The World Heritage Shirakawa-gō is now a really popular tourist destination in Japan. Often, people visit this fairytale-like village by catching a bus or driving from Kanazawa. Many tourists take the normal highway. But unbeknownst to them (and us when we first visited Shirakawa-gō), there is also a really scenic toll road that goes through the magnificent local mountain ranges that would be a shame to miss out on!
The 33.3-km Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road (白山白川郷ホワイトロード) starts from the foot of one of the Top Three Sacred Mountains in Japan – Mt. Hakusan (白山), which connects you with Shirakawa-gō. The road is open entirely from early June to early November each year. Not only is there a lookout that bestows a clear view of Shirakawa-gō from above, but the Hakusan Observation Deck is also the best spot to admire the spectacular main peaks of Mt. Hakusan!
- Gozengamine (御前峰) at 2,702 meters
- Onanjimine (大汝峰) at 2,684 meters
- Kengamine Peak (剣ヶ峰) at 2,677 meters
At the same time, you will be enjoying the fresh greenery in spring and autumn leaves, coupled with waterfalls and a sea of virgin beech forest spread out below you! If you love hiking, a couple of mountain trails offer some spectacular scenic views (^_-)-☆.
Depending on your itinerary, you can enter Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road from the exits in either Ishikawa or Gifu Prefecture. The list of attractions below assumes you start your trip from Chūgū Toll Gate (中宮料金所) in Ishikawa Prefecture.
- Chūgū Resthouse (中宮レストハウス)
- Hakusan Nature Conservation Center Chūgū Museum (白山自然保護センター(中宮展示館))
- Shiritaka Falls (しりたか滝) and Kamasokono Falls (岩底の滝)
- Jadani Bridge (蛇谷大橋) and Kamoshika Falls (かもしか滝)
- Snake Valley Park (蛇谷園地), Oyadaninoyu Natural Bath (親谷の湯), and Ubagataki Falls (姥ヶ滝)
- Mizunori Falls (水法の滝)
- Fukube Falls (ふくべの大滝)
- Kunimi Observatory (国見展望台)
- Hakusan Observatory (白山展望台)
- Tsuga no Mokudai (栂の木台) and Fukubedani Gardens Observatory (ふくべ谷上園地展望台)
- Sanpōiwadake Parking Lot (三方岩駐車場) to Mt. Sanpōiwadake (三方岩岳)
- Shirakawa-gō Observatory and Buna no Komichi Beech Route (白川郷展望台・ブナのこみち)
- Rennyo Tea House and Information House (蓮如茶屋・情報ハウス)
For the map of the entire road, please refer to the official website HERE.
Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road’s Accessible Period and Toll
The toll road is only accessible for parts of the year due to heavy snowfall in the area.
- From June to August, it is open from 7 am to 6 pm.
- From September to November, it is open from 8 am to 5 pm.
- The toll road exits will close an hour after the above time, so be sure you are out of the Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road before that, or you will be trapped until the following day.
- From the end of September to late October, the road will be opened an hour earlier at 7 am to enable visitors access to the amazing “sea of clouds” scenery from Sanpōiwadake Parking Lot (三方岩駐車場) and Shirakawa-gō Observatory (白川郷展望台).
- This natural phenomenon is most commonly observed between mid-September to mid-October each year.
Tip: As the sea of clouds is a natural phenomenon, you are not guaranteed to be able to see it on each visit. One tip to maximize your odds is to check the weather forecast. If the highest temperature during the day before your visit is at least 10 degrees above the lowest temperature, you will have a higher chance of having a thick layer of cloud. Note that if it is rainy on the day, you are unlikely to see the sea of clouds.
Depending on the size of your vehicle, the following tolls will apply at the toll gate.
- Japanese micro car: 1,400 yen for a one-way trip, 2,200 yen for a return trip
- Standard car: 1,700 yen for a one-way trip, 2,600 yen for a return trip
- Microbus: 5,000 yen for a one-way trip, 7,900 yen for a return trip
- Regular bus: 11,000 yen for a one-way trip, 17,600 yen for a return trip
Important: Payment is cash only. They do not accept credit card payments at the moment.
From Kanazawa City, it is a 90-minute drive to the Chūgū Toll Gate (中宮料金所) in Ishikawa Prefecture.
Tip: If you are staying at one of the onsen ryokans in the areas close to Hakusan Shirakawagō White Road, you might get a discount on the toll. Please check with your accommodation to confirm.
Exploring Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road Without Having to Drive
If you can not or do not wish to drive, there are still ways that you can explore this picturesque road by hiring a chartered taxi or joining one of the bus tours.
Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road Chartered Taxi
The taxis depart from JR Kanazawa Station (金沢駅). You can choose from two options: a one-way trip to Shirakawa-gō or a return trip back to Kanazawa. A taxi can take up to 4 people at a time.
Please book at least a day before your departure date by calling Private Taxi Hakusan kankō (個人タクシー 白山観光) at +81-90-9761-6712 between 7 am to 11 pm. Depending on the booking, they might be able to cater your booking on the day if you call them at least an hour in advance.
- Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road Return Course (白山白川郷ホワイトロード折り返しコース)
- The trip will end at Sanpōiwa Parking Lot (三方岩駐車場), which means Shirakawa-gō Observation Deck is excluded from this course
- The cost is 18,000 yen + tolls
- The approximate time required is 5 hours
- Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road One-way Course (白川郷までの片道コース)
- The trip starts from JR Kanazawa Station and ends at Shirakawa-gō
- The cost is 14,000 yen + tolls
- The approximate time required is 3 hours
Experience the Four Seasons in Hakusan Tedorigawa Geopark (白山手取川ジオパークで季節を感じよう)
The bus tour departing from JR Kanazawa Station will first stop at Shirayamahime Shrine (白山比咩神社), the oldest and the biggest Shinto Shrine in the Kaga region/province.
- The tour is available on weekends and public holidays from October to the 10th of November.
- The cost is 7,000 yen for adults and 4,500 yen for children.
For more information, please refer to the official website HERE.
The Fall Foliage Season at Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road
The autumn foliage season starts from early October to early November, depending on the part of the road. The parts of the road that are at high altitudes will see the foliage changing color from late September, peaking in early October, and gradually spreading to lower areas.
Chūgū Resthouse (中宮レストハウス)
Chūgū Resthouse is the first resting spot on the Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road. Light meals are served at the resthouse, but there is no vegetarian menu as the broth that is used contains non-vegetarian ingredients.
However, their Kinako Ohagi (きなこおはぎ), which is a traditional dessert that has sweetened soybean powder over red/azuki bean rice cake, is the perfect snack that you can bring along with you as you explore the scenic road!
If you have plenty of time, you can see if you can find any wild monkeys around Saruko Bridge (さるこ橋), which isn’t too far away from the resthouse. Especially in summer, you will have a higher chance of spotting them. They might even be at the resthouse’s car park (´▽｀*).
Hakusan Nature Conservation Center Chūgū Museum (白山自然保護センター(中宮展示館))
If you want more information about Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road, drop by the conservation center. The staff at the guide corner knows pretty much everything about the scenery along the road and nearby attractions and can answer most of your questions.
You can also take a leisurely stroll to the Jadani Nature Park (蛇谷自然公園), which is less than a 10-minute walk away. A guided tour is sometimes offered for free on weekends and public holidays. Check with the staff to see if it is on before you venture out (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Shortly after the museum, you will get to the toll gate, where the amazing scenery unfolds.
Shiritaka Falls (しりたか滝) and Kamasokono Falls (岩底の滝)
The next car park along the Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road is close to Kamasokono Falls. There are three waterfalls around this car park. A one-way trip to the furthest waterfall – Shiritaka Falls, is within a 10-minute walk.
Shiritaka Falls is the first waterfall on the toll road from the Ishikawa Prefecture side. The silk-like white stream that falls on a cliff will show you different faces depending on the viewing angle and the amount of water falling on the day.
Autumn is probably the best season to visit the waterfall as you will have a bigger chance of spotting a rainbow in the middle of it (^_-)-☆.
The Akachi Falls (赤石の滝) is a really small waterfall that splits into three streams from the top. It is also nicknamed “Shamisen no Taki (三味線の滝)” as the streams look like Shamisen’s (Japanese guitar) thread.
In spring, the volume of streams falling down Kamasokono Falls is at its highest, making it more exciting when you walk by the waterfall. In autumn, the waterfall can be adorned with wonderful colors via the surrounding foliage. Above the waterfall, a giant zelkova tree (a type of elm tree) is said to be over 500 years old.
Jadani Bridge (蛇谷大橋) and Kamoshika Falls (かもしか滝)
The next notable spot along the road is Jadani Bridge. This bridge, measuring 70 meters in length and sitting at a height of 45 meters above the water, is the only bridge crossing the Jadani River Gorge (蛇谷川峡谷).
Unfortunately, there is no parking near the arch bridge. If you are lucky that there are no vehicles behind you, you can drive as slowly as you want while taking in the gorge’s beauty!
Tip: Shortly after you pass through the bridge, there is a shoulder of the road where you can park temporarily. But just be really careful when you walk back to the bridge as there is almost no gap between the cliff and the motorway.
Kamoshika Falls is really close to Jandani Bridge and the 4th waterfall along Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road. Again, there is no parking lot close by, so you must drive carefully while paying attention to the 5-tiered waterfall.
If you are really lucky, you might spot one of Japan’s fabled wildlife, the Japanese serow. After all, the waterfall got its name from the population of Japanese serows living here (´▽｀*).
Tip: The autumn foliage in this area can usually be viewed around late October.
Snake Valley Park (蛇谷園地), Oyadaninoyu Natural Bath (親谷の湯), and Ubagataki Falls (姥ヶ滝)
Just a 2-minute drive from Kamoshika Falls (かもしか滝), you will get to Jadanienchi (Snake Park) Parking Lot (蛇谷園地駐車場). Be sure to hop off your car here, as one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan is within walking distance!
To get to the waterfall, hike down the staircases from one side of the car park. There is a wooden torii gate with “親谷の湯” written on the wooden plaque attached to the gate. The staircases are rather steep, so be careful.
Following the promenade connecting the staircases, the free Oyadaninoyu Natural Bath will be in front of you in around 15 minutes. The beautiful Ubagataki Falls is just beside the hot spring pools. It would be great if they could build an onsen Ryokan here!
There are two onsen pools at Oyadaninoyu Natural Bath. One for your feet and one for you to indulge your body in (if you dare to). Anyone can utilize both pools. This is one of the few baths where you can enter with swimmers.
Ubagatani Falls, one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan, is a waterfall with a height of 76 meters and a width of 100 meters that gently falls on the rock surface. The name comes from the fact that it looks like the untied hair of an old woman with grey hair (probably from the back).
It may not really matter if you can see an old lady out of the waterfall or not. All you really want to do is enjoy this gorgeous waterfall while dipping your feet into the foot spa!
There is an observation deck above the Oyadani Natural Bath if you aren’t a fan of the foot spa. A toilet and a simple female undressing tent are available if you have your swimmers and want to enjoy the onsen.
On the way back up, the scenery of the surrounding natural beech forests will hopefully alleviate any fatigue…
Oyadaninoyu Natural Bath’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- For the below opening hours, please don’t head down if you are an hour away from the closing time.
- 7 am to 6 pm from June to August
- 8 am to 5 pm from September to November
As a landmark from Gifu Prefecture, the bath is just 4 km away from Fukube Falls (ふくべの大滝). If you are coming from Ishikawa Prefecture, seeing this waterfall means you already went past Oyadaninoyu, which is a sign that you should make a U-turn and head back.
Mizunori Falls (水法の滝)
Mizunori Falls, located between Ubagataki Falls and Fukube Falls, can easily be missed since the rockfall protection fence blocks part of the waterfall.
This 60 meters waterfall is the 7th waterfall from the Ishikawa Prefecture side. Mizunori Falls flowing on top of the rockfall protection fence is easier to spot if you come from Gifu Prefecture. If you are coming from the other way around, your vision will be blocked by the rockfall protection fence.
Also, the waterfall is one that you can’t get a picture of it in its entirety. But that is okay, as it is one of the least exciting waterfalls in the entire Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road (´▽｀*).
Fukube Falls (ふくべの大滝 )
Within a 10-minute drive from Snake Valley Park, one of the biggest waterfalls along the Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road will suddenly appear. You definitely won’t miss this one as there is a big parking lot in front of it with a waterfall viewing deck opposite the car park.
While you can only see a one-tiered waterfall from the viewing deck, it is actually a two-tiered one, which is why it was named “gourd waterfall”.
The waterfall basin is close to the parking lot as well. With the water falling from an 86-meter cliff, water will sometimes splash onto the road next to the basin!
Kunimi Observatory (国見展望台)
Kunimi Observatory is the next scenic spot after Fukube Falls. It will give you a panoramic view of Ōnanjimine Peak (大汝峰) and Kengamine Peak (剣ヶ峰), which are two of the three main peaks of Mt. Hakusan (白山).
Even if the weather isn’t ideal and the peaks are clouded when you arrive, it is still a great place to park your car to see Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road meandering through the valley and the hillside.
The observatory opposite the car park on top of the staircases is also one of the best autumn foliage viewing spots along the toll road. At an altitude of 1,100 meters, you can expect the view to be covered by the stunning bright colors of nature around mid-October each year.
Hakusan Observatory (白山展望台)
The next observatory that you will get to is the Hakusan Observatory. Like its name, it is the perfect place to admire one of Japan’s Top Three Sacred Mountains, Mt. Hakusan (白山).
From the observatory, you can expect the best view of Mt. Hakusan’s three main peaks, including the highest peak – Gozengamine (御前峰), at an altitude of 2,702 meters.
With the primeval beech forest spread below you, you can enjoy the fresh greenery in spring or autumn leaves in October while looking out at Mt. Hakusan.
If you want to be at the top of Mt. Hakusan at the far back of the mountain, it isn’t a hard thing to do! A one-way hike takes about 4 to 5 hours, and there are accommodation facilities for you to stay there overnight to observe the sunrise at Gozengamine, perhaps!
For more information, refer to our article Mt. Hakusan which has everything you need to know about the hike (^_-)-☆.
Tsuga no Mokudai (栂の木台) and Fukubedani Gardens Observatory (ふくべ谷上園地展望台)
A 5 -minute drive from Hakusan Observatory, there is another car park with Mt. Hakusan in front of you.
And don’t be satisfied just with the scenery from the car park. With a 20 to 25-minute hike, you can get to Fukubedani Gardens Observatory, which will offer you a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges!
On the way to Fukubedani Gardens Observatory, there is an intersection. One of the paths trailing off from this intersection is the hiking trail to the summit of Mt. Sanpōiwadake (三方岩岳).
From the observatory, a return trip to Sanpōiwadake will take around 2 hours with a one-way trip of 90 minutes from the parking lot.
The trail is flatter compared to the section from the parking lot to the observatory.
Then, once you are back on the road, you will be passing the prefectural border into Gifu Prefecture via a tunnel.
Sanpōiwadake Parking Lot (三方岩駐車場) to Mt. Sanpōiwadake (三方岩岳)
Around 10 to 15 minutes from Tsuga no Mokudai, you will be at the highest point of the entire Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road – the Sanpōiwadake Parking Lot at 1,445 meters above sea level.
The hiking trail from the car park is a shorter way to get to the top of Mt. Sanpōiwadake at an altitude of 1,736 meters. The trail along the mountain ridge isn’t too steep and is suitable for beginners.
A return trip will take around 90 minutes. Apart from Mt. Hakusan, you can sometimes even see the Japanese Northern Alps, such as Mt. Tate (立山) and Mt. Hotaka (穂高岳) if the weather allows!
This part of the toll road also welcomes the beautiful autumn foliage first from the end of September and peaks in early October each year.
Shirakawa-gō Observatory and Buna no Komichi Beech Route (白川郷展望台・ブナのこみち)
Before you get to Shirakawa-gō, how about having a peek at the village from afar?
From the lookout, around a 5-minute walk from the Shirakawa-gō Observatory Parking Lot (you will have to cross the road and climb up a staircase), the Gassho-Zukuri-Style Houses look even smaller than the Lego bricks. In late October and early November, it is the perfect place to snap a photo of the entire village covered by the surrounding autumn foliage!
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is one of the spots for an amazing “sea of clouds” scenery. If you are keen, arriving here by 9 am is best.
For those who love trekking, it takes around 2.5 hours from the trailhead that extends from the Buna no Komichi Beech Route to get to Mt. Sanpōiwadake (三方岩岳). Just note that this trail includes steep and/or slippery sections. So prepare your gear accordingly for a safer trip.
At the back of the Shirakawa-gō Observatory is a small trail called Buna no Komichi Beech Route. The loop trail is a 30-minute strolling course into the primitive beech forest that is over 300 years old.
The trail isn’t neatly maintained and is more like a hill road people have trodden on. While the entrance might not be obvious, it is now indicated by a signage board (^_-)-☆.
While it may sound like a trail that requires some hiking gear, this isn’t the case. A pair of sneakers will suffice, so they suit children and the elderly.
Rennyo Tea House and Information House (蓮如茶屋・情報ハウス)
At Shirakawa-gō Observatory Parking Lot, there is a big wooden house. The Rennyo Chaya or Rennyo Tea House differs from the chaya in Kanazawa in that it isn’t a place where you will find Geishas and/or Maiko. It is actually a cafe where you will be served non-vegetarian light meals or morning/afternoon tea.
The small Information House is next to the tea house, where you can source information about the Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road and acquire maps of nearby areas. Perfect to be your first stop if you are entering the toll road from Gifu Prefecture!
From Rennyo Tea House, follow the signs along the highway. You should be at Shirakawa-gō in around 20 minutes.
And if you are wondering where to go and what to do in this world heritage village, you can refer to our article about Shirakawa-gō!