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The main reason for the steep roofs and massive structure of Shirakawago's farmhouses is the large amount of snow the region receives every winter. Ogimachi Village typically gets covered by one to two meters of snow during the peak of the white season.

While causing the locals quite a bit of hardship, the snow turns Shirakawago into an idyllic winter landscape. To make it even better, the village organizes special illumination events on selected Sunday evenings in January and February which attract plenty of tourists. During the light-up event, many of the village's gassho-zukuri farmhouses are lit up from 17:30 to 19:30.

In 2023, Ogimachi is scheduled to be illuminated on the following dates:

  • January 15, 2023 (Sunday)
  • January 22, 2023 (Sunday)
  • January 29, 2023 (Sunday)
  • February 5, 2023 (Sunday)
  • February 12, 2023 (Sunday)
  • February 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Because the number of visitors to the light-up event has grown too large in recent years and because of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of visitors allowed into the village is now limited in order to avoid overcrowding and traffic jams and to ensure a safe and pleasant experience for all visitors. It is mandatory for everybody to get an advance reservation in order to visit the village during the light-up events. Below are the three possible ways to visit:

  1. Visit by bus tour
    Multiple tour companies, including Nohi Bus and Kaetsuno Bus, offer bus tours for seeing the light-up event Some of them simply provide a chartered bus for access from Takayama, Kanazawa, Toyama or Takaoka and back, while others include an overnight stay (usually in Takayama). Advance reservations should be made directly through the bus companies or travel agencies. The time period when reservations are accepted depends on the company and tour. In past years, tours typically went on sale from around October. Some of the tours include an admission ticket for the Shiroyama Viewpoint.
  2. Visit by car
    Visiting the event by car requires an advance online reservation for a parking lot. For the 2023 event, the reservation system went online on September 10, 2022 on a first-come first-serve basis. Visitors accessing Shirakawago by car will not be able to purchase tickets for the Shiroyama Viewpoint. Winter tires and winter driving skills are required to access Shirakawago in winter by car.
  3. Stay Overnight
    The best way to enjoy the light-up event is by staying overnight at one of the farmhouses in the village. Because of the limited number of rooms, a lottery-based reservation system is in place for many of the local lodgings, but it has not been announced yet when the lottery will start for the 2023 event. Overnight visitors get the privilege of a parking lot and a ticket to the Shiroyama Viewpoint.

Note that visiting the light-up event by regular bus is not possible, because the last buses of the day depart Shirakawago before the start of the light-up event. Also, note that visiting by taxi requires the reservation of a parking lot (see under "Visit by car" above).

Just like during daytime, the Shiroyama Viewpoint is one of the best places to enjoy the sight of the village. However, due to limited space, the only way to access the viewpoint during the light-up event is with an admission ticket for a specific time slot. In 2023, tickets are available only to people who stay overnight at a lodging in the village and to participants of certain bus tours. Unlike in earlier years when shuttle buses were operated, the observation deck has to be accessed on foot in 2023. A bus is available for visitors with mobility issues, but needs to be reserved in advance.

Visitors to Shirakawago note that temperature can drop far below freezing during the light-up event, and that roads and trails are covered by snow and sometimes ice. Appropriate clothing, face protection and shoes are required. Some parts of the village are, furthermore, not well lit with dangerous, uncovered water canals flanking the trails. To reduce the burden on the small village, all tourists are also asked to carry home any garbage they produce.

Getting there and around

Hotels around Shirakawago & Gokayama

Top rated in Shirakawago & Gokayama
Budget:
    • Guesthouse AntHut
      Budget-friendly
      Guest House Ant Hut is located in Shirakawa-go village, a 20-minute walk from the bus terminal Ogimachi at Shirakawa-go World Heritage Village. Free private parking is available on site. Guests can make use of the free shuttle service offered by the property or take a local bus to access the guest house. The Ant Hut has a shared kitchen furnished with essential cooking appliances. The lounge is fitted with a flat-screen TV and DVD player. The guest house features a bathroom, 2 toilets and a hairdryer. Each bed has a private luggage shelf, power outlet, reading light and a fan. Free WiFi access is available throughout the entire property. The property is situated in a quiet location within walking distance to a convenience store and 2 popular local restaurants. Guests can engage in various activities around the region such as skiing and hiking. Property staff are able to recommend things to do around the village. Complimentary seasonal drinks are offered to guests upon arrival and coffee is provided in the mornings.
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    • Onyado Yuinosho
      Luxury
      Located in Shirakawa, 200 metres from Shirakawago, Onyado Yuinosho provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a shared lounge. Guests at the 4-star property can enjoy mountain views in the rooms and access to a sauna. The ryokan features a hot spring bath and a 24-hour front desk. The ryokan will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms offering a desk, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At Onyado Yuinosho each room is fitted with bed linen and towels. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a ? la carte or an Asian breakfast. The nearest airport is Toyama Airport, 80 km from Onyado Yuinosho.
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    • Shirakawago Guest House Kei
      Budget-friendly
      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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