I got back in Japan after my week in Shanghai and I got some friends travelling around so we decided to do a small road trip to Shirakawa-go. It is kind of far so renting a car from Tokyo was going to be too hard and we decided to take a train until Matsumoto where we would rent it to give us more flexibility to visit the mountainous area.
The city well worth a visit by itself due to the Matsumoto Castle (aka The Crow Castle because of its black colors). There are more than 100 castles in Japan but only a few are considered National Treasures. Matsumoto Castle is one of them and once you see it in person you can’t really be surprised about it.
We rented the car and drove until Takayama where we stayed for the night. This city looked like an interesting place to visit, overall because of the Takayama Old Town. Unfortunately we arrived too late so most of the places were already closed and we didn’t have enough time to visit during the next morning as we still had to reach our final destination.
After a few stops on the road, we finally arrived to Shirakawa-go and to describe it quickly, I’ll say is just the completely opposite of Tokyo in every single sense. The time here seems to go much slower than in the capital, the nights are super quiet and dark, you are free of bright LEDs.. It is a peaceful town around the Shokawa river and is surrounded by mountains.
Shirakawa-go, is one of the twenty UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan (the whole list is here) which should be enough information to convince you to pay a visit, though I think the pictures speak by themselves.
One of the main attractions are their traditional houses called Minka. Some of them can be visited as they got a few small museum inside and you can even overnight in a few of these but I’m afraid it won’t be cheap. We stayed in a more backpacker style traditional Japanese house which was indeed pretty comfy.
There are several small shops where you can buy some crafts and take some snacks. The weather was so good and everything was so green but if you are thinking not to come because it’s winter… just search pictures of the valley on that season. The whole valley gets snowed and it’s even more beautiful with the warm lights coming out from the Minkas.
Two more tips. If you are wondering what you could eat, there is at least a couple of places where you could try the Hida beef. And finally, if you wanna get the best spot of the valley you should take a small walk to this small observation desk where you can get some nice pics.
We went back to Tokyo pretty happy about our quick road-trip but we still got time to make a one-day-trip to Hakone. We wanted to show the Fuji to our friends but it was completely cloudy during the whole day so I didn’t even take many pics. The landscape is actually pretty good with the lake Ashi surrounded by leafy forests and (theoretically) the Fuji in the background.
In any case, Hakone it’s just about 2 hours away by train so it can be a pretty nice day trip from Tokyo if you are lucky with the weather. It is famous to have some hot-springs accommodations so if you are looking for a relax weekend escape you should consider it.
That’s all by now, all pics of these trips here