During a trip to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, we visited surrounding areas. We tried Johana town and Shirayama Shirakawago White Road to drive while enjoying the cultural atmosphere in Toyama and scenery of deep mountains.
Johana is a cultural and intellectual hub
Johana town was easy to access from Gokayama due to the historical connection of both areas to the silk industry. Silk-cocoons were produced in Gokayama and they were transported to Johana area to produce silk fabrics. We visited Johana town before we went to the Gokayama region’s Ainokura area and learned its history at Johana Oriyakata. Johana town prospered with silk fabrics. In the Gokayama region, people have raised silkworms and transported them to Johana town to produce silk fabrics since the 16th century. The silk fabrics were distributed to Kyoto and Edo cities and got high reputations as Kaga silk. Kaga silk became the economic base for Johana town and merchants contributed to develop it as a silk town and authentic cultural center.
In Johana town, we enjoyed machiya, a traditional merchant’s house, with latticed door and a narrow pathway with stone pavement. The town and shops had a great atmosphere.
We visited Johana Hikiyama Festival Floats Museum displaying large festival floats with delicate carvings and exquisite lacquer design. It should be magnificent to see the huge and splendid festival floats being dragged through town, but even to see exhibited festival floats was interesting. I could observe details of decorations and designs closely.
Zentokuji Temple, founded 540 years ago, was located in the center of the town and gave off a mature impression. We took a break at Ango Sweet Shop near Zentokuji Temple. Ango Sweet Shop has produced Japanese sweets for nearly 100 years and its fourth-generation owner started western style sweets. The taste of the cakes was tender and hearty. The shop has an adjoining Cafe to drink carefully brewed coffee.
Natural hot springs on Shirayama Shirakawago White Road
After we had visited Shirakawago, we drove along Shirayama Shirakawago White Road between the Shirayama City in Ishikawa Prefecture and Shirakawago in Gifu Prefecture. When I checked the road on the map, it looked very short. However, the distance was 33.3km at an altitude ranging from 600m to 1,450m. The road had so many sharp bends and blind curves.
We could not enjoy scenery of the mountains during our drive and needed to take a break every 10 mins, so we parked to take a rest and see around. Parking and restrooms were available at all viewing spots. Shirakawago Observatory deck at 1,230m altitude had nice observatory to see the Shirakawago area.
Shirayama Shirakawago White Road was one of the best places to see and experience Japanese mountainous area. It was the same image of mountainous area that I had read about in the picture book of folktales. Green mountains were all around and a white stream was running at the bottom of the valley. It looked like remote mountains but was well-maintained by local people.
We went to Oyadani hot springs and Ubagataki Falls. Oyadani hot springs gushed out from the riverbed, and it had an open-air bath and foot bath. It was the best experience of driving on the Shirayama Shirakawago White Road to take an outside bath at Oyadani hot springs. We believed that it was worth driving for only this hot spring. The sidewalk to the Oyadani hot springs was well maintained and we could explore in the deep mountains.
Unfortunately, all of us got carsick, but we were so excited to find the secret hot spring even though it was well known on the maps.
How to visit Johana Town: By car, it takes less than 30 mins from Ainokura and Suganuma area in Gokayama where you can visit Gassho-zukuri Houses by the farming architecture style.
How to drive Shirayama Shirakawago White Road: It takes approximately 15 mins from Shirakawago, located in the northern part of Gifu, to the entrance of Shirayama Shirakawago White Road.
- Johana Oriyakata
- Johana Hikiyama Festival Floats Museum
- Zentokuji Temple
- Ango Sweet Shop
- Oyadani hot springs
- Ubagataki Falls