How to Get to Shirakawa-go
Most visitors to the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama will use public transport them from Kanazawa, Toyama or Takayama. The three villages making-up the Shirakawa-go and Gokayama grouping are all accessible by car with parking available at each however most international make the journey by public transport. On this page you will find the following information:
When visiting Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, it’s important to note that three villages are included under that grouping. Ogimachi is the largest of the three and is often referred to simply as ‘Shirakawa-go’ in its own right. It has the most to see, attracts the most visitors and is the easiest to get to however depending on what your’re after, heading to the smaller villages of Suganuma or Ainokura – together referred to as ‘Gokayama’ – might be better-suited. See ’15 Things to Do in Shirakawa-go & Where to Stay’ below for suggestions of how to get the most out of your time there.
15 Things to Do in Shirakawa-go & Where To Stay
The villages making-up Shirakawa-go and Gokyama rank among some of the most…
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WHERE IS SHIRAKAWA-GO?
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama – often referred to just as ‘Shirakawa-go’ – is the collective name of a grouping of villages afforded World Heritage status in 1995. There villages – Ogimachi, Suganuma and Ainokura – make-up the grouping with Ogimachi being the largest and main village. Located high in the North Alps, Ogimachi lies 75KM / 70-minutes drive to the south-east of Kanazawa, 85KM / 80-minutes drive to the south-west of Toyama, and 50KM / 50-minutes drive to west of Takayama. As such, most visitors heading to Shirakawa-go do so from Kanazawa Station, Toyama Station or Takayama Station where bus services run to the villages. Lying close to the historic old town of Takayama, many visitors combine their visit to the two famous destinations with the option of also heading further into Central Japan and onto Kamikochi, Matsumoto and Nagano. Of course, the journey is just to make in the opposite direction as you navigate your way through the mountainous heart of Japan.
HOW TO GET TO SHIRAKAWA-GO
Most visitors heading to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama will do so via Takayama, Kanazawa or Toyama. In this section you will find information on how to reach Shirakawa-go from those and the following starting points:
We endeavour to keep this information as up-to-date as possible and in recognition that most international visitors will be using the train network to move around Japan, most directions are for using the trains. If there is alternative option i.e. express or local bus, that is notably faster or economical, we also include that information.
FROM TAKAYAMA / 50 minutes
Located nearby Shirakawa-go, Takayama is one of the most convenient points from where to reach the famous villages. The Nohi Bus company operates multiple daily services to and from Ogimachi, from their terminal located next to Takayama Station. Round-trip tickets are available to Ogimachi only or all three villages, including Suganuma and Ainokura, along with options of multi-day tickets. For adults, expect to pay between JPY4800 and JPY9500 depending on which option you choose. The bus journey from Takayama to Ogimachi takes approximately 50 minutes. Suganuma can be reached from Ogimachi using the local bus headed for Shin-Takaoka – it takes around 30 minutes and costs JPY870. Ainokura can also be reached from Ogimachi using the local bus headed for Shin-Takaoka Station – it takes 45 minutes from Ogimachi and costs JPY1300. Please see the following page for information including timetables and fares to and from Takayama.
FROM KANAZAWA / 75 to 85 minutes
Kanazawa is another of the easiest points from where to reach Shirakawa-go. The Hokuetsu Bus company operates regular services between Kanazawa Station and Ogimachi (with some additional services to Suganuma from March until November). The bus departs from the East Exit of Kanazawa and takes between 75 to 85 minutes to reach Ogimachi, depending on the service you use. Adults should expect to pay around JPY1850. Please see the following page for information including timetables and fares to and from Kanazawa.
FROM TOYAMA / 60 minutes
Toyama is another easy point from where to head to Shirakawa-go. The Nohi Bus company also operates several daily services from Toyama Station to Ogimachi and onto Takayama. It takes approximately 60 minutes to reach Ogimachi from Toyama. Adults should expect to pay around JPY1730 one-way or JPY3120 return. Buses depart from outside the stations Central Gate. Please see the following page for information including timetables and fares to and from Toyama.
FROM KAMIKOCHI / approx. 2.5 to 3 hours
Visitors heading to Shirakawa-go from Kamikochi can do so via the Takayama Nohi Bus Center. From the Kamikochi Bus Terminal, take the bus to the Hirayu Onsen Bus Terminal – 25 to 30 minutes – and then switch to the bus headed to Takayama – another 60 minutes. Please see the following page for information including timetables and fares to and from Takayama. Once in Takayama, follow the directions above to reach Shirakawa-go.
FROM MATSUMOTO / approx. 3.5 to 4 hours
Reaching Shirakawa-go from Matsumoto is fairly straight-forward. Take the Nohi Bus service from Matsumoto Station to Takayama and then transfer to the bus headed to Shirakawa-go. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach Takayama and then follow the directions above.
FROM NAGANO CITY / approx. 2.5 to 3.5 hours
There is no direct public transport to Shirakawa-go from Nagano City. It can however be accessed via Matsumoto or Toyama. We recommend doing so via Toyama. To do so take the Hokuriku Shinkansen – just over 60 minutes – and follow the directions above. To reach Matsumoto, take the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ from Nagano Station – approximately 50 minutes – and follow the directions above. Alternatively, some visitors choose to travel back to Shin-Takaoka using the shinkansen and switch onto a bus headed for Shirakawa-go however we don’t recommend this. It is no faster than the options above and both Matsumoto and Toyama make for better transit locations, worth stopping and visiting enroute to Shirakawa-go.
FROM THE JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK / approx. 3.5 hours
The Jigokudani Monkey Park and Shirakawa-go are separated by a considerable distance, requiring multiple transports to move between one and the other. For that reason, it is best attempted over two days. Visitors have the option of using the Nagaden Express Bus service from the park to Nagano Station, or a combination of local bus to Yudanaka Station followed by train from Yudanaka to Nagano Station. Both options are covered by the Snow Monkey Pass but are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Once at Nagano Station, follow the directions above to reach Shirakawa-go.
FROM NAGOYA / approx. 4 hours
From Nagoya, it’s easy to reach Takayama from where you can take the bus onto Takayama. Highway buses operated by Meitetsu and Nohi Bus connect Nagoya Station and Takayama, taking around 2.5 hours and costing a little over JPY3000. We recommend using the Limited Express ‘Hida’ service from Nagoya Station. Also taking around 2.5 hours and costing around JPY6000, this service is covered by the Japan Rail Pass and allows a very comfortable journey to Takayama. Once in Takayama, follow the directions above.
FROM TOKYO / approx. 4 to 4.5 hours via Toyama
There is no direct train from Tokyo to Shirakawa-go so it takes a little time and planning but the villages can be accessed via Takayama, Matsumoto or Toyama. For visitors wanting to reach Takayama directly from Tokyo, the Nohi Bus company operates several daily services from Shinjuku, that take approximately 5.5 hours. Once in Takayama follow the directions above (given the distance and time to reach Takayama from Tokyo, a total journey of a round 7 hours, it’s best to plan to head onto Shirakawa-go the following day). Please see the following page for information including timetables and fares to and from Tokyo.
Alternatively, the Limited Express ‘Azusa’ runs from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto and takes around 2.5 hours. There are two services per hour. Once in Matsumoto, follow the directions above. Another option is to take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or Ueno Stations to Nagano, Toyama or Karuizawa. Once there, follow the directions above onto Shirakawa-go. Both train services are covered by the Japan Rail Pass. This is the fastest and our recommended option taking a total of around 4 hours (depending on connection times).
FROM NARITA AIRPORT / 4.5 to 6 hours
If heading to Shirakawa-go straight from Narita Airport, you will first need to head into central Tokyo to either Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station. The Narita Express (NEX) runs from Narita to both Tokyo Station and Shinjuku Station. It takes 55 minutes to reach Tokyo Station (depending on the service) and costs JPY3070 with trains departing every 30 to 60 minutes and 90 to 105 minutes to reach Shinjuku and costs JPY3250. Once at Tokyo Station, follow the directions above. Again, we recommend using the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Toyama and taking the bus from there – a total journey time of around 4.5 to 6 hours (depending on connection times).
Alternatively, for visitors wanting to use the bus from Shinjuku to Takayama (and then onto Shirakawa-go), you can also take the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori Station, transfer to the Yamanote Loop Line bound for Osaki and disembark at Shinjuku – a journey of 70 minutes / JPY2720. Once at Shinjuku, follow the directions above onto Takayama and from there, take the bus to Shirakawa-go.
FROM HANEDA AIRPORT / 4.5 to 6 hours
From Haneda Airport visitors also need to head into Tokyo to make their way onto Shirakawa-go. You have two options: head to Shinjuku Station from the airport and take the bus to Takayama and then onto Shirakawa-go or head to Tokyo Station and take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Toyama or Kanazawa and then take the bus to Shirakawa-go. We recommend using the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Toyama and taking the bus from there – a total journey time of around 4.5 to 6 hours (depending on connection times).
To use the bus from Shinjuku, take the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho Station and then take the Yamanote Line to Shinjuku – a journey of 45 to 50 minutes / JPY700. Once at Shinjuku, follow the directions above onto Shirakawa-go. Alternatively, to access Shirakawa-go via Tokyo Station and the Hokuriku Shinkansen, take the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatasucho and then head onto to Tokyo Station – 30 minutes / JPY660. Once at Tokyo, switch to the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Toyama or Kanazawa and once at your chosen stop, follow the directions above.
FROM KYOTO & OSAKA / 4 to 4.5 hours
Kyoto & Osaka are connected to Kanazawa by the Limited Express ‘Thunderbird’, from where you can use a bus to reach Shirakawa-go. Frequent services run between the cities and involve the following travel times and costs: 150 to 155 minutes / JPY7260 from Shin-Osaka Station and 125 minutes / JPY6490 from Kyoto Station. Once at Kanazawa, follow the directions above onto Shirakawa-go.
15 THINGS TO DO IN SHIRAKAWA-GO & WHERE TO STAY
For many if not most Japanese, the word ‘satoyama’ conjures imagery of idyllic rural villages and a slower, healthier way of life in which people live in harmony with their environment. Literally translating as ‘mountain village’, satoyama has no better demonstration than in the villages making-up Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. Awarded World Heritage status for just that reason – as examples of human ingenuity and the ability of man to live in harmony with our environment – the villages are hugely popular destinations that can be enjoyed as day-trips from Takayama, Toyama or Kanazawa or overnight visits by staying in one of the farmhouses. Our ’15 Things to Do in Shirakawa-go & Where To Stay’ page has some great information about what’s on offer when you visit and accommodation options in the area.
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