In the northwest corner Gifu nestled in the Ryohaku Mountains shadow of Mount Haku, one of Japan's sacred mountains, is Shirakawa village. Shirakawa villages hosts the site of Shirakawa-go, a small traditional village showcasing rice-stalk style roofed buildings called gassho-zukuri. Together with its neighbor Gokayama in Nanto, Toyama, it was designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Because of its heavy snow and temperatures, the gassho-zkuri homes were created. Gassho-zukuri is a house built of wooden beams combined to form a steep thatched roof that resembles two hands together. The house face north and south, to minimize wind resistance. They are also built for be comfort in both summer and winter. The houses stand in a certain direction to adjust the amount of sun in order to keep the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter. With the shape of the Hakusan National Park mountain ranges as a background, these sites are major tourist attractions.
The Shirakawa Folklore museum shows life in the village, construction of the buildings and the jobs of the people in the area. Some homes in the area operate as minshukus and ryokans while others are stores and museums. The Wadake home is the largest of these houses and located right inside the downtown limited vehicle area.
Shirakawa is also known for its local sake called doburoku. This is unfiltered white sake or nigori sake. Unlike other sake which has been filtered and made clear, doburoku still has rice bits floating around. Before serving, the bottle is shaken to mix the sediment and turn the sake white or cloudy. But by Japanese law doburoku is actually not "sake". It is strong at 14 to 17% alcohol by volume but smooth and worth a taste. The best time to try Doburoke is at the Nigorizake festival held on October 14th and 15th at Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine.
Besides the historical sites and unique sake, Shirakawa village has raw, wild natural beauty. Any season is a great time to visit as each one changes the face of the town and surroundings. Shirakawa village is 95% mountainous forests so visitors can hike the Hakusan Rindo, Amau Pass, famous for its fall colors, and the Koso wetlands.
Due to its isolation it's is only accessible by car or bus. Buses leave Takayama station several times a day. Give yourself time to get there but once you are there, you may not want to leave.