Hooray! The official dates of light-up events in Shirakawago and Gokayama have been announced, and we just can’t bear to miss the opportunity this year! Yes, as cliché as it sounds, Japan’s living world heritage is a BIG bucket list adventure you’ll be sorry to miss!
Close your eyes and picture this: The heavy blanket of snow quietly spreading across the steeply slanting thatched roofs. The peaceful white land illuminated by the shimmering lights. Such poetic and picturesque sights draws travelers from all over the world, and now, you.
Nevertheless, you might fret about how to get there, ways to book the perfect accommodation, and what to prepare. Put your mind at ease, KKday is here for you! We now present you EVERYTHING you need to know about planning the trip to this stunning winter wonderland.
Wanna visit Shirakawago but afraid you won’t be able to score a bus tickets? Or there is a language gap too wide to cross? Why not join a fuss-free day tour! Here are the tours you can find on KKday:
- Tour A: 2019 Shirakawa-go Winter Light-Up Half-Day Tour from Takayama
- Tour B: 2019 Shirakawago Winter Light-up and Hida Takayama Day Tour from Nagoya
- Tour C: 2019 Shirakawago Winter Light-up Day Tour from Takayama
- Tour D: 2019 Shirakawago Winter Light-Up, Kenrokuen Garden, and Hida Takayama 2 Day Tour from Nagoya
- Tour E: 2019 Shirakawago Winter Light-up and Onsen 2 Day Tour from Osaka
- Tour F: 2019 Shirakawago Winter Light-Up, Kenrokuen Garden, and Hida Takayama 2 Day Tour from Tokyo
1. Shirakawago Light-up 2019 Event Dates
There are only 6 days a year for you to marvel at the winter scenic wonder of Shirakawago. The dates for 2019 have been revealed:
First event: 14th January (Monday)
Second event: 20th January (Sunday)
Third event: 27th January (Sunday)
Fourth event: 3rd Feburary (Sunday)
Fifth event: 11th February (Monday)
Sixth event: 17th February (Sunday)
Among all these dates, the 14th January and 11th February are public holidays. Hence, more traffic and crowds are expected on those days. Timewise, the events take place from 17:30 to 19:30 each day.
Big Change for 2019 event: Reservation is a must!
To ease the congestion during the events and to avoid the conflict caused, this coming 2019, prior reservation will be mandatory for everyone who wants to visit Shirakawago. Those without a reservation will be refrained from accessing the village. There are 4 ways to make reservations:
- Staying overnight: Already finished and fully booked
- Day returns self-driving guests using the parking lot: The second round of booking application has been opened since 10th October. Check the official website for the links to the booking pages of each date. First come, first served!
- Guests who wish to visit the village by tour bus: Please contact the travel agencies
- Guests who wish to visit the village by bus: Fully booked. However, if you do speak Japanese, there is so far still a bus company that has tickets available, and the reservation can only be made via phone call.
The above is based on the information from the official website. We will keep you updated as soon as possible!
2. How to go to Shirakawago
Taking a bus might be the easiest way to reach Shirakawago. Even though the buses to Shirakawago at the light-up dates are not available anymore, you can still follow the guideline below if you wish to go on other dates of the year!
Most visitors head to Shirakawago from Nagoya, and Shoryudo Highway Bus Pass is always their top choice to travel around! The pass includes an array of routes and stops apart from Shirakawago. If you aim to explore the central region of Japan, book the pass so you can enjoy the most convenient method of transportation for your trip!
- Meeting point: Nagoya, Central Japan International Airport, Takayama
- Destinations: Nagoya, Takayama, Kanazawa, Shirakawa, Matsumoto
- Type of bus passes: 3 Day Pass and 5 Day Pass
- How to use the pass: With the pass, you can get unlimited bus journeys in the specified areas
Additionally, within 3 Day Pass and 5 Day Pass there are several routes that require booking in advance. Here’s the table at a glance:
You can also check out the websites of other bus company that goes to Shirakawago:
3. How to book a homestay in Shirakawago
The traditional gassho style guesthouses are mostly managed by local seniors. Therefore in most cases, Japanese is the only language to communicate with. How can you book a stay if you do not speak the language then?
Here’s the good news— you can book the accommodation through the official website of Shirakawa-go Tourist Association, with English interface! When you enter the website, click on the icon at the upper right corner and choose “English”. Afterward, click on “Stay” to make your way to the web page with a list of accommodations.
Simply click on the guesthouse image that you fancy to check further details and make a reservation request. Do note that they only accept booking within 4 months from the date you make a request.
Another website perfect for English speakers is the Shirakawa Village Official Website, which also provides information and bookings in English. From there, you can even view a more detailed description of each one-of-a-kind guesthouse!
4. A few reminders before you’re all set
Starting from 2019: Shuttle buses to the observation deck require a reservation
Since last year, visitors have been requested to reach the observation deck by shuttle bus only. This year, they rolled out an additional regulation— visitors need to book and pay in advance for the shuttle bus tickets through Tourist Association website. Those who stay overnight are guaranteed a ticket. Check here for detailed information.
Starting from 2019: The parking lots require a reservation
Due to the limitation of visitors number, those who wish to arrive at the village by car would need to book a space for the parking lot first! Alternatively, you can simply select our 2-Day Tour for the illumination of Shirakawago. Convenience and access guaranteed!
Keep your batteries charged
What could be worse than finding out your camera is dead while everyone else is capturing the astonishing view? Since the temperature is pretty low during winter in Shirakawago, the phone and camera might lose batteries even faster than under normal circumstances. Always remember to always keep your electronic devices fully charged before going out, or take a power bank with you to be on the safe side.
Torch, umbrella and anti-skid boots are your best companies
If you are going to the light-up event, there is a great chance you will be walking in the dark snowy night. Take a torch with you when there’s not much light, and an umbrella just in case you’ll encounter snowfall. A pair of anti-skid boots can keep you from falling over the slippery, wet road.
It is reeeally cold out there!
While you are anticipating your upcoming trip to the snowy village, don’t neglect the fact that far below freezing temperatures are expected there, especially at night! Prepare clothes for snowy weather such as hats, gloves, winter socks, base layers, and hand warmers. Dress in layers. Keep yourself light and dry so you can walk easily on the snow cover.
You can’t set up your tripod anywhere
If you are a photography lover or expert, please be aware that due to the rugged and snowy terrain, it could be dangerous to set up a tripod. Normally, the village will preserve a space for everyone to set up their tripods, but you’ll have to queue early for the perfect spot.
And that’s all you need to know for your trip to Shirakawago, Japan! Walk in the dreamy winter fairytale and wait for the warm glistening lights to brighten up the whole village. Soaking in the captivating view, you’d think to yourself: “There’s no place I’d rather be. ” It’ll be worth all the hassle and preparation, we pinky swear!
Thinking of visiting Japan soon? Check out our other guides for inspiration: