Japan’s Traditional Villages: Shirakawago and Takayama

Last week, we had a class trip to see the UNESCO Heritage Site of Shirakawago Villages. On the way there, we stopped at Takayama (I hope I remember this correctly) for a taste of what was ahead. Takayama is a smaller village of fewer houses, but no less magnificent.

The journey from Kanazawa to Shirakawago took about 3 hours by bus. The journey itself was quite interesting. Driving through the Japanese countryside in autumn is really breathtaking. The trees in the mountain forests are in an array of colours, the mountains themselves are magnificent even on a cloudy day, and we drove through on roads that seemed on the very edge of the mountains, imagine looking out of the window only to see a deep valley below! If you have driven through the Mai Mahiu range on the way to Naivasha or Narok, you know what I am talking about. And that drive lasts about 30 minutes to an hour, but picture it lasting 3 hours. The beauty of the landscape would be every photographer’s dream, Mutua Matheka, are you reading this? I cannot do it justice in my photos.

The magnificent village of Shirakawago in Japan

The magnificent village of Shirakawago in Japan

What is more, the changing seasons means that you can photograph the place all year round. In winter when everything is covered in white (snow); in the spring as the cherry blossoms bloom all over Japan; in the summer as the sun shines bright and in autumn, the current season, when trees are in golden colours. I would love to visit these traditional villages in winter and if my budget allows it, maybe stay for the night.

The river at Shirakawage Village

The river at Shirakawage Village

One thing about Japan is its strictness when it comes to garbage. At the villages, if you have plastic garbage, you have to go back with it. They can take recyclable garbage like cans or bottles, and combustible garbage like paper, but if you have plastic and metal junk, you have to carry it back with you. The whole of Japan is anal about garbage disposal anyway, consequently, it is a very clean country.

The air in the villages is refreshingly cool, clean and crisp. There are some people still living in these villages and you can only envy their simple life, save for the hordes of visitors poking their vehicles into their village every day.

One of the houses in Takayama Village on the way there..

One of the houses in Takayama Village on the way there..

So I have a few pictures of the trip to show to you. My current class consists of fellow foreign students who are also studying Japanese. The pictures are in no way touched up, I have no time or patience to edit pictures, the only thing I did was reduce their size (MB) because they were like 5MB. This greatly reduced their quality, but hope you will still enjoy. View the slide show by clicking on one image.


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4 Responses to Japan’s Traditional Villages: Shirakawago and Takayama

  1. Yaani. You have an experience of a lifetime Savvy. You better enjoy and photograph as much as possible and if not, relax and take it all in. I shall be following your adventure in Japan closely.


  2. woolie says:

    Beautiful pictures Savvy. I find it difficult to reconcile my image of densely populated Japan with those wild empty spaces. Do all people live in towns?


    • savvykenya says:

      Hi Woolie, thanks about the pictures. This is the Japan I have seen and been living in. I live in Ishikawa Prefecture, somewhere midwest. The capital of the prefecture is Kanazawa City, my current home. It has a population of 462,000! I would say it has a Nakuru-like feel to it. Everyone keeps telling me that this is rural Japan and I have not yet seen the true picture of Japan until I go to the big cities. I landed in Osaka at night and immediately took the train here, so I have not seen a crowded Japanese city!

      However, I will be here a long time and I will visit the big cities.. Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka… so I will see how it is over there. It seems like up to 90% of the population lives in the cities, so in the villages, it’s wide open places, sometimes wild, sometimes spotting rows and rows of rice fields. However, I love it here, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi (with 6 or 7 times the population of Kanazawa).


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