Shirakawa – A Fairy Tale Village in Japan

Translated by Berrak KUREL
A small village with a population of around 20 to 30 people on a valley in Japan has its place in UNESCO World Heritage list. A river flowing right in the middle of this valley and a drawbridge that swings with each step right on top of this river… A perfect air view. As if the whole village belonged to a fairy tale and a hero could appear any moment…

We were very curious about this location and this year we found the opportunity to visit here. Before transportation to this village used to be very difficult, however with new roads that were built transportation was facilitated. You can arrive at the village in around five to six hours by car with out taking any breaks. You can arrive at the city of Takayama through Osaka and Shirakawa-go is only two hours away from Takayama.
The architecture of the houses were very special.
Some of the houses are used as museums which can be visited at a very low cost. It was interesting how families still lived in these museum houses. There are also houses where three or two generations lived together. 
However, the the life in big cities enchanted the youth  so, you  mostly see the elderly around.

The houses are two storeys and the third floor is more like an attic. They exhibit the tools they used in the old times. They even produce silk.

The village people live off their own harvest. There are paddies, fruit and vegetable fields in the narrow valley. The streets feel very peaceful.  There are few abandoned houses around which had a sad feeling.


Let’s go back to the architercure of the houses! The roofs were very interesting! They had a pyramid-like appeareance. The way they covered the roof with straw on top of paddies. Covering the roofs in such way is no easy task, they have experts for this job. The roofs are around one meter thick and they have to be renewed every twenty years.

Otherwise the straw begin to rot and when the soil acts like a glue weed start growing on these roofs. You can see that new roofs covered with wild plants. We saw this in some of the abandoned houses.


The roofs have a triangular shape in order to prevent them from crushing due to heavy snow. Fire protection drills are conducted each year because the houses are made of wood and the roofs are made out of straw.

The windows are glass, but inside there is a second frame which is covered with paper. We can imagine that inside of these houses must look very beautiful at dark during winter because of these paper covered frames. It must be a view that warms the heart in cold winter days.

Village folk lef behind the traditional methods they used to protect themselves from cold. They now use air conditioners and electric heaters.

The village must be very beautiful every season. We were there during spring, so the vegetables and the flowers were still growing. 

There are no hotels in the village but some of the houses rent rooms for visiters. Tourists stay here for a couple of days, taste the traditional food, breath in the clean air and then return to their homes.

We found a shop that sold souvenirs. Since transportation was facilitated through the new roads, there is an increase in the number of tourists; but still village folk said that the village was still very empty in winter.
We also found a coffeehouse while walking around. The owner said they lived for many generations in the village. Even though we were not able to count, there were many coffee cups. You can chose yourself a cup and then get yourself some coffee. 

You can also try out the desert special for that vicinage. After we enjoyed out coffee and our desert, the owner of the coffehouse handed us a notebook. He requested that we wrote our complements and gratitudes in our own language. After expressing our feelings, we went through the pages and saw a few messages written in Turkish. There were a few people who wrote “Thank you, I really loved this place” in Turkish.

After getting few souvenirs, we returned to our house in Osaka. It was an unforgettable trip for us.

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