The most exciting for us was to the Gifu prefecture. We had seen a tourist booklet that showed these amazing historic houses covered in snow and planned to visit the area. The town of Gifu is only twenty minutes from Nagoya, which was just over an hour from Kobe. On the way there it was apparent we had got something wrong, as it was a fairly large urban area with no sign of snow. With patchy wifi access we With patchy wifi access at stations only, we struggled to get the whole picture, but were able to figure out we needed to be in Takayama, a town within Gifu Prefecture TWO hours away, fortunately on the same train line.
Train to Takayama
We made a split second decision as the train pulled into Gifu town to go for it and committed to the full train ride. As we were in an unreserved section of the train we could travel anywhere we wanted on our JR passes, but we needed to ensure we booked our ride on the last train back when we arrived to avoid being stranded overnight.
The trip to Takayama was very enjoyable and highly recommended in itself as an activity. As we progressed inland the snow outside started to pile higher and higher until we were in a full blown winter wonderland.
Gifu House in the Snow
We arrived in Takayama town around 3:00pm and immediately booked our tickets on the return trip just after 7pm.
We made our way to the tourist stand and asked about the historic houses, which turned out to be a further hour and a half away by bus. We couldn’t get there due to timetables, so instead visited a nearby museum park that had examples of historic houses on display.
The park closed at 4:30pm and it took half an hour to get there including waiting time, so we only had an hour to look around, which was enough for us.
The area was beautiful, the snow thicker than anything we had experienced before and the historic houses very interesting. You can see from the pictures how incredibly thick the snow on the roofs and trees were. We pondered what kind of snowstorm would be required to have this result.
The Wandering Swan
I think the main difference between the park houses and the historic houses in Shirakawa is that people are still living in the Shirakawa Village houses, and interacting with them is part of the attraction.
We may get out there one day, but unless we left extraordinarily early in the morning it would be better to stay in Takayama overnight. It is such an amazingly different place compared to urban Japan that I would have no problem recommending doing exactly that.
There are some spa’s nearby as well as some skiing areas, so there would be plenty to fill a couple of days stay.
Takayama Old Houses
We got back into town just before dark and hunted down some food. Takayama has its own variety of ramen, which is browner and saltier than the vanilla type, a little too salty for me.
We also had some of the local Hida beef which was a treat. Hida beef is as regulated as Kobe beef, as in all the bulls are registered and must conform to the checklist standard. I found the meat to my liking, though leaner and not as marbled as the Kobe variety.
Gifu Snow Storm
We visited a few souvenir shops around town, picking up some interesting junk food for the long trip back, then made our way to the train station for our 7pm ride home.
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