Shirakawa-go is located in the northwestern part of Gifu Prefecture, centre of Honshu Island, Japan. It is a typical mountain village surrounded by mountains, with mountains and forests accounting for 96% of the area and the remaining 4% cultivated land. Ogimachi is the largest village and main attraction of Shirakawa-go. The village is home to several dozen well preserved Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. The scene of these farmhouses with thatched roofs in Gassho style harks back to ancient Japan.
Gassho-zukuri are houses built of wooden beams combined to form a steep thatched roof that resembles two hands held together in prayer. The Gassho-zukuri villages in Shirakawa-go were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995. The architecture of these houses were thoughtfully designed and built to suit the Shirakawa environment and create a comfortable place to work and live in winter and summer. Steep thatched roof withstand harsh winter heavy snowfall (Shirakawa is a leading area of heavy snowfall in the world), houses are aligned in a north-south direction to minimize wind resistance and stand in a certain direction to adjust the amount of incident sunlight in order to keep the room cool in summer and warm in winter.
Since attaining its heritage status, Shirakawa-go has become a popular tourist attraction, and with the growing influx of tourists, many of the farmhouses are now restaurants, museums or minshuku (guest house), where one can experience a Gassho-zukuri farmhouse overnight stay. Shirakawa-go is best seen either covered in snow or surrounded by green fields. Late November is considered early for snowfall in Shirakawa-go, but there was a fair chance we may get lucky. The day we headed out from Takayama, we were informed there was quite a bit of overnight snowing in the Shirakawa-go area and we can expect more on our drive out there. True enough, we came across areas of light to moderate snowfall along the ~100km mountainous scenic drive to Shirakawa-go. The kids were wishing and looking forward to snow covered Shirakawa-go, that they can experience real snow for the first time in their lives. We really hoped their wish would be granted. We arrived at Ogimachi in the evening, it was already dark with snowfall building up – we may just get lucky!
We check-in to our minshuku, settled down, dined and had an early night. I was up at first light, it was a freezing cold morning, and to my delight; Shirakawa-go was blanketed in snow, it was snow white everywhere I looked when I ventured out. The kids got to experience and enjoy playing snow for the first time, I got to photograph the beautiful snow-white Shirakawa-go.
All photos X-E1 with XF 18-55mm & XF 55-200mm