi, entrance to Shirakawago at night as well as an English speaking guide.
When you are tired and cold after a couple of hours exploring the Shirakawago world heritage site it might be time to visit Shirakawago no Yu the local Onsen. The open-air bath (Rotenburo) provides stunning views of the Hakusan Mountains and the murmuring of the river provides a relaxing atmosphere for your bath.
You can enjoy the hot springs as a day trip visitor or you can even spend the night at this beautiful place (more about this below). The entrance fee for day visitors is 700 yen (7 US dollars) and there are towels for rent for just 300 yen (3 US dollars), so you do not have to carry around a towel all day long.
Food in Shirakawago
Shirakawago offers a variety of restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious lunch during your Shirakawago day trip.
Suttate Nabe is a Shirakawago specialty. This hot pot dish is made from ground soybeans mixed with miso and soy sauce. To this flavorful broth, other ingredients are added such as the famous Hida Beef, thinly sliced vegetables, and locally sourced cloud ear mushrooms.
You can find Suttate Nabe at different restaurants in Shirakawago but reservation for the dish might be required and it isn’t necessarily served all year round.
For a really unique Soba experience visit the Soba Dojo at Minkaen Museum where you can make your own Japanese Soba noodles and eat them too.
If you don’t want to make your own Soba but still want to enjoy some, cold in summer or in a hot broth in winter you can do so at many of the restaurants in the village.
If you do decide to visit in summer as I did, you might want to enjoy some Kakigori, the Japanese shaved ice to get some water in your body and cool off just a little bit. There is a little shop at the center of the village selling this as well as cold drinks with a couple of places to sit down in the shade and relax.
Shirakawago and Takayama
The beautiful town of Takayama isn’t too far away from Shirakawago and if you have the time it would make sense to combine the two places into one amazing trip.
While it is possible to visit both on a day trip, as many bus tours from Nagoya do, it is much better if you have the time to spend one night in Takayama so you can really appreciate both places. If you want to find out more about Takayama read the complete Takayama Travel Guide.
How to Get from Shirakawago to Takayama
No matter if you want to go from Shirakawago to Takayama or the other way around from Takayama to Shirakawago your options are the same. Driving yourself between the two towns is most convenient, but if you don’t have access to a car or you would rather use public transport there is a Takayama to Shirakawago bus.
Bus Takayama – Shirakawago
The Nohi bus takes 50 minutes to get from Takayama to Shirakawago and costs 2470 yen (25 US dollars) one way or 4420 yen (45 US dollars) round trip.
Shirakawago Tour from Takayama
If you are already in Takayama and are looking for a half-day tour to Shirakawago you can do that as well. The ‘Shirakawago Ogimachi Village Half Day Tour from Takayama‘ is available as a morning or afternoon tour. You will meet at Takayama station, make your way to Shirakawago and spend two hours there before going back to Takayama.
How to Get to Shirakawago from Nagoya
If you were wondering how to go to Shirakawago from Nagoya here are your options. Driving yourself might be most convenient but especially in winter, it can be dangerous because of the snow on the road. A better option might be the bus. If you participate in a Nagoya to Shirakawago tour you will also take the bus there.
Drive from Nagoya to Shirakawago
The easiest way from Nagoya to Shirakawago is always to drive yourself. You will reach Shirakawago in under 2,5 hours by car. Just be careful that the streets can be full of snow in winter and it might not be safe to drive without winter tires and four-wheel drive.
If you are interested in renting a car from Nagoya, check out rentalcars.com for a wide variety of rental companies as well as car types. Book your car as soon as possible before everything is booked out!
Bus from Nagoya to Shirakawago
A more relaxed option is the Nagoya to Shirakawago bus. The Gifu Bus from Nagoya to Shirakawago leaves regularly from the Meitetsu Bus Center next to Nagoya Station. It takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to Shirakawago and the trip will cost 3900 yen one-way. You need to make a reservation in advance through Willer Express.
You can book a bus from Nagoya to Shirakawago using the 12Go.asia website.
If you arrive in Nagoya from the airport here is how to get to Nagoya Station.
Shirakawago Tour from Nagoya
You could also participate in a Shirakawago day tour. There are multiple tours available for a day trip to Shirakawago from Nagoya. I will list 3 different tours that will let you experience Shirakawago. The tours are very similar in their itineraries.
Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama
The ‘Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama‘ is a great day trip to visit Shirakawago and Takayama in one day from Nagoya. Perfect if you really only have very little time but want to explore Shirakawago as well as Takayama.
You leave from the bus terminal close to Nagoya station, head to Takayama where you will explore the old district and have lunch. From there the bus heads to Shirakawago where you will have 80 minutes to explore before heading back to Nagoya. An English speaking guide will be there throughout the tour.
Takayama and Shirakawa-go Day Trip from Nagoya
At the ‘Takayama and Shirakawa-go Day Trip from Nagoya‘ you will also visit both Takayama and Shirakawago. The bus leaves from the Nagoya VIP Lounge close to Nagoya Station or Kanayama Station.
You will first visit Takayama and have lunch there before heading to Shirakawago. You will have the opportunity to try some delicious Hida Beef Sushi during your tour.
The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama and Takayama Jinya Day Trip
If you are looking for a private tour you should consider ‘The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama and Takayama Jinya Day Trip‘. This tour isn’t much more expensive than the other two tours I mentioned above but you will be picked up from your hotel in a minivan for your trip.
Head to Shirakawago and Gokayama first and then make your way to Takayama where you will visit the Takayama Jinya a 400-year-old government building. Lunch is not included in this tour.
If you want to spend the night and are wondering where to stay in Shirakawago here is a list of your best options. Just be advised that especially during the high season in winter the accommodation in Shirakawago are booked months in advance so try to make your reservation as early as possible.
While there are more than 40 different accommodations available in Shirakawago there are not many options on booking.com (only 2 luxury hotels and 2 guest houses), and at many places, information is available exclusively in Japanese. Below I have listed the places that will be most convenient to book from outside of Japan and without the ability to speak Japanese.
The 4-star Onyado Yuinosho is the closest thing to a Gassho-style house you will find on this list of accommodations in Shirakawago and it is nothing like the old Kanda or Wada House you will visit during the day in the historic Shirakawago village.
Onyado Yuinosho is a luxury hotel offering many amenities in a very Japanese but modern setting. The rooms in a simple but luxurious Japanese style are equipped with single beds, a flatscreen TV, a sitting area and a very modern private bathroom.
Guests can use the hot spring bath and sauna to relax and enjoy a delicious dinner and breakfast at the property.
Book your unforgettable stay at Onyado Yuinosho today on booking.com or Agoda before it is too late!
Shirakawago no Yu
As I mentioned before Shirakawago no Yu offers a hot spring bath for day guests, but it is much more relaxing to spend the night at Shirakawago no Yu to really unwind and enjoy the beautiful nature of Shirakawago.
Book your stay at Shirakawago no Yu on booking.com or Agoda right now!
If you prefer a more authentic Japanese experience but still want all the luxury a stay at the more than 130-year-old Shiroyamakan Ryokan won’t disappoint.
This Ryokan offers traditional Japanese rooms with tatami mat flooring and fluffy futon beds. Some rooms offer private bathrooms others only shared facilities as is typical in traditional Japanese Ryokan.
You will enjoy a delicious multi-course dinner as well as a Japanese breakfast at the property which has been described by guests as some of the best food they have had in Japan.
This Ryokan has been run by four generations of the same family and the kindness and service of the owners are described as one of the exceptional parts of a stay here.
Shirakawago Guest House AntHut
If you cannot afford a luxury hotel but still want to spend a night in Shirakawago Guest House AntHut might just be the right place for you.
Housed in a little building this guest house features dormitory rooms with shared bathrooms as well as a common area and shared kitchen.
It has a real backpacker vibe and looks comfortable to spend a night or two.
Shirakawago Guest House Kei
Another budget accommodation in Shirakawago is Guest House Kei. This guest house is a modern but simple Japanese building featuring a dormitory as well as private rooms.
There is a common kitchen as well as a shared bathroom for all guests.
It is said to be the best value in Shirakawago and the reviews are almost 100% positive.
Book your stay at Shirakawago Guest House Kei on booking.com or Agoda before it is too late. The guest house is booked out months in advance!
Final Thoughts about a Day Trip to Shirakawago
Shirakawago is like a different world, a place where time stands still and things are still slow-paced and in sync with nature. You can learn a lot about the life of the Japanese farmers in this out of the way part of Japan, in the past and now.
Ready to Book your Trip to Nagoya?
Find the cheapest flights on skyscanner.com, book amazing hotels in Nagoya on booking.com and reserve discounted tours and other activities on klook.com!
The best way to get around Japan is a Japan Rail Pass, book your Japan Rail Pass now on jrailpass.com.
And if you are a foodie like me learn more about Nagoya Meshi, the famous and extremely delicious Nagoya cuisine in my Nagoya Food Guide or read more about Hitsumabushi, in my opinion, the most delicious food Japan has to offer.
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.