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Shirakawago’s Breathtaking Winter Illumination

  • 25
  • 01
  • 2018

If you’re yearning to experience a mix of Japanese history and snow, you have to visit Shirakawago in Gifu Prefecture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s best known for its rugged mountains, white snow, and traditional farmhouses called gassho zukuri.  It one of the most visited tourist destinations in Japan particularly during Shirakawago’s Winter Illumination. Let’s take a look-see and know what this quaint little town has to offer.

#omsbijapan Shirakawa-go night light-up✨ ・ ・ ・ 📷 @hhhazukiii_photo

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The Historic Town

Shirakawago, when translated into the English language, means “White River Old District”. It’s a peaceful community found in the Chubu region’s scenic river valley surrounded by rugged mountains. The place looks exactly like it’s been drawn out of a fairy tale.

The district has been around since the 11th century. As part of conserving the Japanese culture, gassho-style farmhouses are kept in pristine condition by locals.

One of Shirakawago’s largest, most well-preserved sub-villages is Ogimachi. This is where you’ll mostly find exceptionally well-preserved gassho-style farmhouses as ancient as 250 years old.

The 3 Gassho-L

Gassho means “to join hands in prayer” while zukuri refers to a type of architectural design. With slanting roofs, it’s easily comparable to two hands joined together in prayer. These roofs are built to endure the harsh winter in the region, which causes some of the largest snowfalls in Asia.


Some gassho zukuri farmhouses have been converted to historical museums showcasing Shirakawago’s rich culture while others have been transformed into lodging cabins where tourists can spend the night.

The Illumination


With lots of snow and amazingly crafted structures, the village decided to host an annual winter illumination event—one of Japan’s many—that showcases the picturesque beauty of this charming little hamlet.


The event is held on four separate Sundays of January and February.

  • January 21
  • January 28
  • February 4
  • February 12

The village lights up from 5:30 PM 7:30 PM.

Getting There


From Tokyo, you can ride the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line going to Nagoya. You can then transfer to JR Takayama Line bound for Takayama. Once you get off at Takayama Station, just hop aboard an expressway shuttle bus in Takayama Nohi Bus Center. Shirakawago is a 50-minute shuttle bus ride from the Bus Center. You can then reach Omigachi on foot.

Location Details




Shirakawa Village, Ono District, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Event Date

January 28, 2018

Hours & Fees

5:30 PM 7:30 PM | ¥500 minimum

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