Osaka family road trip!
We are living in Shanghai now, which makes a quick trip to Japan every now and then surprisingly quick and affordable. I took a few days off of work a few weeks ago to take a 5 day trip back to Osaka to catch up with the in-laws and meet some peeps. My father-in-law also treated us to a Japan road trip taking us from Osaka, to Shirakawagou, to Takayama, and back. We saw some historical sites, went to a great onsen, and ate and ate and ate. Here’s the scoop!
EN: Osaka → Shirakawagou → Fukuchi Onsen → Hida Takayama → Osaka
JP: 大阪 → 白川郷 → 福地温泉 → 飛騨高山 → 大阪
Our first stop was Shirakawagou 白川郷 in Gifu prefecture. We left Osaka by car at about 8:00 am and arrived at Shirakawagou at about noon.
Shirakawagou is a UNESCO world heritage site and is famous for it’s old gasshouzukuri 合掌造り style construction. This construction not only looks beautiful, but it is very efficient and was necessary to withstand the heavy snowfall the region gets each year. You can read more about the details around the web (like Wiki), but a picture tells a thousand words right? Check it out.
It was raining a bit when we arrived so I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked, but I still got a lot! There are many houses that you can enter, and the entire place is very camera friendly and has a good tourist infrastructure. It’s easy to figure out, just show up, park your car, and walk. I would recommend checking this area out in the winter if you have the means, it would be great to see in the snow.
We met an old lady selling… stuff… and she mentioned that it costs about 3千万円 (30,000,000 yen) to replace a roof on one of these buildings. The roof changing project is something that involves what looks like 30-40 people but is only done once every 30 or 40 years. The cost is subsidized by the government because of the world heritage status, but private individuals still have to pay a bit. Some details on the roof changing are discussed in the second video below.
Shirakawagou was a really nice spot. Highly recommended!
After spending a few hours at Shirakawago we got back in the car and drove to our Japanese-stye Inn (旅館 ryokan) in the Fukuchi Onsen (福地温泉) area.
Check out the official Magokuro Ryokan website. Fancy! It took us about 2 hours to drive to Magokuro from Shirakawagou.
The Ryokan was top notch. I have been to a lot of ryokan, and this one didn’t disappoint. The food was excellent, the onsen is great, and the service is energetic and helpful. They even claim to have English language service available, but I didn’t try it out. They also have two different family hot springs you can use on a first come first served basis. One is indoors, and the other is an open air bath (露天風呂). The indoor family bath is tiny, the open air bath is much larger and very nice.
The eating area was very nice. All the guests eat together in a huge room with enough space between the tables to ensure privacy. There is also an いろり (囲炉裏, hearth, furnace, kiln, thing…) where you can warm-up while waiting for your meal if you want. As I said, the food was excellent. Usually seeing an entire fish head still attached on a stick makes me pause a bit before digging in, but this いわな (iwana) was so, so, delicious. For breakfast they busted out a great miso paste that was cooked on a large leaf over the fire to be spread on your rice or other dishes — also delicious.
I was surprised to see that Miyazaki Hayao of Ghibli fame frequently visits Magokuro Ryokan! Just think. I have now soaked in the same waters as Miyazaki Hayao (and countless other random Japanese dudes). Awesome. The Ryokan boss said that usually when he is here other guests notice, but not all are forward enough to get all up in his business and say hello. She also mentioned something about Miyazaki’s tough side being shown in the media recently in his dealings with his son, so some guests are a little afraid to approach him these days. I haven’t been following the Miyazaki media gossip, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about… Anyway… it seems Miyazaki Hayao often goes to this Ryokan in the summer… Gotta meet him!
We left the Ryokan in the morning at about 9:00 am, checked out a small antique shop in the area, and then headed on to Hida Takayama.
Our last stop on the 2 days 1 night road trip from Osaka was to Hida Takayama. I had been to Hida Takayama before as you can see in the related links below, but the last time I was there was quite a while ago so it was all still fresh.
We did the usual tourist run checking out the old architecture and gift shops, but we also got lucky with our random lunch stop. We went to this mince-Katsu place called Sukeharu that claims to have the best ミンチカツ (mince-katsu) in all of Japan. It was indeed extremely tasty.
My mother-in-law, who is from Osaka, said that she thinks Hida Takayama is more enjoyable than Kyoto because there are fewer tourists. I’m sure there are indeed fewer tourists, but we were also in Takayama on a Monday morning… and she’s a bit biased living so close to Kyoto. If your time in Japan is short, by all means, go to Kyoto! Takayama is great though. If you’re looking for a quick trip out of town and to possibly get away from the crowds, check it out. It’s also very close to Nagoya so if you’re based there it’s an easy trip.
After Takayama we got back in the car and floored it all the way back to Osaka. We made it back in about 3 hours. I think it normally takes about 4 hours if you drive the speed limit…
That’s all. Be sure to check out the other photos on my Flickr pages, and let me know if you have any questions about this trip!
Other Related Stuff:
Here are some good videos introducing the gasshouzukuri in Shirakawagou
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