On my trip back home from Kaga Onsen Festival, I decided to stop at a traditional Japanese village called Shirakawago (白川郷) located in the mountainous Gifu Prefecture. This village is extremely historic because it consists of traditional farmhouses that are over 250 years with the handwork of Japanese architecture that has been honed for many generations. Visitors are free to explore and enter some of the houses for a small entrance fee, and there are several restaurants as well. Remote from any major metropolis, this village is also the location of the fictional mystery/horror series Higurashi no naku koro ni called Hinamizawa.
“A flower raised in a greenhouse is still beautiful, even though it knows no adversity. But a flower growing in the field that has braved wind, rain, cold, and heat possesses something more than just beauty.” – Rena Ryuugu, Higurashi no naku koro ni
Since I was close to Kanazawa Station, I was fortunate to take only a two hour bus ride directly here. From Tokyo, this village can take around 4-5 hours to reach depending on the train schedule (some trains only run once per hour). The village gets dark at night, so most places close around 6pm-7pm for safety. There is lodging available for those who wish to stay overnight, though I only stayed for around 3 hours which was plenty for me.
My biggest recommendation in Shirakawago is the Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum. When you first get off the bus stop, the majority of shops you see are all aimed at tourists and only have souvenirs. However, the outdoor museum is about a 15 minute walk away from this area and contains all preserved houses and a beautiful creek. There are a total of 26 buildings you can see here, and the Jin Homura Art Museum is nearby so stop by for an inside look at some of his hand-painted works!
For lunch, I stopped by the Soba Dojo and had some delicious handmade buckwheat noodles–probably the best I had ever tasted! I also tried some pumpkin bread from a bakery nearby, which wasn’t very sweet but was very wholesome made with all natural ingredients grown on the farm. There are a number of places that serve traditional Japanese food in addition to soba.
Another place of interest is the nearby shrine, better known as Furude Shrine in Higurashi. You can see the school and bridge from the anime as well. The resemblance of the building structures is truly uncanny so those who have enjoyed the series, though the overall atmosphere of the village is very pleasant and welcoming!
On my way back, I decided to enter the Kanda and Wada houses, because they are two of the most famous. Inside of the houses, you can climb all the way to the top, see the tools that they used in the past (you may see the inspiration for Rena’s hatchet design), and also enjoy some complimentary tea.
The last place I recommend is the Shirakawago Observatory, which is just a short hike up the hill next to the bus stop. You can see the most amazing view of the village from this point (captured in the first image).
Unlike the eerie sensation the village gives off in the series, the actual Shirakawago is not haunted or fearsome. It’s actually a great place to relax and take a great from the city, and the people are very friendly too. All of the tourists that make the journey here are usually interested in history, so I’d rate this as a very good tourist attraction overall.
3 thoughts on “Visiting Shirakawago: A Traditional Japanese Village (Real-life Hinamizawa)”
Man, I loved Higurashi. I probably have to make a pilgrimage to this village someday.
Hope you do, because you’ll definitely notice the similarities (in a good way)! 🙂