Sunday, October 9, 2016

Japan September 2016 - Part 9 Shirakawago

Our journey continued from Takayama to Shirakawa-go on a bus. If you plan to take the same bus, you can check their schedule ahead of time.

After a 50-minute long bus ride, we finally arrived in Shirakawa-go. The area was cool and cloudy. Shirakawa-go was declared UNESCO world heritage site in 1995. They were famous for their thatched roof houses called gassho-zukuri, representing hands clasped in prayers. Other than Shirakawa-go there are a few other villages with gassho-zukuri houses but I decided that seeing one is probably enough.

For that evening, I had booked a stay in one of the minshukus (gassho-zukuri that accepts guests to stay overnight). Originally I tried booking through Japanese Guest Houses, but their minshukus were fully booked for the date I wanted. Luckily, I found Paul's travel blog that had mentioned a minshuku stay and from there I found out that I could contact the Shirakawa-go tourist association for assistance in booking a minshuku. You can email them at We were able to book Isaburo Minshuku on such a short notice with their help, so I was very grateful even  if their location is farther than the others.

Following their instructions, I went to the tourist information centre upon arrival. I told them that I had booked Isaburo for the evening and they called the host for us. Within 10 minutes the host arrived to pick us up in her car. 
At the information centre
We came at a good time! An ultra marathon was to be held the day after.

I really didn't know what to expect, but our minshuku was nice. It was clean, and we were the only guest at that time. Our room was facing the front, and during the day they took off the wall outside our doors so we can go directly outside if we wanted to.

Our host had prepared tea and snacks in our room. She even had towels, yukata, and toothbrushes for us. She didn't speak much English at all, so with my very limited Japanese we arranged dinner at 6:30 pm. She also showed us where the toilet and bathroom were. They had a shower and a hot bath with stainless steel bath tub in the minshuku. It was so nice!


We still had a little bit of time before dinner, so we decided to go out for a walk before sunset. Isaburo Minshuku was located a little bit outside the main village, it was higher up closer to the observation point. We tried to find it that evening but with limited time we didn't find it.

Our minshuku was the one on the far left, second from the top.


Close to 6:30 pm we rushed back to Isaburo and found these already prepared for us. Sorry, I only took one picture we couldn't wait to eat them up! It was so much food, and believe it or not, I finished most of it. I must have gained at least 2 kg from this dinner! All of the dishes were very good, I am drooling as I write this.

Even though we were so stuffed after dinner, we opened up this sake jar we bought from Family Mart in Takayama. It had a cute Sarubobo design, and we wanted to keep the glass for Miss Kiki at home. The sake was very harsh, but we didn't expect much from it considering the price. We mostly bought it for the glass anyway.


That evening we went to bed very early. It was very dark outside and there was nothing else we could do. We kept waking up throughout the night, and we got woken up by a FaceTime call from Miss Kiki at 10 pm. She was crying because she missed us. The poor girl.... but it's okay. She'll become more tough.

We had arranged to have breakfast at 7 am the night before, so we woke up at sunrise and walked around. We walked down to the main village which seemed like it was still asleep. This was one of the advantage of staying there overnight. You get to take serene pictures before busloads of people arrive.


We headed back to Isaburo just in time for breakfast. These were waiting for us on the table. Yum yum........

After our scrumptious breakfast, I asked our host about the viewing point. From our limited communications (I only understood some of her words here and there lol) we figured that we needed to go up a little further than we did last time before taking a turn. So we tried that.


And finally, we reached the viewing point! We got there just about 5 minutes before several big buses arrived with lots of people. Talk about good timing!


Look! The Ultramarathon was on! If I understood correctly, the ultramarathon was 100km long. That is crazy!

We headed back to Isaburo afterwards and checked out. We waved good bye and walked downhill to the main village and catch our bus for Takayama.


The forementioned Sarubobo

Soon after we took that picture above, we both fell asleep and woke up right at Takayama Station. Lol.. Again, we took Hida Wide View train, and then later on changed to another train towards Hiroshima.

Until next post!