Winter Wonderland in Shirakawa-go
~Gassho-zukuri light-up event, observatory & locations recommended for photograph~
The views of Shirakawa-go is so beautiful like a fairy tale.
There was a gassho-zukuri light-up event would be held for 6 days in a year in 2017.
This is one of the most famous event in Shirakawa-go.
Many many people would like to go for this event because the Gassho-zukuri architecture covered with snow and illumination is just like a Winter wonderland.
This article is about to introduce the way to go upside the observatory and some important points for your reference.
★Date of Light-up event
The light-up event usually will be held for 6 days only in January and February between 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
A number of people come from all around the world for this special event at that time.
There are 70 – 80% of foreign travelers and it cause an increase of tourists rushing to come to Shirakawa-go during this period (particularly during the day).
If you would like to know this event schedule in 2018 please visit the official website.
Current schedule is not for 2018 but 2017, maybe they will update the date in 2018 at least in Sep or Oct.
★How to go to the observatory?
Walking to the observatory had been suddenly prohibited in 2017.
If you would like to go to the observatory, you must get a “Shuttle bus ticket” in advance.
The ticket will be distributed around 3 p.m. at the shuttle bus stop on every event day.
Now we introduce the way to get a ticket!
Firstly, find the brown sign of the observatory shuttle bus stop which is located in the main street of the Shirakawa-go.
Secondly, stand at the end of the line.
Thirdly, wait for the staff to distribute the ticket (one person one ticket only)
And if your family or friends are not here, you cannot take more tickets on behalf of them!!
Then, the staff will explain the details briefly in Japanese, Chinese or English while distributing the ticket.
In addition, the boarding time, location and notice are written in the bus ticket.
Finally, come to the boarding place on time!
Tickets will be collected by the staff when you are boarding.
Please do not lose your ticket as it could not be reissued and comes on time!
One more important thing is that only ticket holder could be boarding this shuttle bus!!
“Tenshukaku observatory” is the location where people get off the shuttle bus.
But the observatory here is small and only a few people could get in there at one time as compare to the other spots.
It might takes about 10 to 30 minutes to be getting in.
There is another observatory, larger than the tenshukaku one, which only takes 30 second to 1 minutes to go down from the place people get off the bus.
(If the weather is not good like snowing / raining, the view is just like this photo!!)
★The view from the observation Deck
The full picture of the Shirakawa-go was captured from the observatory. It’s beautiful, right? One of the reasons why people wanna go to Shirakawa-go during the light-up period is that they would like to take this kind of photos.
However, the weather is uncontrollable. Bad weather condition like heavy snow or fog sometimes might be disappointing you.
Furthermore, it’s might not possible to take a clear picture at night if you do not have a digital single lens reflex camera(DSLR) or digital single lens reflex-like(DSLR-like) camera.
FAQ at Observation Deck
Q: Why should be waiting so long to get into the Tenshukaku observatory?
A: It’s because the Tenshukaku is private space, not village-owned.
So staff of Tenshukaku observatory use a DSLR to take a photo for every visitors.
Visitors could purchase this professional photo for 1500 yen each.
They can take only 1 shot for you to use your camera or mobile phone.
So these flow spend much time to let visitors wait so long time.
Q: Are there any differences between the two observation decks and Tenshukaku one?
A: For the experience of the staffs and volunteers, there are no difference between the two observation one.
Q: May I using the camera tripod?
A: Camera tripod is prohibited in the period of the light-up event. (between 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.)
Q: How could I go downhill back to the Shirakawa-go? Is there have a bus return?
A: Only one-way bus service is available during the light-up period when the weather is fine.
Tourists should go downhill on foot. It takes about 20-30 minutes from the observatory to the village.
Nevertheless, there may have some arrangement based on the situation, such as weather condition or there may be a danger if tourists going downhill by themselves.
Please follow the instruction by the staff
★Recommended locations for photograph
Not only the observatory, but there are still many photo locations that could take the beautiful shot of the gassho-zukuri during the light-up period.
The deepest part of Shirakawa-go which is far away, takes 20 to 25 minutes on foot, from the central of Shirakawa-go called “Kan-machi”.
Here you could take the photo of the three big houses in the same frame which is also the most popular view that media would like to use as advertising.
Besides this location have less people than other areas that you could take photos without people’s head!
2. Kanda House
Popular photographic point – Kanda House
You could be also capturing three gassho-zukuri house at one time if you stand at a higher position.
3. Myozen Temple
You sometimes might have a chance to take an projection image of the Myozen temple on the snowing!!
★Tips for taking a photo of the light-up gassho-zukuri house
Q: How could I take a photo with a beautiful blue sky and snow like advertisement photo?
A: It depends on the weather situation, and need to use professional camera.
Under the weather is fine without any fog, rain and snow, you could take a beautiful photo. In addition to weather condition, earlier time is important around 5:30 pm to 6:00 pm before sunset.
Anyway you enjoy various face of village.
As the increasing of the tourists from all around the world, some volunteers in the grey coat who are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Japan come and help to answer the enquiries from the tourists.
They all could speak in English or Chinese.
Try to say thank you or “otsukaresama-desu”, which also means thank you in Japanese, to them please!
Not only the light-up period, but a peaceful landscape in Shirakawa-go in the morning is also very attractive.
Contact & Questions:
Gassho Travel Concierge