Day 9 – Shirakawa-go & Japanese Onsen

The day prior we had reserved seats on a Tobu bus to spend a few hours in a small UNESCO World Heritage village called Shirakawa-go which is approx 1 hour out of Takayama. This village is basically the whole reason I even put this region on my map so I was pretty excited. Seeing as our bus was scheduled to leave at 8.20am and we had no idea if food would be available in the village we decided to pay for a buffet breakfast at the Best Western to keep us going. The brekky was pretty good, cereals, pastries, fruit and breakfast meats. ¥1500 was a little steep though. After brekky we walked around the corner to our bus which was a beautiful 1 hour scenic ride considering it was only about 7 degrees outside at this point.

Once we arrived in Shirakawa-go we had until 1.30pm to explore the area so our first activity was a little hike to the top of the nearby hill for an amazing view of the village and the mountains surrounding it. The reason this village is heritage listed is because the small Japanese houses (Gassho-zukuri) are as old as 250 years and are made to withstand record amounts of snowfall most years. After our little hike we strolled around the village admiring the little houses and the views they all had. We stopped for a while to sit in the glorious sun and eat a beef and potato croquette, yum. It was around 11.30 by this point and we felt like we had seen enough so we asked to be moved onto an earlier bus which was good as we were put on the 12.05 bus back to Takayama. 

Back in Takayama Amanda decided she wasn’t feeling great and wanted to spend the afternoon resting so while she did that I decided it was time to check out the Onsen. This was my first ever Onsen experience so I was both nervous and excited, getting naked in front of random people isn’t really a hobby of mine. I put on my Onsen pants, top and slippers provided by the hotel with nothing but my birthday suit underneath. I then grabbed my towel and headed for the roof top Onsen. On arrival the first thing I noticed was separate male and female Onsen’s, this was great because I wasn’t too keen on naked old Japanese dudes. At the top of the stairs there was a changing area which is where you take off all your gear including your slippers and wear only your towel. There were a few older Japanese ladies rocking their birthday suits in here but that’s cool, I wasn’t too intimidated 😉 Next it’s out into the shower and bath area for a rinse, this was a little more intimidating seeing as you are required to have a butt naked shower in front of everyone else including the people already in the bath who can clearly watch everything you do. After my sufficiently awkward shower I put my towel back on, turned to a bath half full of naked women or as Miranda from Sex and the City calls it ‘tit soup’ and made the call to hang out alone in the outdoor bath even though it was max 10 degrees outside. Baring all I hopped into the outdoor bath up to my neck – hair and face are not suppose to go in the water according to tradition. The bath had steam coming off the fairly hot water with full sun beaming down and full 90 degree views of the snow topped mountains in the distance, not too shabby. I’m naturally a warm person so a few minutes neck deep in the water and I was struggling so I decided screw it, everyone’s seen me naked already why not keep the trend going. I moved up onto the step within the bath so that the water was only waist deep and the rest of me was free ballin in the sun and wind, perfect! I chilled here for a bit before hopping out, having another sufficiently awkward shower rinse and then returning to the changing area to put on my Onsen clothes and head back to the room.    

Back at the room Amanda was still sleeping so I thought I’d go out in search of this sushi place I read about. Unfortunately when I found the sushi place it was closed so I decided maybe for dinner but for now I would go for a stroll along the rivers edge and kill some time. I returned back to the hotel around 4.40pm then chilled until dinner.    

For dinner we went back to the sushi place I had missed out on earlier in the day. It was a cute little place but the owner was running the whole operation on his own and with a full house (5-6 tables) he struggled a little. Running around seating people, taking orders, making drinks, making all the meals, sorting out the bill and cleaning tables it was quite amazing to watch. Although it was quite a long time between meals it was totally worth it especially seeing as we weren’t in a hurry. Sushi Dining Nob just near the river on the new side of Takayama, delicious! After dinner it was back to our room for chilling and sleep. 

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