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Friday, Jan. 16, 2009
Shirakawa-go becomes a winter wonderland
By TOMOKO OTAKE
Shirakawa-go — a village community in Gifu Prefecture that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its thatched-roof farmhouses in 1995 — has been a tourist magnet for years. But its beauty goes up a few notches for seven days each year, when many of the houses are lit up in the snow.
Now in its 23rd year, the illumination of the gassho-zukuri farmhouses, with their characteristic, steeply sloped roofs designed to protect the wooden structures against the weight of the heavy snow, can be observed from 5:30 p.m. till 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 and 31, and Feb. 1, 8, 14 and 21.
To minimize the traffic congestion, village officials have decided to limit access to the area during the event. Parking is available, but is limited. Local officials recommend that you get to the Terao parking area in the village by 2 p.m., when it opens its gate.
Another option is to book a bus tour through any of the 50-plus travel agencies that are authorized for the event. For a list of accredited tour operators and phone numbers, check light up.asia/bus/arealist.php (Japanese only). Many agencies offer two-day group tours from Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba and Nagoya that include two meals and accommodation in Takayama or Toyama for prices starting from around ¥20,000 per person.
For more information about the event, call the Shirakawa Tourism Office at (05769) 6-1013.