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, which allow for an overnight stay at a farmhouse.

Ainokura, along with Suganuma and Ogimachi, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Because it is less developed and harder to get to than Ogimachi, Ainokura is quieter and sees less tourist traffic, but offers similar attractions.

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 folk dances and music, which use a number of unique, traditional instruments. For example, the sasara, an instrument made of over a hundred wooden clappers strung together, is symbolic of the region and a popular souvenir.

The region around Ainokura is well known for its washi paper. Legend has it that the technique of paper making 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 washi shops and workshops in Ainokura and surroundings, where you can observe local artisans making washi paper as well as try your hand at making some yourself.

  • Folklore Museum
    Hours: 8:30 to 17:00
    Closed: No closing days
    Admission: 300 yen (500 yen for both museums)
  • Traditional Industry Museum
    Hours: 8:30 to 17:00
    Closed: Infrequent, irregular closures
    Admission: 300 yen (500 yen for both museums)
  • Viewpoint
  • Washi Workshop Hall
    Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
    Closed: Tuesdays (except national holidays) and from December to April
    Admission: from 600 yen (cost for short washi-making activity)

Attractions outside of the village center

  • Murakami-ke House
    Hours: 9:00 to 16:00 (entry until 15:40)
    Closed: Tuesdays and Wednesdays (except national holidays) and from mid December through February
    Admission: 400 yen

Getting there and around

Daytime visitors are asked to vist Ainokura only between 8:30 and 17:00 and refrain from visiting the villages in the early mornings and in the evenings.

By bus

Ainokura is a stop along the bus route between Shirakawago and Takaoka (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. Parking costs 500 yen.

How to get to and around Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Hotels around Shirakawago & Gokayama

Top rated in Shirakawago & Gokayama
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