Autumn in Shirakawa-Go, Japan

If you haven’t heard of Shirakawa-go (白川村) in Japan, then perhaps you should consider making a trip to this UNESCO world heritage site. The Shirakawa-go is located on the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountainous region between Takayama and Kanazawa. It is  best known for its traditional farmhouses with thatched roof.

Many visitors prefer to visit in the Winter when the whole valley and the farmhouse roofs are romantically covered white with snow. For me, I rather prefer Autumn when there are lots of colors.

Arriving there, we first strolled by the river bank and enjoyed the view of the colored foliage at this time of the year. It was like a rainbow of hues and this never failed to delight us.

Then we have a close encounter of the farm houses. The steep A-frame style of the farmhouses are called “Gassho-zukuri”合掌村, some of which are more than 250 years old. The thatched roofs are supported by logs tied with ropes, without any nails, formed to a shape like Buddhist monks praying with their hands pressed together.

The photo I like best is the one below which shows a small  thatched house and paddy field; a path leading almost to it and with lots of trees of different colors at the background. This is like the first painting I did as a small boy; sheer simple and delightful.

We spent the later part of the afternoon walking around the village unravelling the secrets of the Gassho-zukuri nestled in between the valleys of this  very mountainous region. Not only the houses are beautiful but also the hills, leaves and flowers at this time of the year.

The leaves are incredibly beautiful with all kind of different colors. . . . . . . Autumn Leaves was the song in my heart.

One thing that I found with Japanese Maple is that their color is not quite the same as found elsewhere.

On returning from the trip, I realized that I have missed out some good vantage points for taking good pictures. . . . . . . . . . .obviously, one could have climbed up the nearby hills and have a bird’s-eye view of the whole village. I have some regrets of not having done that;  but this gives me a good reason for going back at least for one more time!

88 thoughts on “Autumn in Shirakawa-Go, Japan

    • We were fortunate to be there at the right time. With global warming, the weather is becoming more unpredictable. Thanks very much for visiting and following my blog. I like your blog too, especially the “sleeping dinosaur” photo.

  1. I understand that the night scene looks wonderful too. I wonder whether there are skiing facilities in the winter as the snow is thick and powdery.
    Did you have to stop in Tokyo and take a train ? I have found that the flight schedule from HK to Japan is not convenient and two days are ‘wasted’ just to get to/from the airport.

  2. Pingback: Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Fae's Twist & Tango

    • Your picture taken at a high level of the Shirakawa-go is just lovely. I would like to take a similar photo when I am there next time. I guess winter there would also be lovely!

    • All I needed was a far away view of the Shirakawa-go village similar to what is depicted in photo of Wikimedia Commons. However, I know I couldn’t ask for more. Thank you for the kind comment 🙂

  3. Autumn is my favorite time of the year I think and these pictures remind me why. The houses sound fascinating–it says a lot about tried and true building methods that continue to hold up. A truly beautiful place-I loved all the images here-but the picture of the house and paddy field does look like a painting-

    • You may also want to see these A-frame houses under heavy snow when the whole village is pure white. Someday, I will be back in Shirakawa-Go on a snowy day! Thanks for the perusal and the comment 🙂

  4. So beautiful with the autumn colours – thanks for sharing. I spent Christmas day there, about 6 years ago. Thick snow on the roofs, hot rice wine by a heater, and almost no-one there!

    • Winter is the season when I would like to be back at Shirakawa-Go; I’m sure you had an unforgettable experience there. Thank you for the kind comment:-)

  5. The momiji red Japanese Maple leaves are definitely a very unique and stunningly beautiful color. I never had any idea just how colorful autumn could be until I visited Japan. The timing of my visit to Shirakawa-go wasn’t as good as yours – I saw more colored leaves going over the mountains en-route to the village than I saw while I was there – but it is a place that I would like to visit again some autumn.

    • Hi, I would like to visit it again when it is snowing; hopefully it won’t be too cold in the Winter. Thank you for the perusal and kind words 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for these pictures of a paradise on earth. I had no idea Japan is so colorful in the fall. How little I know about our Asian neighbors! Hmmm…. I’m glad I can learn through your blog here.

  7. Could you please tell me the exact date you went? Btw, Shirakawa-go is most beautiful in winter; I stayed 1 night there on late January last year. I also had a 1 day visit there again this year in April.

  8. Bonjour Michael,
    magnifiques photos. Nous avons nous aussi, dans le nord de l’Amérique, au CANADA, de magnifiques couleurs tout comme les vôtres. Nous sommes actuellement au temps de toute cette palette de couleurs que la nature nous offre. Peut-être qu’un jour vous aurez le désir de venir nous visiter pour les admirer.
    Bienvenue au CANADA.

    • Bonjour Ghislaine, hope I can respond in French – however, I only learn it for one year and will not be able to do so. many thanks for liking the post and the greetings from Canada. Merci 🙂

  9. Hi , which date/month in autumn did you go? Cos normally those autumn dates that i go , the leaf already drop.

  10. Hello Mr. Lai 🙂

    After reading I was impressed and decided to post it to my blog.
    I’m writing this to let you know that a few of your pics would be used there.

    Thank you for a great post and nice pics!

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  12. Hello
    It’s wonderful pictures.
    What is the best month to go Shirakawa-go for the autumn leaves? I will plan to go there November 10th, 2015


  13. Oh Michael, your photos of Shirakawa-go look so good! I had booked to stay in one of the farm houses but I changed my mind and instead plan to do the journey up the alpine pass, staying at Murudo- maybe I shouldn’t have changed my plans?

    • They are quite different and have different things to see especially depending on the season. You can also search my post on Tateyama Kurobe which I believe is the alpine pass on my blog.

  14. HI Michael,

    Me and wife plan to stay in TAKAYAMA/MATSUMOTTO region and cover Shirakawa-go and interesting places during ( Nov 20 – 23) . This is our first time in Japan. Will there be autumn colors in the region or snow . Do you advise to cover the area during November , 2015.


  15. Here is my foliage Nov,2015.Flights already booked.

    15-17:Hiroshima/Miyajima Island
    18-21:Kyoto/Arashiyama/Hozu Valley/Nara/Osaka

    —- If there is no fall or snow in Takayama/Matsumotto I will have to look for some productive sites-

    21 – 23) : Since I am covering Enough fall would you recommend any other terrain .

    • First snow fall in Shirakawago in the past

      27 Oct 2010

      21 Nov 2011

      14 Nov 2012

      25 Nov 2013

      It doesn’t mean the place will be covered by snow after first fall as morning sun will melt the snow.
      It is rather difficult for me to suggest where to go.

  16. I have visited Shirawakago in the Fall. It’s totally awesome. Thanks for your words of encouragement. for my revived blog. Really appreciated.

  17. i was there in spring, but unfortunately heavy rain the next day for the whole day, so no time to explore ;( especially I have to catch another bus to kanazawa cause i already booked a hotel there months before. quite a failure. but i managed to stay one night in a gassho-zukuri house that belongs to a 2nd generation of a japanese family, experience dining in a real heritage house. and i really would love to return to that place in autumn, apart from other cities in japan. yep i would like to experience the autumn foliage, love the red-yellow colour tones!

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