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Set far back in the valley, Ainokura (相倉) is the most remote village in the Gokayama region. It is also the largest of the villages with nearly 20 gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Many of them remain private residences, although a few have been converted into restaurants, museums, and minshuku.

Ainokura, along with Suganuma and Ogimachi, was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995. As it is less developed and harder to get to than Ogimachi, Ainokura is quieter and sees less tourist traffic, and offers similar attractions including the highly recommended overnight at a farmhouse.

Being so remote, Ainokura, along with the rest of Gokayama, has been able to maintain a lot of its traditional culture. This can be seen in its folk dances and music, which use a number of traditional instruments unique to the area. For example, the sasara, an instrument made of over a hundred wooden clappers strung together, is symbolic of the region and is a popular souvenir.

Gokayama, especially the towns around Ainokura, is well known for its washi paper. Legend has it the technique was brought here from Kyoto at the end of the Heian Period when survivors of the Taira Clan escaped to this region after their defeat by the Minamoto Clan. There are several stores in the area where you can observe local artisans making washi paper as well as try your hand at making some yourself.

Folk Museum Number 1

Hours: daily 8:30 to 17:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 300 yen (500 yen for both museums)
Typical Visit Duration: 10-15 minutes
English: Good
One of two houses that make up the Ainokura Folk Museum, this gassho-zukuri farmhouse has been converted into a small museum displaying daily life in the Gokayama region during the Edo Period.

Folk Museum Number 2

Hours: daily 8:30 to 17:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 300 yen (500 yen for both museums)
Typical Visit Duration: 10-15 minutes
English: Good
This is the second of two buildings that make up the Ainokura Folk Museum. Also a former farmhouse, it has displays on washi paper making and other industries of the region.

Viewpoint

The viewpoint above Ainokura is a five to ten minute walk up the mountain. The trail begins behind the information building at the parking lot, goes through a few fields and connects with a small road. If you continue up the hill on the road you will be rewarded with nice aerial views of the village.

Washi Workshop Hall

Hours: 9:00 to 16:00
Closed: Tuesdays and December to April
Admission: 700 yen (cost for short washi-making activity)
Typical Visit Duration: 20 minutes
English: None
The Gokayama region has been well known for its washi paper since the art was brought here by Taira Clan refugees from Kyoto. At this store/workshop you can watch how washi paper is made, or try your hand at making some yourself (no prior reservation required).

Attractions outside of the village center

Gokayama Washi

This shop/factory just out of the main village allows visitors to buy and partake in washi making. Unlike the washi workshop in the village however, prior reservations are needed.

Murakami-ke House

Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 (December to March 9:00 to 16:00)
Closed: Wednesdays (except for national holidays)
December 30 to January 3
Admission: 300 yen
This farmhouse turned museum is known for its owner who gives tours of the house which end with performances of local folk songs accompanied by regional instruments.

Getting there and around

By bus

Ainokura is a stop along the bus route between Shirakawago and Shin-Takaoka Station on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (see timetable). The one way bus ride from Shirakawago to Ainokura ("Ainokura-guchi" bus stop) takes 45 minutes and costs 1300 yen. From Shin-Takaoka Station, it takes about one hour and costs 1000 yen.

By car

From Ogimachi, Ainokura can be reached in about 45 minutes along National Route 156. You can cut travel time by a few minutes by taking the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway between Shirakawago and Gokayama IC (580 yen expressway tolls). From Gokayama IC, Ainokura is reached in about 15 minutes.

How to get to and around Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

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