Discover the UNESCO Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Immerse yourself into the folk lives of UNESCO Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages

Best view from the Ogimachi Castle ruins view point

The historic village of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. The 114 farmhouses are famous for preserving the traditional Gassho-zukuri style houses with the iconic A shaped thatched roofs built without nails, some of which are more than 300 years old.

The wisdom in gassho-zukuri design

Houses in this style is usually 18m long and 10m wide. The farmhouses are usually have 4 floors and the thatched roofs are sharp like 45 degree or more steep than that to withstand the weight of heavy snow in the winter. The name of the design is related to the Buddhism influence in Japan where it is called Gassho in Japanese because the thatched roofs looks like the hands in prayer. The Gassho-zukuri style roofs are reattached once in 40-50 years and even today three or four roofs are reattached each year with the cooperation of the whole village.

The main houses to visit in the Shirakawa-go village

Several Gassho-zukuri houses have been designated as important cultural properties and are open to the public.

Wada House (和田家) is the biggest house in the area, there are still people living in this house but 1st floor and 2nd is open to public, while Nagase House(長瀬家) and Kanda House(神田家) are also welcoming visitors and even serve hot teas in the house. It is recommended to choose one of the three houses to visit.

Wada House – image source from internet


Hot tea is served in the Kanda House – image source from internet


Nagase House Exhibition – Image source from internet

Myozenji Temple 明善寺


The biggest Gasho construction with 5 stories in the village built in 1748.
The roof of the main hall, the kitchen, the bell tower arch and all built with thatches in gassho-zukuri style and has an important status in the village. It is now open as museum to show the local folk living utensils with a welcoming fireplace at the ground floor. The temple is also raising the silkworm at the roof loft and it is interesting to visit.

Spring/Summer time is a great time to go as you can also see cherry blossoms and many blooming flowers in the area.

Here is a clip that I found on Youtube and it is perfectly showing the beauty of Shirakawa-go village in Spring time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77-KPx9PR5Y

Transport and Accommodation:

Take a Nohi Bus from Takayama, Kanazawa/Toyama bus centre to Shirakawago

The Gifu and Kaetsuno bus companies also go to the area and you can speak to our Japanese native experts to arrange. It is always good to book with us as we can provide english speaking guides along your journey and they are always happy to help.

Accommodation stay in the farmhouse transformed minsuku for the night is also an excellent experience if you have time to spend in the village.
On a special note, winter is another excellent time to go to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages. There will be lights up in the winter so it is worth it to stay the night in the winter season to experience the fairy tale like scene from the beautiful village. Make sure you book early for this as it is really popular and the accommodations in the village are filling up very quickly.

Lights up in Shirakawa-go village in winter
Source from the internet

Always welcome to give us a ring at +442085438133 or email us at info@japanlinkstravel.co.uk

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Top 5 places to admire cherry blossom in Tokyo

Cherry Blossom is in full bloom in Tokyo now!
Here are top 5 places to admire Cherry Blossom in Tokyo voted by the local Japanese.

1. Meguro River 目黒川(Full Bloom)

Cherry Blossom are standing along the Meguro River from Setagaya-ku, about 8 km through Meguro-ku, Shinagawa-ku. It is a very nice walk from Nakameguro station to Meguro station. There are approximately 800 Japanese yoshino cherry blossoms are blooming on both sides of the river along the river, from Ikejiri Ohashi Bridge to Kamogawa Bridge (Shinagawa Ward) under Tokyu Meguro Line. Although there is not a big park, it is possible to enjoy rough walking along the river. Night Cherry Blossom viewing is also very popular in this area.

Address: 3-1 Higashiyama, Meguronto Shimoeguro

Transportation: [Train] Tōkyū Tōyoko Line/ Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line to Nakameguro station and walk 2 minutes/
JR Meguro Station and walk 5 minutes

Price: Free

 

2. Chidori-ga-fuchi 千鳥ヶ淵公園 (Start Bloom)

It is one of the significant spot for cherry blossoms in Tokyo. It is located in a place between Chidori-ga-fuchi on the west side of the Imperial Palace and the British Embassy, ​​and about 170 cherry blossoms is blooming, including Yoshino cherry tree and Yamazakura. Many visitors walk pass the park every day, including businessmen who stop by work and couples who enjoy cherry blossoms. The reflection of cherry blossoms on the surface of the water is absolutely splendid.

Address: 1-2 Kojimachi, Chiyoda, Tokyo/ 2 Ichibancho

Transportation: [Train] Tokyo Metro Tozai Line, Hanzomon Line, Toei Shinjuku Line to Kudanshita Station and walk 5 minutes

Price: Free

 

3. Rikugi-en, Bunkyo-ku 六義園の桜 (Half Bloom)

The 5th Tokugawa Shogun built the Toyko’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden more than 70 years ago. The cherry blossom landmark of Rikugien is about 15 m in height and about 20 m in width, and blooms are like a waterfall where light-red flowers lying down. Is is also worth seeing in limited light up time.

Opening time: 9:00~17:00
Cherry Blossom Light up period  (till 16/3 – 6/4/2017) closes at 21:00, no entry 30 minutes before the park close

Address: 6-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo, Tokyo

Transportation: JR Komagome Station and walk 2 minutes

Entry price: 300 Yen (Standard ), 150 Yen ( Aged 65 above )

 

4. Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden 小石川後楽園の桜 (Full Bloom) 

This is one of the oldest and best preserved parks in Tokyo starting to be built in 1629 in Edo Period. The design of the garden is hugely influenced by the West Lake of Hangzhou. You can enjoy a variety of cherry blossoms, including Yoshino cherry tree and rare curcuma in Tokyo. The park is also popular with maple tree viewing in autumn.

Opening time: 9:00 – 17:00
18/03/2017 – 05/04/2017: 9:00 – 18:00 (No entry 30minutes before the park close)

Address: 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo, Tokyo

Transportation: [Train] Oedo Line -Lidabashi station and walk for 3 minutes

Price: 300 Yen (Standard), Free (Children)

 

5. Ueno Park (Night view) 上野恩賜公園 (Half Bloom)

The Ueno Park is known as a cherry blossom viewing spot from the Edo period, and people can fully enjoy nature throughout the four seasons. It is said that the cherry blossoms were transplanted from Yoshino mountain by Amemi Amami, and there are more than 1000 cherry trees gives incredible color to the garden, lining at its central pathway. The park attract large numbers of hanami parties.

Opening time: 5:00~23:00

Address: 5-20 Uneokoen, Taito, Tokyo

Transportation: [Train] JR Ueno station by Ginza Line, Akagi line, Hitachi- Tokiwa, Akita Shinkansen, Hibiya line, Hokurika-Shinkansen, Joban Line, Joetsu Shinkansen, Keihintohoku Line, Odoriko

Price: Free

 

You’re always welcome to give us a ring at 020 85438133 or email info@japanlinkstravel.co.uk for more information.

Cherry Blossom Varieties You will see in Japan right now

Which cherry blossom varieties are blooming right now?

It is almost in the middle of the cherry blossom blooming period.

There are forecast from the Japan Weather Association indicated that next week is going to be full bloom in Kanto (e.g. Tokyo), Chubu (e.g. Nagoya) , Kansai (e.g. Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara), Chugoku (e.g. Hiroshima) and Shikoku area (e.g. Matsuyama)

There are 3 main variety of flowers is going to be fully bloomed next week and you will see them everywhere in Japan.

1. Somei Yoshino (Yoshino Cherry)

Average blooming period in Tokyo: early April

Cultivated during the Edo Period in Tokyo, the Somei Yoshino is by far the most popular cherry tree in Japan. Somei Yoshino trees has delicate, single white, sometime pink, 5-petaled blossoms.

 

2. Yamazakura (Hill Cherry)

Credit: livejapan.com

Average blooming period in Tokyo: early April

The yamazakura (also known as Wild cherry) is the most common cherry tree variety of Japan that actually grows wildly in nature as opposed to cultivars such as the Somei Yoshino. Its blossoms are slightly pink and have five, relatively small petals. The Yamazakura’s fresh leaves develop at the same time as the blossoms.

3. Shidarezakura(Weeping Cherry)

Average blooming period in Tokyo: early April

Weeping cherry trees have drooping branches and are among the most common and beloved cherry trees in Japan. There are two types: trees with blossoms of five petals and trees with blossoms of more than five petals. The latter are called Yaeshidarezakura and bloom about a week later than the 5-petaled ones.

What are you waiting for? Go check out cherry blossoms in Japan if you are there!

Always welcome to give us a ring at 020 8543 8133 or email us at info@japanlinkstravel.co.uk to plan your cherry blossom trip to Japan for 2018.

 

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Top 3 foods you must bring to Hanami (Cherry Blossom picnic)

With the cherry blossom months approaching, people in Japan are excited to be preparing their annual hanami party (picnic party). Most people start to check the cherry blossom forecast to find out the best time and place to have a picnic under the full bloomed cherry blossom tree and prepare the food to bring to the party. It is a tradition for people to gather for food, drinks, dance and playing games while enjoying the scenery and letting the natural floral fragrance refresh people senses.

There are 3 foods that you must not miss out on and they are traditionally accompanied with sake and  green tea.

1. Hanami Bento (Lunch box/picnic food)

Inside the Hanami Bento, it is normal to find items like makizushi (sushi rolls), inarizushi (sushi rice stuffed in fried tofu pouches, tamagoyaki (Japanese-style omelet), or kamaboko (pink and white fish cakes)

2. Hanami Dango

The Hanami Dango is made with glutinous rice flour and 3 dangos are usually served in a skewer in pink, white and green symbolising the three main spring colours in Japan.

3. Sakura Mochi

Kanto Style (e.g. Tokyo)

The Kanto style sakura mochi is made with rice flours and red bean paste wrapped in a salted cherry blossom leaf.

Kansai style (e.g. Kyoto) 

While, Kansai style sakura mochi is made with glutinous rice flour with red bean paste inside and wrapped in a salted cherry blossom leaf.

Start preparing for your hanami party and enjoy a lovely time under the cherry blossom trees with your friends and family!

Related article:

Check out Cherry Blossom Blooming forecast for 2017 in Japan

5 Spectacular Places to See Cherry Blossom in Japan

 

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Cherry Blossom Tour 2018

You are always welcome to give us a ring on 020 8543 8133 or email info@japanlinkstravel.co.uk for more inspiration.

 

Cherry Blossom Forecast in Japan 2017

Cherry Blossom Forecast in Japan 2017
29/03/17 Updates

Are you wondering when is the best time to visit Japan for it’s cherry blossom season?
Check out the Forecast table below for more information for your journey.

Geography Facts: Japan is made up with 4 main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu( listed from north to south)

Region First Bloom Full Bloom
Hokkaido
Sapporo 2 May 6 May
Hakodate 29 April 4 May
Honshu- Tohoku (Northern)
Aomori 23 April 29 April
Akita 17 April 22 April
Morioka 19 April 25 April
Yamagata 14 April 19 April
Sendai 7 April 14 April
Fukushima 8 April 12 April
Honshu – Kanto (Eastern)
Tokyo 21 March 2 April
Choshi 30 March 6 April
Yokohama 25 March 2 April
Mito 31 March 10 April
Utsunomiya 31 March 9 April
Maebashi 30 March 8 April
Kumagaya 28 April 5 April
Nagano 13 April 18 April
Honshu- Chubu (Central)
Kofu 29 March 3 April
Niigata 8 April 14 April
Toyama 4 April 9 April
Kanazawa 2 April 8 April
Fukui 3 April 9 April
Nagoya 28 March 6 April
Shizuoka 31 March 7 April
Gifu  28 March 6 April
Honshu – Kansai region ( Western Central)
Tsu 1 April 7 April
Osaka 29 March 5 April
Hikone 3 April 9 April
Kyoto 29 March 6 April
Kobe 29 March 6 April
Nara 31 March 5 April
Wakayama 29 March 6 April
Honshu – Chungoku region (Western)
Hiroshima 27March 5 April
Okayama 31 March 8 April
Matsue 1 April 8 April
Tottori 1 April 8 April
Shimmonoseki 29 March 6 April
Shikoku
Takamatsu 31 March 8 April
Tokushima 30 March 7 April
Matsuyama 30 March 6 April
Kochi 29 March 6 April
Kyushu
Fukuoka 25 March 4 April
Oita 3 April 10 April
Nagasaki 30 March 7 April
Saga 1 April 9 April
Kumamoto 1 April 9 April
Miyasaki 4 April 11 April
Kagoshima 4 April 11 April
Okinawa 14 January 8 Feburary

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Our expert has hand-picked and put together a tour to some of the best spots to see Cherry Blossom in Japan.
Check out our Cherry Blossom tour!
Remember, you can always tailor-made your journey to Japan with us.

As always, you are welcome to give us a ring at 020 8543 8133 or email us info@japanlinkstravel.co.uk to arrange your journey to Japan with us.

5 Spectacular Places To See Cherry Blossom in Japan

[Cherry Blossom Festival Japan]
It’s spring time! You might be planning on picnic or camping over the weekends, or go for a walk in parks and garden in the UK or thinking what I should do with my Easter holiday, whether you should go abroad.

But where?

Where is the top destination to go to in Spring? What is the best thing to do in springtime you may wonder?

Flowers and Gardens are definitely one to feel the beauty of springtime when many beautiful flowers are blooming. The exciting news is cherry blossom in Japan is starting to bloom by the end of this month in March.

It is almost impossible to think of Japan without cherry blossom in springtime. You might see a few cherry trees in the UK but just imagine that you are inside the sea of fully bloomed pinky cherry blossom trees. 

It has been a long history for Japanese to enjoy amazing time and flower viewing under the cherry blossom trees and it had gain wide international fame for its beauty across the whole of Japan. Every year, people visits Japan in springtime with the purpose of admiring the sea of cherry blossom in the Cherry Blossom Festival.

What is the Cherry Blossom Festival?

Cherry Blossom is also called sakura. There has been a centuries old practice and tradition in Japan to do picnic and drinking sake under a blooming sakura and this practice is called “Hanami”. This tradition was said to have started back then in Nara Period (710-794 AD). While it is also common to celebrate Cherry Blossom festival during the night and it is called yozakura with paper lanterns hanging along the street.

5 spectacular spots to view Cherry Blossom in Japan

Between Late March and May, there are many beautiful places to see the cherry blossom trees and have picnic with sake like the locals.
Here are 5 of many stunning destination to admire cherry blossoms in Japan.

2017 First  to Full Blooming forecast (29 March 2017 update with Japanese Observatory forecast):

1. Meguro and Naka Meguro (Tokyo)

This is one of the most popular place to admire cherry blossom in Tokyo. There are cherry blossom trees and lanterns that light up in the evening along the Meguro canal.

We suggest you to walk along the river from Naka Meguro station to Meguro Meguro station. You can make stop at the Nakameguro Park to do hanami (picnic) under the cherry trees and explore the Sakura Bashi bridge near by.

2. Lake Biwa Canal (Kyoto)

There are around 660 cherry trees growing along the canal in the vicinity of the first tunnel, it is a nice walk and magical moments to share with your friends and family.

3. Osaka Castle Park (Osaka)

There are over 4000 cherry trees in the Osaka Castle Park, it is a particularly nice place for picnic and admiring the cherry tree with the castle tower light up in the evening.

4. Sagano Scenic Railway (Sagano)

Ride on the Sagano Railway and see the cherry blossom view along the track.

5. Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima)

You can enjoy the cherry blossom sceneries with the amazing historical shrine standing at the sea.

Relevant tours: Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

Think you may be missing out on 2017 cherry blossom festival? Don’t worry! You’re always welcome to give us a ring and tailor your journey in 2018.

Time travel to the Japanese Edo Period (Nakasendo Way)

Top 3 trail we recommend on the Nakasendo Way
During the Edo period there were 5 route that connect Edo (Now known as Tokyo) and other important regions.

The Nakasendo Way used to be a major trail connecting Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo Period lying along the Kiso Valley. It had 69 post stations where the most popular post station Tsumago was the 42nd  and Magome was the 43rd along the way.

 

1. Magome (馬籠) –> Tsumago (妻籠)(Walking Trail 3 hours)

The town Magome (馬籠)and Tsumago (妻籠)has been restored beautifully. You can find houses built in the Edo era and the classic Japanese architecture style standing along the board stone walkway in Magome.

Due to the fact that fire’s struck in Edo region quite often, houses made to be able to build easily. Structure were simple and classy, plus their respect for nature took a great deal for the way they construct houses.

The place are full of townhouses that had its store in front, the living quarters behind and a storehouse in the back.

You will feel like you were back in Japan 300 years ago in the Edo Period. You can experience the classic Japan and learn their traditional life on the 3 hours trail between Magome and Tsumago.

Nakasendo Trail entrance
Edo Period Architecture
Tsumago-juku
Magonme town
Well preserved Magome neighbourhood
Tsumago Street
Waterwheel in Tsumago town

 

2. Midono-juku (now Nagiso town) –> Nojiri-juku (Walking Trail 5 hours )

Midono

Midono by Edo famous artist Utagawa Hiroshige

On this trail, you will be trekking between Midono town (now Nagiso town) and Nojiri town for about 5 hours casually.

You will start by seeing the Tokaku-ji Temple (東覚寺).

A poem was written by the poet/monk Ryokan (1758 -1831) when he went pass this place.

“木曽路にて この暮れの もの悲しきに若草の

妻呼びたくて 小牝鹿鳴くも” – 良寛

“In the loneliness of this evening the young male deer calls for his mate among green leaves.” – Ryokan

Along the way, you will get to Matsubara O-koyasumijo (松原御小休所跡) where it used to be a resting place for the noble travelers with good views in Edo Period.

On this trial, you will cross the white fenced Rankan- Bashi Bridge (Japanese bracket bridge), which used to be a grand structure during the Edo Period.

Then you can continue your trial to the Nojiri station

Tsumago Town
Nagiso Town
Stunning Kiso Valley
Stunning Kiso Valley

 

3. Yabuhara juku (薮原宿)to Narai juku (奈良井宿) (Walking Trail 3 hours )

Yabuhara Shrine Festival

On the trail, you will walk pass Yabuhara Shrine(薮原神社) where Yabuhara Shrine Festival held in the summer each year. It is a festival of Kiso-mura tradition. There will be a parade with male and female lion parade car and glamorous lion dance performance.

You will also walk pass the Gokuraku-ji Temple (極楽寺) with a peaceful, green and serene atmosphere and relax in this meditating Zen temple.

After 55 minutes walk pass the cedar trees forest, you will arrive the Ontake Shrine (御嶽神社) and its torii gate. It is used for safekeeping the sacred spirits, in another word, the Japanese god.

You will also have a chance to pray and ask for protection and health in Joryi-ji Temple like the ancient hikers before climbing the mountain and reach the Narai-juku (town), the  most prosperous post town in the Kiso valley where it is home to the Nurigushi (お六櫛) – Japanese Lacquered combs and Magemono (曲物)-Japanese wooden container.

After that, you can catch a local train to Matsumoto to visit its famous castle and the surrounding rice fields, vineyards and wasabi farms.

Narai-juku
Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle

 

Seems like you are interested if you read till here.

So… Do you want to time travel back in Japan 300 years ago via the Nakasendo Way?

You are always welcome to give our travel consultant a ring at 02085438133 to learn more about the walking trail or simply drop us an email at info@japanlinkstravel.co.uk.