Shirakawa-go is a village in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture. It represents one of Japan's finest examples of gassho-zukuri, steeply-angled thatched-roof houses that protect the residents from the long winters with plentiful snowfall.
Renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site preserving the traditional architecture and culture of central Japan's mountain villages, Shirakawa-go is already on the bucket list of many visitors to Japan. With many tours that originate from Kanazawa, it is one of the easiest destinations to add as a day trip. There are several museums in the village to enjoy, and you should not miss a hike up to the Ogi-Machi Castle Observation Point on the hillside north of the village. From here, you can take in a panoramic view of the entire village. On winter evenings, when the town is illuminated and covered in fresh snow, the view from here is otherworldly.
Access to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa could not be simpler. A regular bus runs from Kanazawa East Gate Bus Terminal straight to Shirakawa-go's bus terminal and takes about an hour and 15 minutes each way.
This collection of villages located in Nanto city, Toyama Prefecture, shares the same architecture and UNESCO World Heritage designation (Ainokura and Suganuma villages) as Shirakawa-go. Although the villages are smaller, many visitors prefer Gokayama over Shirakawa-go for its more intimate feel and smaller crowds.
Surrounded by the pristine nature of the mountains, you can experience ever-changing views of picture-perfect scenery almost any time of the year. Although the winter scene of Ainokura Village covered in pure white snow is iconic, equally impressive are the autumn views when the mountains explode in the fiery colors of fall foliage. In spring, fingers of fog sometimes creep down the lush green mountainside creating a mysterious yet peaceful atmosphere. There are two main villages that cater to visitors: Ainokura and Suganuma. Because maintaining traditional arts and crafts is a vital goal of Gokayama, visitors can try various traditional experiences, from making soba noodles or handmade washi paper to learning local folk songs and dances.
There are several options to access Gokayama (Ainokura and Suganuma villages) by bus and train from Kanazawa, ranging from about one to 1~2 hours. Some buses require reservations to be made in advance. For help and advice in English on the best way to get to Gokayama, visit the Kanazawa Tourist Information Center at Kanazawa Station.
Nestled in a valley in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, Takayama has a fascinating history as a castle town that was often isolated from other cities due to harsh winter weather conditions. For this reason, Takayama has a unique culture even compared to cities that are relatively close by, like Kanazawa.
Takayama is famous for its annual festival held twice during the year, once in spring and once in autumn, and is considered one of Japan's three most beautiful festivals. During these two-day events, large and ornate floats are pulled through the streets in a festive atmosphere. Visitors to Takayama often sample the regional specialty Hida beef, an intensely marbled type of wagyu from cattle raised in Gifu Prefecture. For sightseeing, Takayama's beautiful Shiroyama Park is a lovely place to enjoy the incredible seasonal natural beauty of the city. With its rich and varied history, Takayama has many well-preserved districts and ancient temples that give the city a distinctive feel of agelessness. The streets of the Sanmachi Historical district are lined with building that have stood here for centuries and several of its businesses have been operating since the Edo Period.
There are two bus lines that travel between Kanazawa and Takayama, taking about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way. You must make an advance reservation to take the bus, so please visit our Kanazawa Tourist Information Center at Kanazawa Station for assistance in English.
Noto is a peninsula north of Kanazawa which protrudes about 100 kilometers into the Sea of Japan. With its ample rugged coastlines, Noto is known for its many traditional fishing villages surrounded by coastal scenery that will take your breath away. The inland parts of the peninsula are home to a thriving agricultural industry that is a source for the region’s legendary cuisine. Noto itself contains numerous Japanese and Italian restaurants using Noto beef and pork, gourmet foods that visitors should try when they come to Noto.
Outdoor lovers should take a cycling tour around Nanao Bay, along a 40-kilometer course featuring blissful natural scenery of the deep blue ocean and occasional glimpses of wildlife such as dolphins swimming and playing in the bay. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself cycling through the countryside admiring one of the peninsula’s iconic views, Shiroyone Senmaida Rice Terraces, green or gold, depending on the time of year, against the backdrop of the deep blue sea.
The peninsula is also known for centuries of producing traditional crafts and goods such as lacquerware and sea salt. At the Okunoto Salt Farm Village, witness the nearly 500-year-old tradition of harvesting salt from the local seawater, where visitors can also participate in a two-hour workshop in salt-making and take home the fruits of their labor (reservations are required). Wajima is another popular destination, with its lively morning market full of stall selling local foods and crafts. In the summer, enjoy energetic daily performances of gojinjo taiko using traditional drums on stage outside of the Wajima Kiriko Art Museum.
If you’re craving on onsen escapade, Wakura Onsen is a destination for hot spring lovers on the peninsula, with facilities and hotels ranging from mid-range to high-end, intimate ryokan inns to large modern hotels. Whether your idea of relaxing is the pampered service and sumptuous kaiseki style meals of a traditional ryokan or modern high-rise hotels with views of the ocean, Wakura Onsen has the accommodation for you. And for day-trippers, the public bathhouse Soyu is a large, modern facility using pure undiluted hot springs water for the maximum therapeutic benefits.
As agriculture is a foundation of this region, you’ll have the unique opportunity to experience rural Japanese life on a farmhouse stay in Noto. With dozens of farmers welcoming visitors with the warm hospitality of the area, there are farmhouse stays that cater to every need, from solo travelers to larger groups or families. Although you are welcome to spend time learning about the life on the farm, many people just find it an opportunity to relax, interact with friendly local people, and explore the details that make the Noto Peninsula such a special place.
Depending on your ultimate destination, travel between Kanazawa and popular locations on the Noto Peninsula take between 50 minutes and 2 hours by express train or bus. Consult the Kanazawa Tourist Information Center staff at Kanazawa Station for assistance in English.