Japan's golden route - tour to the world heritage sites (Shirakawago)

Takayama - Shirakawago - Kanazawa - Kyoto - Osaka

This trip was planned almost 1 year ago. When I first saw the picture of this beautiful village, Shirakawago on internet, I fell in love with this place immediately. After months of looking at their pictures, I finally had the chance to visit this UNESCO Heritage site at the Gifu region. Shirakawago is famous for their traditional gassho zukuri farmhouse, some of them are more than 250 years. With it's beautiful backdrop of magnificent mountains, this little quiet village is so unique that one has to come here at least once in their lifetime.

The suspension bridge between bus terminal and the village, That's Shokawa River.


Dusk in Shirakawago. It's getting colder especially after the sun is gone at about 5pm. I wanted to take few more shots but my partner was rushing me go back to our farmhouse. It's so irritating when you travel with someone who is not so keen in photography and keep asking me: are you done =_=''''



Getting here and around

From Takayama
Shirakawago was one of the highlight in this December winter trip. We took Nohi bus from Takayama station and arrived Shirakawago after 50 mins bus ride. The bus ticket cost ¥2400/pax one way. Click here for more information.

You can also take taxi from Takayama.
Miyagawa Taxi tour - http://www.joyful-taxi.com/english/index.html
Hato Taxi tour - http://www.taxisite.jp/hato/english/
Kanto Tourism Taxi

From Kanazawa
Niho bus departs from Kanazawa to Shirakawago 3 times daily. Reservation is required. The bus ticket cost ¥1800/pax one way. Click here for more information. If you can understand Japanese, you can make the reservation on Nohi website (Japanese version). I wrote email to Shirakawago Tourist Association info-e@shirakawa-go.gr.jp and get them help to reserve bus ticket.

[Update 20th Oct 2016] It seems that Shirakawago Tourist Association doesn't help to reserve bus ticket. Below is the email they sent it to a friend of mine who is going to Shirakawago in November

When you need bus reservations and other details operated by Nohi Bus, Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus and Gifu Bus, please call them directly. Reservations are accepted one month before you take. 

To customers who have "Shoryudo Pass," reservations are accepted at the ticket desk only, not by phone.  To customers who have "Hokuriku-Area-Tourist Pass," reservations are accepted by phone and at the Nohi bus ticket desk. For more details, please ask freely to Nohi Bus Company by email.  

Nohi Bus
TEL: (0)577-32-1688
HOURS: 9:00 - 18:00 
http://www.highwaybus.com (only Japanese) 
http://willerexpress.com/en/ (from Takayama to Tokyo or Osaka) 
email: nouhi-websystem@nouhibus.co.jp 

Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus
TEL: (0)76-234-0123
HOURS: 9:00 - 18:00

Gifu Bus
TEL: (0)58-240-0489
HOURS: 9:00 - 18:00/17:00(sat, sun & holidays)
  
Nohi Bus & Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus
Timetable Takayama - Shirakawa-go - Kanazawa. 
http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/new/shirakawago_kanazawa.html

Gifu Bus 
Nagoya - Shirakawa-go 名古屋~白川郷  
The fare: 3.600 yen/one-way/person. 7.200 yen/round/person 

Nagoya       Shirakawago  until March 31 
 9:00           11:45 
11:00          13:36 
from April 1 
9:00            11:53 
9:50            12:26   

Shirakawago    Nagoya 
15:00          18:01 
16:00          18:44

My friend made her bus ticket booking directly via Nohi bus website (in Japanese). She created an account and booked from there. She doesn't understand Japanese so she used Google translate and she managed to book her ticket without much problem.

From Tokyo
There is no direct bus service from Tokyo to Shirakwago. You will need to transfer bus at Takayama. Nohi bus has direct bus service between Tokyo Shinjuku and Takayama 7 times daily. It takes 5 hours and 30 mins to travel from Shinjuku to Takayama. The bus ticket cost ¥11,700/pax one way. Click here for more information.

The train journey from Tokyo to Takayama requires quite a bit of traveling and transfers. Here's an outline of the journey there: Tokyo - Nagoya - Takayama. It took us 6 hours from Narita airport to Takayama, 12pm to 6pm. You can also fly to Nagoya (Singapore Airlines offers direct flight from Singapore to Nagoya) and you can skip 3 and 1/2 hrs train ride. Don't forget to purchase Japan Rail Pass. Without the Japan Rail Pass, you would have to pay ¥17,770/pax for one way up to Takayama from Narita Airport. We paid only ¥29,110/pax 7 days unlimited train ride in Japan. Read more about JR pass in this post.

From Osaka/Kyoto
There is no direct bus service from Kyoto/ Osaka to Shirakwago. You will need to transfer bus at Kanazawa or Takayama. Nohi bus has direct bus service between Kyoto/ Osaka and Takayama 2 times daily. It takes about 5 hours to travel from Kyoto/ Osaka to Takayama. The bus ticket cost ¥2700 - 3200/pax one way. Click here for more information.

You can also take JR train (limited express Thunderbird) from Kyoto to Kanazawa which takes about 2 hours. One way train ticket costs ¥6510/pax. Check the train schedule from hyperdia.com

[Update 30th May 2015] Now there is a new pass Takayama Hokuriku is available for tourists who travel to this region, Nagoya, Takayama, Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Osaka and Kyoto. Click here for information.

Accommodation

Most people will choose to settle just a day trip here from Takayama or Kanazawa, but we decided to spend a night instead to experience the unique farmhouse stay. It is a great way to experience a traditional Japanese family home. We stayed in one of the farmhouse, Kanjiya Minshuku and it was just lovely. More than a dozen gassho-zukuri farmhouses around this place are now functioning as minshuku, family run Japanese style B&B. You can make the reservation via Japanese Guest House, another different site of Japaneseguesthouses.com or you can email Shirakawago Tourism Association at info@shirakawa-go.gr.jp and request the minshuku of your choice. You can also call Shirakawago Tourism Association. List of accommodations in Shirakawago can also be found here.

I booked Kanjiya minshuku (Kanjiya also have their own website) via Booking.com. Some minshuku can be booked direct from their website, for example Shimizu (number 5 in map below), Koemon (number 14 in map below), Ootaya (number 67), Bunroku (number 41), Nodaniya (number 6), Isaburo (number 64), Juemon (number 4).  

Click to download JNTO Takayama and Shirakawago tourist map and Shirakawago pdf map here 



Kanjiya (or Kanja) minshuku is located at the end of the village. The accomodation is not fancy but basic and clean. The village is very small, a 10 mins walk from main bus stop to this minshuku is not a problem at all. But it can be a pain to lure a big luggage in snow. You may want to consider staying in a minshuku nearer to the main bus stop. There is no unit number or street name. You have to prepare yourself an rough idea where the minshuku located which you have booked before you reach Shirakawago. You should also try to remember minshuku Japanese name (or print the name out) as they usually will display it outside their minshuku.

There is house rule to follow since we stayed in local Japanese home. The minshuku owner didn't chat with us at all maybe because they do not speak English. There is an old lady in 80s, I guess she is owner's mother, attended us most of the time. She's friendly and know the village well. I tried to locate the 3 beautiful gassho houses location which we will always see in the postcard and she knew where they are! I spoke to her in English and she answered my question in Japanese, I couldn't understand Japanese but I still got what I wanted. I showed her the poster and village map, she then pointed out that 3 houses location on the map. Lol. Also, she helped to dry our wet shoes though we didn't ask to. That's very nice of her.



There are total 4 rooms in the farm house just for the guests. Everyone (just the guests) will eat dinner and breakfast at the main dining hall. The family of this farm house is staying in another corner which we won't get to see them. 2 toilets (male and female) and bathroom are shared among all guests.  


We paid ¥9500/pax for a night stay included dinner and breakfast. All shops and restaurants there close at 6pm, it's recommended to opt for the half board option. Special meal request is also available such as vegetarian (no fish but with fish broth) or no pork (but the meal it's not halal).

The dinner was a very memorable meal for us. The authentic Japanese dinner was with many different dishes like the famous melt-in-the-mouth Hida beef, miso soup, grilled fish, mushroom, tempura (fried vegetable) and etc. This was a meal that we enjoyed a lot.





The home cooked breakfast was another meal which we enjoyed a lot too. It was incredible!



What to do in Shirakawago?

There are quite a few farmhouses-turned-musuems in the village, Wadake house, Nagaseke house, Kandake house and etc. Click here for more information. 

Shiroyama viewpoint is a must go. It is located in the north of the village and you can overlook the whole village there. The view is magnificent. It can be accessed via a walking trail (closed during bad weather or heavy snow) in about 20 mins walk from village centre or by bus. Shuttle bus departs from centre of the village every 15 mins, one way ¥200/pax.




The 3 nicely arranged gassho houses in the village which we always see in the postcard.




I purposely woke up at 6am as I wanted to walk around this quiet village again before it was packed with tourists. Also a good time for photography when not so much people running into your frame. 

When you visit Shirakawago don’t just go for a day trip, you will miss out a lot of fun from NOT staying overnight in one of these farmhouse. You will also miss the quiet morning when there is no tourist group in Shirakawago which is the best time to walk around the village. We stayed in Takayama for a night then Shirakawago another night and one more night in Kanazawa before we moved on to Kyoto. If you want to do the same like what I did, try to arrive Takayama early morning so you can do a bit of visit (morning market) in Takayama the next day before you leave to Shirakawago. Sun set early during winter (4:40pm during Xmas time) so you should try to reach Shirakawago by 12pm and you still have quite a bit of time to visit this little village before all shops close. Dusk is the best time to take photo in this village when all gassho house lights on.  


Interested to visit these places too? Check out my itinerary and trip report KanazawaTakayamaShirakawagoKyoto 


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40 comments

  1. Your post on Shirakawago is really useful. I will be going there end Nov this year but I am not sure if I am lucky enough to see the snow covered view like yours. The view of the village are nicely captured in your photos. But the stay at the minshuku is kinda expensive right. ANyway, I do plan to stay one night there as well, but too bad my friend is a Muslim and food might be a problem there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. First snow fall in Shirakawago in the past
    27 Oct 2010
    21 Nov 2011
    14 Nov 2012
    25 Nov 2013

    It doesn't mean the place will be covered by snow after first fall as morning sun will melt the snow.
    You can check 7 days weather forecast before you go there -
    http://weather.yahoo.co.jp/weather/jp/21/5220/21604.html

    You can also see the picture updated by Shirakawago Facebook, they will upload picture once Shirakawago is covered by snow - https://www.facebook.com/shirakawagoinfo

    It's not very expensive to stay a night in minshuku. We paid SGD230/night in minshuku kanjiya. The room rate included dinner (Hida beef!) and Japanese breakfast. It's a very special experience which personally I think I should at least try once in my life.

    Finding halal food can be difficult in Japan. However you can make special request to the minshuku that you want vegetarian food or no pork but it's definitely not halal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the information. I was with my friend in Tokyo before and halal food in Japan is definitely not easy to find. I am sure vegetarian menu will help, or worst, we just stay a night and not taking the meal option. Thanks.

      Delete
  3. Hi. I need your advise on the Shirakawa-go. Is it very easy to walk around the villages on our own ? Where do you download the map from? I was trying find the map ; but was unable. Can you help. Thanks. Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mary, just point your cursor to the top right corner on the map which I shared in this post, click pop out and you should be able to download it then. Alternatively, you can also google and here is the link - http://www.shirakawa-go.gr.jp/othercontents/file/pdf/map_english.pdf

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    2. Hi Iva

      Thank you for the map and information.

      Delete
  4. Hi

    Thanks for the useful information and nice pictures, my trip will be in Dec this year during their peak period. Understand that we need to reserve a seat for Nohi bus before purchasing the ticket? I will be travelling from Kyoto to Shirakawa-go, taking a bus from Takayama. I can actually write to info-e@shirakawa-go.gr.jp to reserve the ticket? Purchase ticket from Nohi bus website?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You do not need to reserve bus ticket if you are taking Nohi bus from Takayama. Just buy the bus ticket from Takayama bus station and queue at the platform. Bus is running every 1 hour. Check the bus schedule here - http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/shirakawago_kanazawa.html

      You need to reserve bus ticket in advanced if you are travelling between Shirakawago and Kanazawa.

      Delete
  5. Hi, saw you went a couple of places on bus and train. How did you manage with your luggage?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, actually my secret is: just pull it! LoL ... Ok just kidding. If you are referring to Japan trip, storage place (with key so no one will take your luggage by mistake) on long distance train and storage compartment is also available on highway bus (like buses from Takayama to Shirakawago or from Shinjuku to Fuji). Elevators are available in most major train stations such as Tokyo station or Shinjuku station but when it comes to small station like Ningyocho, no elevator to ground level and I will have to carry luggage (20kg) on my own. But this one not really a problem to me. I will always book a hotel which is within walking distance from nearest station so I do not need to walk too far with my luggage. Hope these tips help.

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  6. Wandered around searching for Shirakawa and stumbled onto your blog. Such a great blog! And the places you visited... I am also a blogger, though my postings are more erratic... :

    Keep up the good work! Stop by to visit if you are interested in some of my food and travels.
    http://draftsfromcoffeetable.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, Can i know where is the exact location of the bus that depart from kanazawa to shirakawago? and where is the hokutetsu ticket office.?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi I took Nohi bus from Shirakawago to Kanazawa and I alighted at Kanaza bus station (final stop). Kanazawa bus station just beside Kanazawa JR station. I'm not sure where Hokutetsu office is since I took Nohi bus. Btw u need to reserve ticket if you taking bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawago (Nohi bus)

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  8. hi, can you please advise
    1. is it possible to depart from Kanazawa station to Shirakawa-go and depart from Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa station. most information (even Nohi bus website) does not state that we can depart and return from the original place of departure. thank you very much

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi

      It is possible. Kanazawa Ekimae is the Kanazawa station.
      http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/shirakawago_kanazawa.html

      Reservation is required

      Delete
  9. Love the gif, I had to blink twice when I saw it as I thought it was just a photo!

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  10. Hi there, can I ask how did you travel from Takayama to Kyoto?

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi I did not travel from Takayama to Kyoto, I moved on to Kanazawa before I went Kyoto. You can take express bus from Takayama to Kyoto or train to Kyoto.

      Delete
  11. How many days should I set aside for travel to Shirakawago? I have 7 days which I planned for Osaka, Shirakawago n Tokyo? I planned to go from Osaka...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Shirakawago is a very small village. Most people will choose to do a day trip from Kanazawa or Takayama. Some people maybe spend half day only. There are tour company organize day trip tour to Shirakawago, it's usually depart in the morning and leave Shirakawago by 6pm. I personally would recommend to spend a night in Shirakawago if you want to experience a night of farmhouse stay in Shirakawago.

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  12. Valuable! All credit goes to the author that why have posted the content that relates to all. Thanks for sharing the information regarding Shirakawago.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi, it was quite a valuable information in your blog on Shirakawago. I'll be flying in Nagoya, can I know what would be the best way to travel into Shirakawago? I don't mind spend a night stay in Takayama before travelling to Shirakawago. awaiting for your reply.
    thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi you may read up the transportation option from http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5953.html, choose to/from Nagoya. You can check train schedule from www.hyperdia.com

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  14. Hi, Would you recommend to travel direct from Shirakawago from Kansai Airport? Can I use the JR train from the airport to Kanazawa followed by the Nohi bas to Shirakawago? Is there frequent bas/train or only a specific schedule?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, depends on your arrival time at Kansai airport, if you are lucky to catch the train at the right timing, you will reach Kanazawa in 210 mins then another hour bus journey from Kanazawa to Shirakawago. Check train schedule from www.hyperdia.com and Nohi bus schedule from https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/shirakawago_kanazawa.html

      Delete
  15. Wow, the food looks delicious and the surroundings look idyllic and amazing!

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  16. hello. as an avid photographer much like yourself, do you think Xmas 2016 is a good time for some lovely snow photos of shirakawago. I understand that there are certain periods where the town will light up at night during winter too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I went during Xmas, it's good time to visit Shirakawago. Light up is usually weekend in January and February. Here's the 2016 light up details - http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5956.html, 2017 dates usually announce in mid June

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  17. Hi there ;)

    I'm grateful to find your post over this UNESCO heritage site. I am planning to go to Shirakawago from Kanazawa this December. From your post it seemed possible to ask for the help from Shirakawago Tourist Association to reserve the ticket.
    My questions are:
    1. May I know when should I email them informing my reservation to Shirakawago? I plan to reserve round trip tickets. Are they okay with us asking for their help to reserve the ticket? (Just curious tho ;D )
    2. What are the details that I need to inform them in my email.
    3. If they can help with my reservation, how am I going to exchange the ticket with the actual one?
    4. Last but not least, how the payment process work?

    My apologies for the lenghty questions ;D Thank you so much ;D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi I understand from some comments in forum that Shirakawago Tourist Association does help for ticket reservation but it is out of good will favor. Reservation can be made up to one month in advanced prior departure date.

      Name:
      Phone number:
      Number of people: adults and children
      Day: (month) (day)
      Destination and time: From to

      These details should be mentioned in your email. Reservation number and seat number will be sent to you in their reply email. Just quote the reservation number (maybe you can print the email also) to Hokuriku-tetsudo bus ticket desk (near JR Kanazawa station) and buy your ticket from them.

      Delete
    2. Okay, I got it. Thank you so much for the information. May I know whether we need to mention in the email which bus to reserve (Nouhi Bus or Hokuriku-tetsudo) or just leave it to the Shirakawago Tourist Attraction to choose for you instead? ;)

      Delete
    3. One of my friend is going to Shirakawago in November and it seems like Shirakawago Tourist Association doesn't help to book anymore. Below is the email reply she got from them:

      When you need bus reservations and other details operated by
      Nohi Bus, Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus and Gifu Bus, please call them directly.
      Reservations are accepted one month before you take.

      Attention:
      To customers who have "Shoryudo Pass," reservations are acceped at the ticket desk only, not by phone.
      To customers who have "Hokuriku-Area-Tourist Pass," reservations are accepted by phone and at the Nohi bus ticket desk.

      For more details, please ask freely to Nohi Bus Company by email.

      Nohi Bus
      TEL: (0)577-32-1688
      HOURS: 9:00 - 18:00
      http://www.highwaybus.com (only Japanese)
      http://willerexpress.com/en/ (from Takayama to Tokyo or Osaka)
      email: nouhi-websystem@nouhibus.co.jp

      Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus
      TEL: (0)76-234-0123
      HOURS: 9:00 - 18:00

      Gifu Bus
      TEL: (0)58-240-0489
      HOURS: 9:00 - 18:00/17:00(sat, sun & holidays)


      Nohi Bus & Hokuriku Tetsudo Bus
      Timetable Takayama - Shirakawa-go - Kanazawa.
      http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/new/shirakawago_kanazawa.html

      Delete
    4. Really? It would be difficult to call them directly because of a language barrier and need to use japanese numbers. I will try try to ask them via email. Thank you for letting me know ;)

      Delete
  18. Wonderful writeup. Planning to visit during CNY. What would you suggest if my starting and ending point is in Nagoya ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never been to Nagoya but I understand that there is not much to see in Nagoya.

      Delete
  19. Wonderful pictures !!. I visited this place in April, 16. Zukuri huts are amazing to see and whole village is very charming. When I visited I could see Mt Fuji clearly. It was a great day. check my experience on this post.
    http://www.ultrawidelife.com/historic-village-of-shirakawa-go/

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi....you have such an informative blog about this trip... Impressive!

    May I ask for those bus tours from Takayama to Shirakawago, do you recommend to carry the usual big luggage? We are planning to stay one night each in Takayama and Shirakawago. Just curious any place in the bus for us to put our huge luggage? I remember when i traveled to Jozankei from Sapporo by bus, it was very hard for us to keep our huge luggage in the bus. The only way is to carry a small one. What is your advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Crystal, I took Nohi bus from Takayama to Shirakawago with big luggage. There is a luggage storage compartment just below the bus. Like those airport limousine bus that kind.

      Delete
  21. Hallo Iva!
    In June, I will be travelling solo the following route: Koyasan --> Kanazawa --> Shirakawago --> Takayama --> Tokyo.
    1. Day one: Arrival time in Kanazawa: 16:30h approx. Visit downtown and as much as I can. I doubt I will manage to visit Kenroku-en Garden which seems to be the top attraction here. Sleep here.
    2. Day two: In the morning, visit the Kenroku-en Garden before taking a Nohi bus to Shirakawago. I will arrive in Shirakawago around 12:30h. Visit Shirakawago.
    Now, I am considering two different options:
    - Option 1: Sleep in Shirakawago. I could get accommodation in Yoshiro farmhouse.
    This is my main worry: I am under recovery of a slipped/herniated disc in my back. I'm scared of getting pain in my back for the rest of the trip because of the night sleep in the farm on a futon. The owner wrote they would try to make it soft but... Could you please let me know how comfortable is to sleep on a futon in the farmhouse?

    - Option 2: Leave my luggage in some locker when I arrive in Shirakawago around 12:30h. Will I have a problem since it will be late??? After visiting Shirakawago, take bus to Takayama. I can see two bus times options: 17:15h-18:10h, 19:43h-20:48h. If the shops close at 18:00h and it will get dark around 19:00h, is there any point on taking the bus at 19:43h? What will I be able to do? Sleep in Takayama in a normal bed.

    3. Day three:
    - Option 1: Have breakfast and take the bus to Takayama. The earliest bus I can see is at 9:35h-10:25h (I guess breakfast won't be ready early enough to take the bus at 6:43h-7:50h). Visit the old town and take the train to Tokyo (two options: 15:10h-19:20h, 16:32h-21:10h). Do you think it will be enough time?
    - Option 2: Wake up in Takayama. Start exploring earlier than 10:30h. Take the train to Tokyo (two options: 15:10h-19:20h, 16:32h-21:10h).

    Could you please help me? I would love to live the experience of sleeping in a farm but I am scared of two things:
    1. My back after sleeping in the futon in the farmhouse.
    Note: Before heading to Shirakawago, I will sleep in a ryokan in Hakone and in a temple in Koyasan (both of the including the breakfast and dinner). The quality of the places look better than the farmhouse though. They will provide me with two futons in the temple. Do you know if these experiences will be similar to the farmhouse in Shirakawago? If they are then I would skip the farmhouse experience in Shirakawago.

    2. Being alone in Shirakawago when the shops close.

    Your advice is very much appreciated.

    Thanks a lot in advance!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Iva,
    I also would like to ask you about the bus stop in Shirakawago. I can see two of them in the map:
    - One of them is very close to the tourist office.
    - Another one is in the opposite of the village close to the observatory stroll road (closed in winter).

    Besides, http://www.japan-guide.com/bus/shirakawago.html is mentioning two different Shirakawago stops (arr. and dep.). Does this mean that one of them is only for arrival and the other one is only for departure? I will arrive by Nohi bus from Kanazawa and leave by Nohi bus towards Takayama. The distance from the tourist office (place to store my suitcase or close to the likely farmhouse) seems to be long with a suitcase to the bus stop close to the observatory.
    Could you please give me your feedback based on your experience?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    ReplyDelete