02 April 2017

Shirakawa-go // It's a creamy world after all

January 24th-25th, 2017

Shirakawa-go, Ono-District, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Hey, y'all! I finally made it to one of Japan's snowiest area, Shirakawa-go! Or the dreamy "winter wonderland" that lots of people would love to refer to it as. We came here just right at the best timing ever, as it was the last week of January and the snow was falling so intense. Because you know, a heavy snowfall is what makes Shirakawa-go, a Shirakawa-go!

January is the peak of intense snowfall in Shirakawa-go, woohoo!!

Anyway, the snow here in Shirakawa-go is just sooo creamyyy! I still remember how soft it felt when it was continuously falling onto my face, and also when I dared myself to step on the super thick snow pile as seen on the gif. pic above, lol. Fact: I was kind of afraid at that time, thinking that I might  fall into a hole and end up in sewer. I worry much at times, please bear with me for this.

Haha, so clumsyyy

Shirakawa-go is the third place for me to experience Japan's snowy winter. The first one was in Hokkaido back in 2014, and proceeded with Sendai in the next year. You can read the Hokkaido posts here, here and here. Also the Sendai related post here!

Among these three places, I found the snow in Shirakawa-go as the smoothest and creamiest compared to the other two places! Even the snowfall itself was falling so gently even though the intensity was super high back then. Unlike Hokkaido's snow that would make you feel heavy once it starts piling up on your coat, and feels a bit sharp once it hits your face. Shirakawa-go's snow is just so lightweight and soft.

Oh, and of course I wasn't alone for this trip. I had my two favorite Indonesian girls with me!

the one who planned the A to Z of this trip, form transportation to accommodation (thank youuu!), and the birthday girl during the Shirakawa-go day one <3

Mba Gana: 
The one who couldn't stand seeing piles of snow without flopping on them, haha! <3 

Yo, girl you completely belong to Shirakawa-go, hahaha.

Aaand, yours truly :* 
The one who loved playing in the snow as much as she loves lying on it, but couldn't handle the aftermath: getting drenched, uh. Dilemma.

By the way, you'll easily find tons of information related to Shirakawa-go tourism out there once you google, since this place has been drawing considerable attention from both local and international tourists (moreover lately!). Hence, I'll just write this post briefly by itemizing several points that really matters (or maybe not really?) during our Shirakawa-go trip! And, as for the rest, I'll just let the pictures do the talks :)


The route that we chose for this trip:

There are several route options for you to reach Shirakawa-go, depending on where your starting point is (haha, lol of course lah). As for us, who headed from Tokyo, we chose the: Tokyo - Nagoya - Shirakawa-go route! We went with the cheapest alternative, that is by bus, which of course consuming considerable amount of time. But this one is cheap, so there you have it...

Before we talk about the pricing, here let me show you the magnificent views that got us beyond excited once our bus from Nagoya reached the snowy Gifu Prefecture! <3

Literally snow, snow and snow as long as we set our sights...

So loving the contrast of the crystal blue sky and the all white everything below it.

So, we took the Nagoya bound night bus from Shinjuku Station. Freezy booked us the Willer Express bus and it costed 3,800 yen one way! It took around 5 hours, as we departed at almost 00:00 and arrived on the next day at around 5 a.m. The bus dropped us a few meters near Nagoya Station, and we headed to the station by walking.

So in love with this view

Once we finished our breakfast business in Nagoya Station, we then continued our journey, heading to the dreamy winter village Shirakawa-go! We hopped on the Gifu Bus (3,500 yen one way) for three hours, before finally touched down the snowy wonderland! <3

We went with the exactly same route for the way back to Tokyo. Hence we spent a total of 14,600 yen round-trip per person! ;) 


Things to do before the trip:

1. Checking Shirakawa-go Live Camera, here!
Checking the weather before you plan a trip is like breathing. You simply have to do it without being told, otherwise, you couldn't have the bestest out of your trip. Besides, there's also another must-do ritual, that is just as important as checking the weather: monitoring the live camera! (make sure if your destination has one).

I have always been depending on this kind of live camera, especially when I'm about to have my seasonal flower trip. Why? Because I need to monitor the progress of the flowers' peak seasons, as well as how the tourists crowd is going on day by day. That way, we won't end up being upset once we set our feet in our destination since it doesn't look like what we've imagined before. 

The same principle also applies in checking the snow intensity and the conditions surrounding Shirakawa-go through this technology. This will help you so much in deciding on what clothes that you're going to wear, what properties that you need to bring (rain coat, umbrella, mask, etc.), should you go with backpack or suitcase after you see how the terrain looks like, and lots of other considerations that might vary according to each individual.

2. Bringing along "Kairo"
"Kairo" is a disposable heating pad that is commonly sold at convenient stores and drug stores all over Japan during winter. There are various kinds of "Kairo", such as the ones with adhesive and the ones without.

You can stick the ones with adhesive onto your under shirt, and they will distribute heat to your body for 8 to 15 hours. Meanwhile, you can keep the ones without adhesive inside your coat's pockets or gloves to keep your hands warm at the same time!

There are also "Kairo" for feet! You can stick them in your shoes or on your socks.Voila, you're ready to say goodbye to toes frostbite.

See, so many variations to keep yourself warm during severe winter ;) Oh, and the fact that "Kairo" is relatively thin and able to stay perfectly once it's attached to the clothes, won't make you feel uncomfortable at all!

For this trip, I brought along three types of "Kairo", the ones that I attached on my under shirt, socks "Kairo", and the non-adhesive "Kairo" for hands that I usually kept inside my gloves. Warmth comes first!

3. Preparing an extra pair of gloves
I guess this tip might be useful for those who aren't familiar with snowy winter, and about to have a trip to a place with heavy snowfall for the first time ;)

Playing with snow is so much fun. But it ain't going to be fun at the end if your gloves get drenched after getting too excited playing snow ball war with your friends. And the worse thing, you don't bring any spare gloves. At least, this is what happened to me, haha. I forgot to bring another pair of gloves, duh!

Well, there were some times when I would just take off my gloves and touched the snow. But apparently, to some points that I wasn't even aware, I would just play happily with my hands wrapped in gloves.

If you own a pair of waterproof gloves then it's super great! You don't necessarily prepare another extra pair. Otherwise, you may thank me later for this tip :p Or you've  always been doing this? Then it's a wow!


4. Preparing a waterproof spray for shoes
Considering Shirakawa-go's intense snowfall, I guess it's safer to prepare for this one, especially if your shoes aren't waterproof and you come in December - January. You can get this kind of spray at any shoe shops for around 1,000 yen (prices might vary according to the shop tho). If you're travelling with your friends, you can save the money by just getting one bottle, and share it with your pals! 

Actually, I forgot to bring my spray for this trip!

Other options, you can rent a pair of rain boots too at some lodgings that provide this kind of service. 


Where we stayed:

Luckily, we got to stay within the Shirakawa-go area! Even it only took less then 5 minutes on foot to reach Ogimachi, the largest village in Shirakawa-go where the famous Gassho-zukuri farmhouses are clustered.

I'll take you on a stroll to where we stayed for a night in Shirakawa-go! Ready? Grab a jacket or blanket, just in case the cold might transfer via the monitor :p

The so-called "White Road" area

At first, we wanted to stay at the Gassho-zukuri farmhouse, but they were all occupied already. Nevertheless, thank God, we could still manage to stay within Shirakawa-go neighborhood, otherwise, we would have to stay outside the village, and that's not cool...

Here's the guest house that we stayed in for a night: "Koshiyama"

It costed 5,000 yen each person, as per January 24th, 2017. We stayed in a "washitsu" or Japanese-style room that I found was quite spacious for the three of us! The staff lady was very friendly and considerate enough to let the guests dry their shoes using the room heater placed at the entrance way.

Oh, and the most convenient thing about this guesthouse is that, it is located just across a convenience store (kombini). Super helpful and practical, as it opens 24h! Meanwhile, the other shops/restaurants in Shirakawa-go are closed at 5 or 6 p.m. 

Oh, how it's looking so creamy. I'm thinking to get a scoop of it and put it on my waffle cone.

I still remember the chill that we had every time we crossed over this bridge, on the way to/from Ogimachi. Goosebumps! Just so you know, we rarely passed other people in this very area, as if it was just a deserted land... with only piles of snow here and there, as well as a loud and resonating sound of river flowing. Creepy? Yeah, at night.

The mountainous, snowy terrain up there


What you should pay attention to:
This mark below, meaning 
CAUTION: SNOWSLIDE (From the roof)

I know, it must be difficult and pretty impossible for those who aren't used to Chinese characters to remember the sign above. But for the sake of safety, I'm determined to just put it here, and hoping that someone might willingly memorize it, hehe. 

In the pic above, right beside me is a huge pile of snow. You see that some are in the shape of big ice blocks, aren't they? They slid just right in front of us when we were about to pass the path! So lucky we were safe!


Things to do in Shirakawa-go, based on our experiences, lol:
1. Having some Hida beef cuisines 

We decided to have our lunch at the Gassho-zukuri restaurant above, called "Irori". They served various yummy Japanese "teishoku" or set meal at affordable prices. We all ordered the Hida beef cuisines, and were so satisfied for what we ordered!

Enjoying my lunch way too much and realized that I didn't take a picture. 

A beautiful snow covered plant just outside Irori! <3

2. A visit to the Gassho-zukuri farmhouse

Ogimachi houses several dozen of well preserved Gassho-zukuri farmhouses that are now functioning mostly as museums, restaurants or even guest houses.

We visited the house of Wada Family, known as the wealthiest family in Ogimachi who owned the biggest Gassho-zukuri house in town. This family also served as village leaders from generation to generation.

Unfortunately, I didn't take even a single snap of this house! But as long as I can remember, this house is a single-floored house, with a two-storied attic.  

3. Going up to the observation hill and gazing Ogimachi from above
On the day when the snow doesn't pile up dramatically, visitors can hike the hill. But as you can see from the very beginning that our visit was blessed with a heavy snowfall, hiking up to the hill was strictly prohibited. So we went up by bus that ran every 12 minutes (5 times per hour)! The bus took us up and up the winding snowy road, until we reached the observation hill. Oh gosh so exciting!

The best viewpoint to gaze Ogimachi from above. And at this point, my lens was almost super steamy!

To me, standing upon this hill not only made me extremely thrilled to witness this superb view of this UNESCO World Heritage Site from above. But also, I had my greatest respect for the people of Shirakawa-go and just everyone who struggle to live in a region with extreme weather like this! Simply just an honest remark from a girl who was born and raised in a tropical country.

4. Dipping in a hot bath to close the day, felt so amazing.
Feeling content with what we've done the whole day, we got back to our room for a while before finally crawling out again for a hot bath. We were super excited for this, that we didn't care about the snowfall that was getting more intense as the sky turned darker. 

See those kanji(s) written on a wooden block at the leftmost of the above pic? It's written "Shirakawa-go no yu", meaning "the hot bath of Shirakawa". It's exactly the place where we relaxed after exploring half of Ogimachi area and got frostbitten on and off during the day. We dipped in the bath for about a good 45 minutes (I guess...), and felt totally refreshed!

One shot on the way to our guest house after a dip in the hot bath

My friends, you should definitely put this activity to your Shirakawa-go bucket-list, you won't regret!


Don't you ever dare to:
Smoke near or even inside the Gasshou-zukuri!

I know, you won't do that. Just a kind reminder! :)

As you can see, they're made out of inflammable materials


Last but not least, how many layers did I wear?

                                          Day 1                                                           Day 2

So, here are what I was wearing during this trip! 

Day 1:
Top: Tank top, Uniqlo's turtle neck heattech, knit top, cocoon coat
Bottom: Stockings beneath the jeans

Day 2:
Top: Tank top, Uniqlo's heattech scoop neck long-sleeved T-shirt, long-sleeved turtle neck knit, long-sleeved oversized cotton T-shirt, cocoon coat
Bottom: Sheer stockings, 180D black winter stockings, above knee length yoke skirt

Not so many layers, but they had successfully made me warm during this trip. Moreover, combined with all the accessories and kairo. The number of the layers was basically the same as what I'm wearing when I'm in Tokyo. The only difference is, I don't stick kairo when I'm in Tokyo.

Anyway, if you're wondering, the temperature in Shirakawa-go on January 24th-25th was ranging from -4 to -1, with the lowest real feel of -9! But do you know that it actually felt almost the same as Tokyo's 5-7 degrees? Yeah, it's because of the wind! Fyi, we have very frequent blustery days here in Tokyo that would give almost the same chill as of Shirakawa-go's weather!

Well, I guess I'll end my post here. Turned out, it became pretty lengthy as always,lol. I hope you guys enjoy this post, and I'll see you on the next one. Hopefully soon! <3



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