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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 2024, Ogimachi was illuminated on the following dates:

  • January 14, 2024 (Sunday)
  • January 21, 2024 (Sunday)
  • January 28, 2024 (Sunday)
  • February 4, 2024 (Sunday)
  • February 12, 2024 (Monday, national holiday)
  • February 18, 2024 (Sunday)

Because the number of visitors to the light-up event has grown too large in recent years, 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 Willer, Nohi Bus and Kaetsuno Bus and Toyama Chiho Tetsudo, offer bus tours for seeing the light-up event. Some of them provide simply 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, but typically starts around early October. Some of the tours offered by the before-mentioned bus companies 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 (5000-6000 yen/car). For the 2024 event, reservations could be made on a first-come first-serve basis during three separate sessions starting September 10, November 1 and December 1, 2023 on the tourist association's website. Visitors accessing Shirakawago by car are not 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 was in place for many of the local lodgings for the 2024 event. Submissions could be made during the month of October 2023, and results were announced on November 10. 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 given time slot, which cannot be selected. In 2024, tickets were 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 had to be accessed on foot in 2024. 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:
    • Shiroyamakan
      Luxury
      Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Shiroyamakan offers accommodation in Shirakawa, 1.4 km from Shirakawago. Free private parking is available on site. The entire property is non-smoking. The nearest airport is Komatsu Airport, 47 km from the property.
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      9.8Booking.com
    • Onyado Yuinosho
      Luxury
      Located in Shirakawa in the Gifu region with Shirakawago nearby, Onyado Yuinosho provides accommodation with free private parking, as well as access to a sauna. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and a lift, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Guests can use the hot spring bath and the public bath, or enjoy mountain views. The ryokan will provide guests with air-conditioned units offering a desk, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. At the ryokan, all units are soundproof. At the ryokan, every unit includes bed linen and towels. An Asian breakfast is available daily at the ryokan. There is a snack bar, bar and lounge. Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village is 45 km from Onyado Yuinosho, while Takayama Station is 46 km away. The nearest airport is Toyama Airport, 81 km from the accommodation.
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      8.8Booking.com
    • 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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      8.6Booking.com
    • TOYOTA Shirakawa-Go Eco-Institute
      Luxury
      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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      8.6Booking.com
    • CURIO Shirakawago
      Luxury
      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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      8.5Booking.com
    • 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.
      View on Booking.com
      8.4Booking.com