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Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/25 20:40
Hi! We will be backpacking around Japan next August as a family of 5 (2 adults and children aged 8, 6 and 4). Wefve done a lot of family travel and so far found planning our trip fairly straight forward.

My main point Ifm stuck on is - Is Shirakawa-go worth it? It would be two days out of our 2 week stay and by far our most expensive nights accommodation. We would travel from Kyoto to Kamawaza, visit the gardens and city then on to Shirakawago for the night before heading to Tokyo the next day.

Ifve read such different reviews (for 5* highlight of trip to 1* avoid this sad tourist trap). There doesnft really seem to be anything for kids as such, but that doesnft bother me so much as they would enjoy learning about Japanese history and would like the food!

I just canft decide if we would have a better experience having an extra day in Kyoto, or visiting Osaka, or Hakone (also tourist trap but lots to engage kids) rather than the fairly long travel to Shirakawago

If it helps this is our itinerary
Day 1-3 Tokyo (visiting Japanese friends)
Day 4 Train to Matsumoto, visit castle then bus to Magome. Stay night in Ryokan in Magome.
Day 5 Walk in Kiso valley to Tsumago before Train to Hiroshima, night in Hiroshima.
Day 6 Day trip to Wiyajima
Day 7 Hiroshima peace park then train to Kyoto, afternoon sightseeing then night in Kyoto
Day 8 Kyoto sight seeing
Day 9 Nara day trip
Day 10 Kyoto in morning then train to Kamawaza and on to Shirakawa-go, night in Shirakawa-go in traditional house
Day 11 Travel to Tokyo
Day 12-13 Tokyo with friends (possible side trips to Hakone or elsewhere)
Day 14 depart

The Tokyo parts at the beginning at end are fixed as the main reason we are going is to catch up with friends in Tokyo. We are pretty happy with the rest of the plan also as it includes everything we wanted to see as a family - but the Shirakawago part is so undecided!!! As a guide, all our accommodation (guest houses, hostels and cheap hotels comes in at under $150 per night for all 5 of us. Shirakawago house is around 3 times that much, albeit including lovely dinner).

Either way Ifm sure we will have a great trip but any help would be appreciated!!! Thanks
by Seren (guest)  

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 11:24

I'm on the tourist trap side and to be up front about things I sometimes enjoy cheezy things and tourist traps, but I skipped Shirakawa Go when I went back to Takayama. I find Shirakawa Go boring. It's a lot of shops and restaurants.

I know this is not a popular opinion but I liked Takayama more. I took my child to the Hida no Sato village and I thought it was better than Shirakawa Go because they had a bunch of traditional games for people to try and the exhibits felt more interactive. My daughter loved it. She also just likes feeding the koi. She was 6 when we went.

I'm not a big Hakone fan. It's great if you want a bathing suit onsen or really enjoy taking lots of different types of transport but I'm more of a Kamakura fan myself.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 12:22
Your most expensive night accommodation? Really? Ok - taking that at face value, I wouldn't actually bother staying the night at Shirakawa-go.
More relevant, why not go there (or Takayama) while you are in the area? Matsumoto to Takayama is easy, and then Kiso valley, but making the trip back from Hiroshima/Kyoto to Tokyo is just adding a heap of travel time you don't need to.
Is it a tourist trap? Some bits. Not as bad as some other places. Mostly I find it a bit dull - looking at thatched roof buildings for hours on end isn't that great. Hida Mura is more interesting for your kids too - actual stuff to do and they can explore the buildings more easily/freely.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 12:37
I'm with rkold on this one, in my view Shirakawa doesnt really offer much beyond seeing first hand what google images show online. That said, I was there at the end of December and it was -17 celsius and everyone was slipping over on the ice and getting wet in the slush, it is actually a place that might be more fun in summer.

Personally, I far prefer Takayama though it could be a bit warm that time of year. so far I have spent nearly 2 weeks at Takayama in various stays, I'm not tired of it yet. Another place you might try is Kamikouchi which you'd get to from Matsumoto, it is quite cool and has camping grounds. I'd give it a night and a full day.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 13:38
I looking at you itinerary and I:-

1) Dont see alot for the kids

2) Dont think you have enough days allocated to Kyoto, anyone will tell you 1.5 days is not enough.

3) Spending time with friends sometimes is time consuming and takes away from the tourist thing.

So with that in mind, and you concerns about Shirakawago. I'd add more time to Kyoto and/or Tokyo, and ignore Shirakawago.

In Kyoto, locations like Arashiyama (with a monkey park) and the railway museum in central Tokyo offer more for kids to do.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 18:22
I would suggest spending day 5 night in Nagoya instead because your kids would probably love to see something like the train musuem and/or Legoland. Bump the rest of the nights back by one, skipping Shirakawago entirely.
I assume you meant Miyajima.
by Sal1980 rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 19:24
Don't know where you come from but between Kyoto and Kanazawa, Fukui Dinosaur Museum comes into my mind for kids
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 21:47
Hi everyone, thanks so much these answers are fantastic - Ifm going to research all of those suggestions and run them by the kids for their views! I think Ifm pretty much persuaded that overnighting in ShirakawaGo is perhaps not a emust dof or even the best use of our time so we will look at adding something else.

We donft tend to worry too much about looking out specifically for echildrenfs activitiesf as such because our kids are so used to traveling and they just enjoy getting stuck in and wondering around, trying fun new street food and learning about new places (we did 3 weeks in China with a similar paced itinerary and it worked a treat). If they need a break from sightseeing we spend some time making sketches and scrapbooks of our travels or just playing cards for a bit in a park/cafe.

That said Legoland and Dinosaur museum both sound like theyfd be a big hit and something we would all enjoy! The request from the kids so far are 1) see our friends 2) tea ceremony 3) seafood seafood seafood 4) nature walks 5) pokemon and anime.
Our friends in Tokyo are Japanese and have promised to spend the days giving us an insiders tour of the top Tokyo sights so Ifm fairly comfortable with 5 days being enough there and should tick off some of the kids requests also.

Thanks again for all the brilliant suggestions and for taking the time to reply, this is such a lovely community forum. Please keep any more ideas coming. Ifm off to do some research.....!
by Seren (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/26 23:29

If you decide to add in Kamikochi since you like nature, this is the link to the camping website at Kamikochi:


I stayed in a Cabin A with my daughter in June 2018. The cabin was quite large and could easily accommodate your larger family. It rained non-stop while we were there, so on the positive side it was really empty. I totally get wanting to visit friends in Japan, we do that as well and it does compromise your touring schedule, but I also have to say for people who like nature I'm not sure how much you're really going to be seeing.

My daughter loves the Pokemon Centers in Ikebukuro, Kyoto and the new one attached to the Nihombashi Takashimaya. It also has a cafe with Pokemon themed food and drinks and an appearance by Pikachu in a Chef's costume. The portions were enormous and my daughter and I preferred the drinks, but it was a fun experience.

Since no one else has said this yet, it's going to be hot and humid while you are there so many people not use to that environment can find the experience exhausting.

I really enjoyed ninjadera/Myouruji in Kanazawa, but my daughter wanted a more participatory experience. We both enjoyed Kenrokuen. We didn't make it to the Fukui dinosaur museum though I did think about.

My daughter loved walking out to the torii gate at Miyajima at low tide and looking at all the crabs. The torii gate will be under construction while you are there though. I've been to the top of Mt. Misen via ropeway and climbed back down.

We've not been to the train museum. My daughter isn't really into trains outside of preferring them as a method of transport. She does love Kyoto. I try to limit how many temples we do in one day so they never become too much. One trip we paid to dress in kimono. We went to a slightly more expensive shop than some of the others and the experience was more educational than you would think. This next trip we're looking into doing a craft activity or two. Kanazawa also has some interesting ones on offer.

I really liked Hiroshima/Miyajima, but if it were me on your trip, I would possibly cut it and add more time in the alps, unless you are specifically going to Hiroshima for August 6.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/27 00:50
I have been to Shirakawa-go three times (don`t ask why) and I will side with the tourist trap crew. I was once there during the winter illumination when the whole town was covered under snow - it was a magical scenery but way too crowd to count as a memorable experience (wrote about it here: https://www.bizarrejourneys.com/shirakawa-go/) The last time I was there (we stopped by during a drive) - there was no snow and it was the dictionary definition of tourist trap. Just restaurants and way too many people, felt like walking in line. Kanazawa on the other hand is a wonderful destination. I have beeen to Japan many times and seen a lot and Kanazawa stands out as one of the finest cities of this very fine country. Enjoy your trip!
by Bizarre Journeys rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/27 05:27
A tourist trap? Kind of. I went on a typical day and the area was flooded with Chinese tourists everywhere. They were leaving at dusk so the evening would be quite a different experience. As an alternative, you could go to Gokayama, which has far fewer of the crowds. You could also go to Takayama, but that is really touristy too. Nevertheless, the Hida Folk Village was very good - you could go into many different buildings (though not lived in) and with the explanations on signboards, you actually got a better sense of what life was like for people living in them long ago (and deeply appreciative of today's creature comforts). Takayama does have some other sights as well though the kids would like - I went to the Risu no Mori squirrel park (open spring-fall) and while the species wasn't the long bushy tailed type, my kid enjoyed feeding them for a while. There is also a good limestone cave on the east side, the Hida Great Limestone Cave
that for many is a rare chance to explore a natural cave 250 million years old.
BTW Day 7 you are really shortchanging yourself if you only see the Peace Park in Hiroshima - there is way more, including the beautiful Shukkein Garden and Mitakidera Temple.

Hope it all goes well for you.
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Shirakawa-go with kids? Tourist trap? 2019/2/27 06:49
We went to shirakawa about 4 yrs ago, with our (then) 5 yr old, in April.
We arrived about 4pm, when the place was fairly empty, stayed in a gassho-zukuri where we all ate over the open hearth with lots of other (mainly Japanese) families - which was a highlight for our little one as she had so much friendly attention from everyone since she was the only child there - and then we left on an early bus before anyone turned up the next day.
It was a highlight of our trip. We all still remember it.
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

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