Shirakawa-gō

Shirakawa-gō was the last very famous Japanese touristic spot that I hadn’t yet visited since I arrived to Japan in 2004. The main reason why I had not yet visited this UNESCO World Heritage is because the access to it is not easy.

During our trip to Gifu I decided that it was the perfect chance fulfil my dream of seeing this place. We used our rented car from Takayama and drove all the way to Shirakawa-gō. It was a very easy ride, it was almost all the one hour travel driving on highways with no traffic at all and going through 11km long tunnels!

Walking through the streets of Shirakawa-gō is as beautiful and idillic as it looks like in pictures. When we arrived at nine in the morning, we were almost the first to arrive and it felt like time traveling to an old Japanese village. After ten in the morning hordes of tourists invaded every corner of Shirakawa-gō. So, here is my little piece of advice: if you can, and if you like loneliness when contemplating something beautiful as I do, visit Shirakawa-gō as early as posible.

Japanese Alps hiking

On our third day we drove one hour to the East from Takayama and found ourselves in a valley that reminded me of Switzerland. The first western explorers, after the Meiji opening of Japan, found the mountains of the Hida range that divide Gifu and Nagano prefecture to be utterly similar to the European Alps and decided to name them Japanese Alps. The name stuck with the Japanese people and now the the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi mountains are all officially called Japanese Alps.

We arrived at the Shinhotaka ropeway and parked our car before nine in the morning. We were almost alone, surrounded by nature and the sound of the water hiting the rocky river. But suddenly, three buses filled with old Japanese people (probably retired) arrived and we found ourselves queuing in order to ride the Shinhotaka Ropeway. I’ll never get used to queuing in Japan, there always queues even in remote places where you would not expect it 🙂

The views from the top of the Shinhotaka Ropeway are astounding, pure nature beauty. From there, we started walking up into the mountains following a beginners route called Nishihodoku (西穂独標): Shinhotaka Ropeway ― Nishiho Mountain Cottage ― Maruyama (丸山) ― Nishihodoku. There was no snow at this time of the year and it was a very easy hike that we enjoyed very much. But beware, in winter it can be a very dangerous area: more details about the difficulty of Hotaka hiking routes.

 

japanesealps6

img_5820

img_5824

img_5826

Photo of us with a Japanese Post at 2,156 meters of altitude

img_5833

This is the Nishiho Mountain Cottage. There is food (Ramen!), drinks and you can spend the night here.

img_5837

Photo of us at one of the summits.

japanesealps1 japanesealps2 japanesealps3 japanesealps4 japanesealps5

Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

Our second day in Takayama was NOT planned.  I’m a very J on the last component of the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I like to plan everything beforehand. In order to “fight” against my personality (My confort zone) sometimes I do things that are totally against how I would normally do. For example, not planning a trip is something that brings me out of my confort zone 🙂

We parked our car near the Takayama station and started strolling on the east side of the city. We soon found ourselves walking in streets filled with traditional houses. Beautiful alleys but also filled with tourists, ironically, not planning our day, brought us to the Sanmachi Suji, the most touristic place in Takayama. We crossed several bridges, contemplated the carps swimming in the river and walked northbound until we found ourselves almost alone.

It was then, when we serendipitously found the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by green nature and lightened by the sunset ocre tones. The legend says that this shrine was build to protect Takayama against the monster Ryomen Sukuna, a beast with two heads and eight extremities.

When we entered the grounds of the shrine nobody else was there, it was magical to be there alone. Planning the day would have make it a totally different experience.

sakurayamahachimangu1 sakurayamahachimangu2 sakurayamahachimangu3  sakurayamahachimangu5 sakurayamahachimangu6

 

me

That’s me taking the previous picture!