Guides + Tips Winter in Japan

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Shirakawa-go During New Year

Shirakawa-go, without a doubt, stands as a captivating destination with its traditional Japanese charm. Countless articles, pictures, and online tales attest to the greatness of this village, capturing the hearts of people worldwide. Although numerous guides exist for this UNESCO World Heritage Site, our focus lies on providing comprehensive insights into visiting Shirakawa-go during a specific time: the enchanting New Year holiday season. If you’re planning your trip for this extraordinary period, consider this article your ultimate cheat sheet to make the most of your experience!

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    Japanese New Year Season:

    If you plan to visit Shirakawa-go during the Japanese New Year, it’s essential to give it careful thought, as this holiday holds great importance in the country. From January 1 to January 3, or sometimes extending beyond, most businesses undergo a shutdown. Consequently, there are several crucial factors to keep in mind for your visit during this time of year:

    Getting to Shirakawa-go During New Year Holiday Season:

    By Bus:

    Traveling to Shirakawago by bus offers various options depending on your location in Japan, with several bus companies providing convenient services. 

    If you are coming from nearby cities like Takayama, Kanazawa, or Toyama, Nohi Bus is the recommended choice for commuting to and from these destinations. 

    Alternatively, if you are arriving from Toyama city, Kaetsunō Bus operates buses to Shirakawago. 

    Visitors coming from Nagoya can rely on Gifu Bus for accessible transportation to Shirakawa-go.

    However, it’s crucial to be aware of the specific bus schedules for each company during the New Year holiday season:

    • Nohi Bus: There will be no buses operating from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3 (check this “website” for more details).
    • Kaetsunō Bus: Buses will be available but limited (check this “website” for more details).
    • Gifu Bus: Buses may be available (check this “website” for more details).
    By Car:

    Driving to Shirakawa-go by car is the most viable option during the national holiday, and renting a car in Japan is relatively straightforward. Here are some essential points to consider if you plan to drive yourself:

    • Driving in Winter: To access Shirakawago by car during the winter, it is essential to have winter tires and possess proper winter driving skills.
    • Tollway Fee: Be sure to have cash on hand for the tollway fee.
    • Restricted Access: Direct access to the village by car is prohibited. Set the village’s parking lot as your destination on your navigator.
    • Parking Fee: Expect a parking fee of around 1,000 yen (8:00AM~5:00PM).
    • Early Arrival: The village experiences significant crowds during the New Year break. Aim to arrive early, preferably before 9 o’clock, to secure a smooth parking experience.
    Book a Tour:

    For added convenience, consider booking a tour package, which remains available during the holiday season and offers a hassle-free experience. Here are some suggested tours to Shirakawa-go that you might find appealing:

    What to Expect When Visiting Shirakawa-go During New Year Season:

    Winter Wonderland:

    If you yearn to witness the enchanting winter vistas of the thatched-roof houses blanketed in a thick layer of snow, visiting during the New Year season is the ideal time. The entire village transforms into a picturesque wonderland, evoking the feeling of stepping into a marvelous marshmallow land.

    Limited Dining & Shopping Options:

    As mentioned earlier, many businesses shut down during the New Year, resulting in fewer places to eat and shop at Shirakawa-go. To avoid any inconvenience, it’s advisable to prepare for these limitations by bringing some food or snacks with you to sustain yourself while exploring the village. However, there’s good news—the gift shop located at the village’s observatory remains operational during the holiday, offering a chance to find unique souvenirs and keepsakes amidst the tranquil winter setting.

    Can the Shirakawago Winter Light-Up be Seen during the New Year?

    The highly anticipated Shirakawago Winter Light-Up Event, where the village’s gassho-zukuri farmhouses are illuminated after dark, creates a truly magical scene. However, it’s important to note that this event does not take place during the new year holiday. In 2024, the scheduled dates for the Winter Light-Up are as follows:

    • January 14, 2024 (Sunday)
    • January 21, 2024 (Sunday)
    • January 28, 2024 (Sunday)
    • February 4, 2024 (Sunday)
    • February 12, 2024 (Monday, a national holiday)
    • February 18, 2024 (Sunday)

    More information about the event: visit this site

    Dress Accordingly:

    With fewer shops and restaurants open during the holiday, you’ll have limited options to take refuge from the cold. It becomes crucial to dress in layers and wear winter gloves to stay warm and comfortable while navigating the snowy terrain.

    Access to Shiroyama Viewpoint:

    The best panoramic view of the village can be admired from the Shiroyama Observatory, and the good news is that it remains accessible even during the New Year holiday. Don’t miss this opportunity to capture the stunning beauty of Shirakawa-go from this vantage point.

    How to Reach the Village’s Viewpoint (Shiroyama Viewpoint):

    To access the Shiroyama Viewpoint, there is a convenient shuttle bus service available for tourists. For a reasonable fare of 200 yen per person for a one-way trip, you can be transported from the main street to the observatory. Opting for the shuttle bus is highly recommended, as walking to the viewpoint could take at least 30-40 minutes, and during this time of year, the path might be slippery and challenging to navigate.

    Location of the Bus to Observatory:

    Other Q&A About Visiting Shirakawago:

    How much time should I spend exploring the village?

    The duration of your visit to Shirakawago can vary depending on your preferences. You can opt for a short two-hour visit or extend it to a full day, with some travelers choosing to stay overnight to relish the serene countryside beyond daylight hours. Keep in mind that even on regular days, most shops and restaurants close around 4 p.m. For a well-rounded experience, we recommend allocating three to four hours to explore the village, allowing ample time to immerse yourself in the charm of this unique destination.

    Is it Worth to Stay Overnight?

    Staying overnight in Shirakawa-go offers a truly exceptional experience, making it well worth considering if you desire the following:

    • Immersing yourself in the charm of Minshuku, the traditional family-operated Japanese-style bed and breakfasts.
    • Witnessing the mesmerizing Winter Light-Up event, as overnight guests receive the privilege of accessing the parking lot and enjoying the Shiroyama Viewpoint during the event.
    • Having the village almost entirely to yourself, as most tourists visit on day trips. After the last buses depart Shirakawa-go, you’ll have the entire place as your photography haven.

    However, it’s essential to note that securing a reservation in one of these amazing farmhouses can be exceedingly challenging, especially during the peak winter season. To book your stay, check out this website.

    Are There Any Hot Spring Baths (Onsen) in Shirakawago?

    Indeed, there is an onsen available at Shirakawa-go No Yu ryokan. Guests staying at any of the inns in Shirakawa-go can enjoy a discounted rate when using the hot spring, paying only 600 yen instead of the regular 700 yen fee.

    There you have it—everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to the enchanting village of Shirakawa-go during the New Year break. We hope this guide assists you in planning a smooth and enjoyable vacation! Have a fantastic time exploring the winter wonderland of Shirakawa-go and creating cherished memories during this special time of year. Safe travels and happy holidays!

    Gallery: Pictures Shot at Shirakawa-go on New Year’s Eve

    Access Map to Shirakawa-go:

    Quick Info About Shirakawa-go:

    Address: Ogimachi, Shirakawa, Ono District, Gifu 501-5627, Japan
    Admission Fee: Free
    Phone: +81576961311
    Website: Shirakawago

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