Before lockdown was implemented in Philippines in March we were lucky to visit Japan, our "happy place," in last week of February. Yes, the wife and I love Japan due to its culture, beautiful places, food and it is the nearest place to enjoy snow. Though I was able to enjoy snow in Grenoble, France in 1997, it was a truly memorable experience to enjoy snow again with the wife, it was her first time, during our visit to Sapporo a couple of years back.
Read: Our Winter in Sapporo
We booked our Japan trip as early as 2019 without expecting that there would be less snow in Japan in 2020. The last time we visited Sapporo, Japan was experiencing its heaviest snowfall in the last 40 years.
Moving ahead, the wife included in our itinerary the historic villages of Shirakawa-go in Gifu; it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Area. If you are not familiar about this place then just Google it to learn about this place that turns magical during winter. Wife drooled for several months before our trip.
Upon learning that there would be less snow in Japan in February, wife and I gambled and decided to push through with our visit. We did a DIY tour; trust me it is pretty easy to make a DIY tour in Japan. From Osaka we travelled to Nagoya station where we bought our round-trip bus tickets to Shirakawa-go. We disembarked at the lone bus station of Shirakawa-go and would be picked up later in the afternoon. By the way, in case you want to change the time of your return ticket you may ask assistance from the counter staff at Shirakawa-go; we changed our return trip from 3:55pm into 2:30pm.
In short, we reached Shirakawa-go on Feb 29. As expected, the village was "snowless." Though we were a bit disappointed we still enjoyed our stay here since the chilly but "snowless" weather allowed us to fully explore the area including the observation hill.
There are two golden rules to follow while in Shirakawa-go. Since the entire village uses thatched roof and wooden material it is strictly forbidden to smoke in public places. There are designated area where you can enjoy your nicotine shots. Second rule is to respect the privacy of the locals. This place is not a museum; people are living in those old houses.
We walked through narrow side streets and reached river bed at the backside of the village. We returned back through the main roads and strolled up to the observation hill. Considering our age, wife and I stopped several times before reaching the peak.
Once we were at the top of the hill, we were mesmerised by the surreal beauty of the entire village. The wife told me that we were at the same point where those travel magazines or websites have taken some of the famous village photos.
After an hour here, we decided to have our lunch at one of the local restaurants. We ordered beef with rice.
After lunch we strolled for some time searching for souvenirs and local sweets for our kids in Philippines.
Soon afterwards, we trekked back to the bus station and waited for our bus. Take note that the bus station has several departure gates so make sure you know which gate your bus would be waiting. Also, look for the main entrance because it would be improper to enter the station through exit or departure gate.
Given a chance, the wife and I would love to return here as long as snow would be there too, lol.