The main reason for the steep roofs and massive structure of Shirakawago's farmhouses is the large amount of snow the region receives every winter. Ogimachi Village typically gets covered by one to two meters of snow during the peak of the white season. While causing the locals quite a bit of hardship, the snow turns Shirakawago into an idyllic winter landscape.
To make it even better, the village organizes special illumination events on selected Sunday and Monday evenings in January and February that attract plenty of tourists. During the light-up event, many of the village's gassho-zukuri farmhouses are lit up individually from 18:00 to 19:30, while the entire village is softly illuminated by floodlights until around 20:00.
In 2017, Ogimachi was illuminated on the following dates:
January 22, 2017 (Sunday) & January 23, 2017 (Monday)
January 29, 2017 (Sunday) & January 30, 2017 (Monday)
February 5, 2017 (Sunday) & February 6, 2017 (Monday)
Just like during daytime, the Shiroyama Viewpoint is one of the best places to enjoy the sight of the village, but note that the only way to reach the viewpoint during the light-up event is by shuttle buses which depart from around the Wada-ke House before 17:20 and from the bus terminal after 17:40. Visitors to the viewpoint will have to return down to the village via the walking trail. Note that access will be restricted when there are too many people at the viewpoint. Likewise access to the viewpoint will be impossible when road or weather conditions are considered unsafe.
Visitors to Shirakawago note that the temperature usually drops to far below freezing during the light-up event, and that roads and trails are covered by snow and sometimes ice. Appropriate clothing, face protection and sturdy shoes are required. Some parts of the village are, furthermore, not well lit with dangerous, uncovered water canals flanking the trails. To reduce the burden on the small village, all tourists are also asked to carry home any garbage they produce.
The light-up events attract a lot of tourists to the small village of Ogimachi, and travelers are urged to plan their visit carefully in advance. Below are the ways to enjoy the event:
The best way to enjoy the light-up event is by staying overnight at one of the farmhouses in the village. However, because of the limited number of lodgings and the high popularity of the event, rooms tend to book out quickly. Note also that some buses to Shirakawago require seat reservations and may book out on the day of the illumination and the following day.
Visit by bus tour
Multiple tour companies offer bus tours for seeing the light-up event. Some of them simply provide a chartered bus for access from Takayama or Kanazawa and back, while others include an overnight stay (usually in Takayama). The majority of tour companies target domestic travelers, but a few of them also cater to foreign tourists, including Nohi Bus.
Visit by regular bus
On Sundays, regular buses stop running before the end of the light-up event and are not an option to see the event. On Mondays, there are two bus departures at 19:43 and 20:30 that can get travelers back toTakayama, but note that advance seat reservations are required, and seats are likely to book out early. It is not possible to board the buses without a reservation.
Visit by car
The regular parking lot in Shirakawago is closed to private cars during the light-up event. A special parking lot (Terao Temporary Parking Lot, see map) is opened instead and connected to the village center by free shuttle buses. Note, however, that on very busy dates the capacity of the parking lot may not be sufficient. Furthermore, winter tires and winter driving skills are required to access Shirakawago in winter by car.
information source: japan-guide.com