Shirakawago, Gifu
Photo Source: Onejoshuatree

Shirakawago, Gifu

UniquenessThe sunset watched here, how different is it from the others?
VisibilityIs the sunset likely to be seen from the location?
AccessibilityHow easy is it to get to the location? ("-" means the location cannot be revisited at will)
CrowdHow busy is the location? ("-" means the location has no public access or I was on the move)
OverallIs this location worth a sunset visit?

Shirakawago is a very famous tourist attraction in the Gifu prefecture, somewhere in the middle part of Japan. It is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses that are over 250 years old. The phrase gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer”, because the shape of the farmhouses looked like that with steep thatched roofs built to survive the heavy snow that falls in the region during the winter. The building style is unique as all the roofs are built without using a single nail.

The village looks stunning during winter time with snow covering every farmhouse in the area, and in order to take a picture like that, they provided a viewing platform for tourists for free. In the winter, it gets dark quite early and in order to see the farmhouses clearly, it would require some lights. Therefore, every year around Jan-Feb, there will be a few selected Sundays where the village will host the famous illumination event called the “Light-up Tour”, where all the farmhouses will turn on their lights from 17:30-19:30 specially for tourists. In order to take a great sunset photo, it is best to visit Shirakawago during the illumination event, but this is where it gets tricky. The event controls the amount of tourists in the area, and it is a small village so it doesn’t take a large crowd. In order to enter the village, you must pre-order bus ticket which are sold out very quickly, most people book theirs 6-12 months ahead of time. Alternatively, you can also driving your own car and enter the village, but you need to enter a lucky draw and if you win, you get the voucher for the car park. If you lose, then you won’t be able to get into the village. If you think you don’t mind paying for a very expensive taxi ride to get here, you can of course do that but this also share the same limit as the bus, as parking spaces are limited so you still have to pre-order your taxi months before the trip. Finally, even if you are lucky enough to get into the village, you still have to enter a lucky draw to get a ticket to the viewing platform and this lucky draw ends a few months before the event.

In brief, in order to take a great sunset photo, one needs to be at the viewing platform during the sunset moment in the village that has the illumination event running. You need to pre-order everything and pray that you win the lucky draws mentioned.

  • The whole Shirakawago village is a very unique and well preserved heritage that’s definitely worth a visit even if it’s not for its sunset.
  • Unfortunately due to the village position and climate restriction, visibility of the sunset is not very clear. It is not recommended to come here for sunset photography.
  • There are buses and trains to get here although they are not short trips and restricted by time table and crowds. Careful planning is needed if you are to come here during the evening.
  • Expect huge crowds here all year round, day and night.

Tips & Sharing

There are a few hotels in the village allowing you to experience a stay in these unique farmhouses. However, during the illumination event, many of these hotels are closed for business, and only a few selected ones serve customers. All of these require pre-registration and again, need to go through lucky draws. Nevertheless, if you have plans to visit here during the illumination event, you should prepare 12 months ahead of time, and do all the lucky draws anyway, it’s definitely worth it.

Shirakawago, Gifu
Photo Source: nans0410

Location of the Sunset