Friday, June 21, 2013

Chasing Sakura - Japan (8) - Shirakawa-go (白川鄉)

My first impression of Shirakawa-go is "gingerbread houses".  Originally, I planned to come here in February for the "Light-Up" event.  However, I was informed all rooms are fully booked when I called in November.  Apparently, people who want to be part of the event made their reservation in July the year prior... I was speechless.  I guess I have to call earlier next time.

Picture Source: takayama-hostel.blogspot.com

We took the Nohi Bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go.  It's a scenic drive that took approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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Bus here are super on-time!  Make sure you get to the bus stop early!
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The buses are clean.  The drivers don't drive like they just watched Fast and Furious / Initial D 
and they don't have pictures of Michael Schumacher / Ayrton Senna on their windshield!
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There is free wifi at the tourist association

We checked in at our guesthouse - Gensaku - and began exploring the village.

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It's a 320-year gassho zukuri!
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playing rock, paper, scissors in an igloo?!
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One of the signature picture spot in the village.
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The water is so clean.  There are even fish in the stream!

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Maintaining the roof is an important aspect for these gassho houses.
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In the summer, you will be able to see water lilies from this pond too.
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amazing craftsmanship
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a little too early for sakura
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Although it was already 11 am, some of the shops are not yet open.  (They close early too.)  As usual, we are not passing up any snacking opportunities~

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It's basically rice cake with soy sauce.
The rice is gritty and chewy.

We heard soba noodles is good here.  There is actually a place here where you can make-your-own soba noodles.  However, it's closed.  Consequently, we went to a local soba restaurant (そば処 乃むら) for lunch.

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The building behind these "Sarubobo" is the Soba Making Experience House.
It's open from late-April to mid-November.  Click here for details.
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They make their own soba flour!
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A very small restaurant with only 17 seats.
Good thing we didn't come during peak season.
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After lunch, my friends decide to take it slow and went to the coffee shop and rest at the hostel while I went uphill to the Observation deck.


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There are a few coffee shops in town.  I forgot which one my friends went.
Each has its own characteristics!
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The dog looks confused.
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He was very well behaved...
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... until the owner (?) showed up!  He got very excited.
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Shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes from 9 am to 3:40 pm.
JPY200 one way
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It's quite a walk.
You could pay and take the shuttle bus.
I was too cheap though.
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View from the Observation Deck
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I left my zoom lens in the hostel so I actually made two trips... 
by walking both times... / . \
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I might need a telezoom lens if I do decide to come back for the "Light-Up" in the future.

I discovered a "bar" very close to our guesthouse   They close early though (like 5 pm).  So if you are the type that starts drinking at 3 in the afternoon, this will be your place :)  Otherwise, you can buy the beverage and enjoy it at night at the guesthouse.


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There is a bar area where you can try out the different kinds of beer and sake.
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I opted for milk... lol!
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An attached stall serving Hida beef croquettes, skewers, and buns.
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The milk is creamy and sweet and the beef croquette is heavenly.
A delicious snack for the afternoon.
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Hida beef - juicy and tender!

I also checked out the Myozenji Museum (明善寺郷土館) and the Doburoku Festival Museum (どぶろく祭りの館).  The Myozenji Museum displays the farm tools used in the village in the past and the Doburoku Festival Museum showcases what generally happens during the Doburoku Matsuri Festival.  The festival is held annually in October so it's nice to check out the museum if you missed the festival.  I went there mainly to get a taste for the unfiltered sake.  :P


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Myozenji Museum (明善寺郷土館)
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Doburoku Festival Museum (どぶろく祭りの館)
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It tastes like fermented bean curd.
A bit sour and gritty.
Interesting...

Don't miss out on the souvenir shops.  There were quite a few of them in the village and plenty of products offered, including the Sarubobo Doll!


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looks like roasted barley
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Sicklepod, considered a weed in many places, is considered a health food here.
 It is believed to possess a laxative effect, as well as to be beneficial for the eyes. 
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Red bean Kit Kat - I like the green tea one better.
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The other thing you can't miss is the hot spring!  The hot spring is located inside a hotel - an option for those who didn't want to stay in a traditional gassho house.  It's free to the guests who are staying at the hotel and discounted for those who are staying in the village.


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milk pudding after hot springs~

Shirakawago is a pretty small village.  You will only need half a day to explore the village if you don't plan to experience a night in the gassho house.  However, the stars are bright at night here since there is minimal light pollution.  It's nice to experience a slower pace of life once in a while.

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