By Steve Hope, Trip Designer
Shirakawa-go & Gokayama
Although Tokyo is a must, you will want to see the ‘real’ Japan. The other real Japan. You know, the traditional wooden homes with sliding shoji doors, the swaying lanterns hanging from storefronts, the countryside scenery we’ve become familiar with through cinema; you know, that Japan. Both named UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shirakawa-go & Gokayama regions are understandably popular among foreign tourists, notably for the village feel walking among the traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. These are the homes you’ve likely seen in photos. The same photos that are likely pushing you to visit Japan. The thatched roofs are constructed to resemble a Buddhist monk’s ‘hands of prayer’ and more practically not to collapse under the heavy layers of snow that fall every winter. A walk through the villages combined with visits to Takayama & Kanazawa can easily be added to your tour with easy accessibility from Tokyo via Nagoya.
Everyone has seen images or video of snow capped monkey’s steaming in an outdoor bath during the dead of winter. Many ponder where this is, and most conclude that it must be far from human contact. These are Japanese Macaque’s and most often are seen bathing in a hot spring in the Jigokudani Valley near Nagano. This can be seen with your own eyes, relatively easily. Monkeys can be seen year round in the region, and with some convincing they will even enter the hot spring in the summer months, but the best time to visit, due to the abundance of snow, is from December to March, with January & February being the best. Understandably, most scheduled guided tours to this area only operate in the winter months. Take the train from Tokyo to Nagano (1.5hrs) and the train from Nagano to Yamanouchi & Yudanaka Station (approx. 1 hr) and then a short bus ride and walk up to the hot spring. Many tours can also be pre-booked including a one day tour from Tokyo. Talk about accessible.
View Japan tours here or customize your tour to include the above in your tour to Japan here.
Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.