View from Shiroyama Viewpoint (Photo: Justin W. Dart)
- 3 min read

A Perfect View of the Gassho Houses

A view into history and nature

One of the most photographed scenes in Gifu is of the UNESCO Heritage Gassho houses in Shirakawa-go. People take pictures in all seasons and all kinds of weather but I had always wondered how they got the photos of the entire village without hiking up a big mountain or using a helicopter. Well, it is actually quite simple.

I started by walking from the Shirakawa-go no yu toward Wada house. Just before the entrance I hung a left and followed the other travelers to the base of Shiroyama (Castle Mountain).

An old road is blocked off to let tourists freely go up and down the mountain without fighting automobiles. The 20-minute hike was wonderfully pleasant especially due to the un-autumn-like warm weather and the beginning of the fall color change. This walking path is closed in winter so it is recommended that people take the shuttle bus to the top.

When I reached the top, I was taken away. From here I could see the entire village and the high mountains that surround it: Postcard perfect. People lined up against a fence to take photos of the scene or their family. Of course with my family in tow, we snapped a few.

Just off the road to the left is a path that goes out to a ledge and tree-covered space. We shuffled through the people, “sumimasen, sumimasen...ah ah gomennasai” toward an area with logs for resting and a place for what looked like a bonfire. We pulled out the bentos we had made that morning and had a hearty picnic lunch of riceballs, sandwiches, karaage and apples overlooking village under a canopy of sunlit trees.

We sat for about thirty minutes resting and enjoying our food and surroundings before cleaning up and walking back toward the way we came. Out on the ledge was a small shrine for the trekker to hope for a safe return.

From this vantage which is only about 25 meters from the entrance, we could take even more impressive shots of Shirakawa-go. There were amateurs with quick shot cameras and then professionals hauling bags of photography equipment. I watched them carefully and tried to mimic their adjustments. “Click! ... Ahaha! Got it!” It doesn’t matter if it is summer, winter, spring or fall, taking a photo from this vantage point is the best.

With photos taken and stomachs full, we started our journey back down the hill and on to the Wada Gassho House.

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Anonymous 12 years ago
Justin: You can just keep writing about these Gassho Houses. They're so unique and romantic. Why not pick up a couple more and write the history about them... Anyway, you've really sold me on going there. Talking to the wife about doing a detour there on the way!

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