Getting Around Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go is a well-known yet remote village situated on the northern tip of Gifu Prefecture. Before being granted UNESCO status, it was fairly difficult to access Shirakawa-go especially in winter months when snow falls heavily in the area. In 2008, the Shirakawa-go Interchange off the Tokai Hokuriku Expressway was opened to facilitate transportation into this magical town. These days there are countless tour buses that run daily between the town and surrounding cities such as Takayama, Toyama and Kanazawa.
There are many full or half-day bus tours transporting visitors to Shirakawa-go such as J-Hop Tours which offer a roundtrip ticket for 4,400 yen with an English speaking tour conductor. The Mitsuboshi Route Kippu is a three Michelin star route that offers a discount ticket of one-way access to multiple attractions between Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama and Matsumoto. Unfortunately trains can only get you as close to Shirakawa-go as Takayama or Toyama, so most visitors access the village by bus or car. The Nohi bus runs regularly from Takayama Bus Station or Kanazawa and takes around one hour to reach the Seseragi Parking Lot, the main parking area for visitors situated right next to the tourist information centre on the outskirts of Shirakawa-go village.
The best part about driving to Shirakawa-go is that you can beat the crowds and experience the peaceful atmosphere of this heritage site. Another reason why we recommend getting an early start is that Seseragi has limited parking space and you cannot drive into the actual village unless your accommodation offers parking facilities. Even though winter is one of our favourite times to visit, the roads can get a bit icy in winter so it’s best to ensure your rental car has snow tires or chains. It is also important to keep in mind that the public parking opens from 8am and closes at 5pm, which is a treat for overnight guests as most tourists are gone by nightfall.
The Deaibashi bridge will take you into the village and is the main point of access from the Seseragi Parking Lot. Once in Shirakawa-go, a shuttle bus can transport you between the Ogimachi Lookout and a few small bus stops in the village. As the shuttle bus routes are closed in snowy seasons, check in with the tourist information for updates on timetables. There is a small rental bicycle shop nestled between Ant Road Guest House and Yamayasou Inn that rents out a few bicycles for 300 yen an hour from 7am to 8pm. Seeing all sites in the village is achievable on foot and is our recommended way to explore this picturesque village. At your own pace, stroll down narrow dirt roads between museums and dango stalls, or take a short 10 minute hike up to the Ogimachi Castle lookout for the best views of Shirakawa-go.