We started the day with breakfast at the station from the ‘French’ bakery DONQ that we’d been eyeing up the night before. Whilst Anne-So went for some classic French options with her coffee I went for a more colourful collection of Japanese buns. Both food and drink were rather good and we made a note to return the following day.
Before getting our coach I went and picked up some crisps, Pocky and drinks in case we needed them as it was supposed to be a gloriously warm and sunny day. After that it was a short wait at the bus station for our coach.
Hokutetsu/Nohi Bus to Shirakawa-go 1 hour 15 mins
Depart Kanazawa Bus Station at 09:10
Arrive : Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi) at 10:35
Our coach was clean, spacious and also completely full.
The journey was just over an hour and once we’d left town we were treated to lush green hills and valleys intertwined with the occasional rice field.
Before long we got our first glimpse of the famous thatched houses we’d come to see.
A few minutes later we arrived in town at the bus station where we picked up our maps and decided on a plan. First, up we walked up to the lookout point and grabbed some great views of the village with the snow-capped mountains in the far distance.
Next we headed down the trail and reached the edge of the village. What we really loved was that many of the houses were lived in and used by their owners, rather than just left empty for tourists to gawk at.
That being said, there are a few properties that are used as museums. We visited the giant Wada House in the middle of town, where we learnt all about that family’s place in the village as well as all the work that goes into maintaining these spectacular buildings. Unfortunately there was a large group of older British tourists who strutted around like it was their own private house, thankfully my fellow country folk departed fairly quickly and we were able to take some photos.
After a jolly good stroll around the village we consulted our guide book for lunch options and surveyed the scene.
After weighing up our somewhat limited options we decided upon a cute little husband and wife run curry rice place, Ochudo set in one of the classic houses. The decor inside was great. A large fire place on one side and a huge collection of mugs, cups and tableware behind the counter.
The food was simple and tasty plus I even got a top up of my curry sauce! The dessert of red bean soup was a little odd tasting for my palate but the service was great and the setting second to none.
After lunch we headed out across the river for the view then back to the bus station to take the World Heritage Bus see some of the lesser visited villages.
We arrived in Gokayama also known as Suganuma (everywhere here seemed to have multiple, interchangeable names). Unlike Ogimachi there were almost no tourists, let alone crowds. The trade-off being a smaller range of houses and the only open ones were a shop and restaurant.
Hokutetsu Bus to Kanazawa
Departs Gokayama (Suganuma) 16:50
Arrive Kanazawa 17:50
We had a good walk around before heading back, making use of the handily located lift to the bus stop where we arrived well ahead of schedule. Unfortunately they would not let us board the earlier bus so we waited around soaking up the sun and debating our dinner options. The journey back to Kanazawa was uneventful and as it was not too late we decided to try an age old place in one of the parts of town we’d yet to visit.
It was a good half hours walk as we headed towards the river and the old part of town. As we stumbled upon the beautiful machiya houses by the river the light had almost faded.
Fortunately, in that we made it, but unfortunately in that it was dark and most everything baring a frightfully expensive sushi restaurant was closed (at least to your average tourist) we just walked past and tried to imagine what was going on behind the walls, screens and shaded windows.
We found ourselves just a short walk from our dinner place, past a rather fun looking craft beer and cocktail bar, down the deserted street filled with little old houses and their artistic wares.
We finally arrived at Restaurant Jiyuken which had apparently been in business for over 100 years. Safe to say first impressions were that the decor, other than the TVs had not been changed very often during that time. The cuisine was yoshoku, a Japanese take on western food. That meant, steak, omelettes and curry sauce washed down with beer.
We soon noticed that chef had three settings for the flame on his hob: Off, eyebrows off and hair-raising, much to the annoyance or whom we assumed was his wife. The only thing that was quicker than the potential for carnage was our meals. I had a pretty decent steak dish and Anne-So went with our guidebook’ s recommendation and got a mix of different things that ranged from the awful to the quite delicious. Portions were generous. Service was rustic.
We settled up and headed off into the night. Unfortunately I was caught a little short on the way home and we stopped off at the Sherlock Holmes themed Nazoya Cafe which had excellent facilities and damn fine coffee.
The rest of the night was uneventful and we made it back to the hotel for a good sleep as the next day we were headed back to experience the lights, sights and sounds of Tokyo for the final leg of our trip.