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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, 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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    • Onyado Yuinosho
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    • TOYOTA Shirakawa-Go Eco-Institute
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      Boasting hot-spring baths, a French restaurant and nature tours, the Eco-Institute is just a 10-minute drive from Shirakawa-Go traditional village, a UNESCO world heritage site. It offers spacious rooms with high ceilings and forest views. All rooms at TOYOTA Shirakawa-Go Eco-Institute are air-conditioned, with an LCD TV, free wired internet and an en suite toilet. Some rooms have a private bathroom, and some rooms have Japanese-style futon bedding and a tatami (woven-straw) floor. The property is completely non-smoking. Gassho-zukuri Shuraku traditional houses are a 10-minute drive away. Shirayumi Ski Resort is a 20-minute drive away, and Shirakawa-go Onsen Hot Spring is a 15-minute drive. Free pick-up is available from Shirakawa-go Bus Stop, a 10-minute drive away. Both indoor and open-air hot-spring baths are on site, and guests can relax on the terrace or at the games room. A playground for children is provided. The institute showcases various environmentally-friendly initiatives. A set breakfast is served at the dining area. Dinner featuring locally grown ingredients can be enjoyed at La Riviere Blanc for an additional fee, but a reservation must be made at least 3 days in advance. Please note that the area does not have other dining options.
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      600 metres from Shirakawago, Shirakawago Guest House Kei is set in Shirakawa and offers rooms with free WiFi. All rooms feature a kitchen and a shared bathroom. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen and luggage storage space for guests. All guest rooms in the guest house are fitted with a coffee machine. The units will provide guests with a microwave. The nearest airport is Komatsu Airport, 46 km from the property.
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      CURIO Shirakawago is situated in Shirakawa, within 47 km of Takayama Station and a few steps of Shirakawago. The 5-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is located 46 km from Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village. At the hotel each room includes bed linen and towels. Fuji Folk Museum is 48 km from CURIO Shirakawago, while Yoshijima Heritage House is 48 km away. The nearest airport is Toyama Airport, 82 km from the accommodation.
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