OMG I think I might have just caught the LAST lightup?!
THIS was the absolute, absolute, absolute highlight of my trip!
As previously mentioned, we did the Toyko - Kanazawa - Shirakawa-go - Gero - Nagoya route and the entire detour to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa was planned around the once a year light-up pictured above!
Enroute to Shirakawa-go
Getting to this UNESCO World Heritage site can be a little troublesome but it's definitely not difficult. It's 1.5 hours by bus from Kanazawa. I had called the Nohi bus company a month before our trip to reserve our tickets. Do not - I repeat, do not - attempt to get tickets only when you've arrived in Japan because most probably they'll be sold out (especially if you're going for the annual light-up). I highly recommend you book the early morning buses so you will get a full day there.
Shirawaka-go is a very small, historic village (yes, there are actual shops and actual people living there etc) so one day should be enough for you to cover the entire place.
However, if you would like to stay in a traditional guesthouse, you'd need to make your reservation 6 months prior... which I did not :sob:
So we took a lot of pictures, built a couple of snowmen (even the snow in Japan is prettier than other countries wtf) and had lunch at しらおぎ because the hubs was DYING to have hida beef.
It was so, so, so, good.
Basically, hida beef is a brand name given to beef which has meat quality that is classified with the A/B rank and the 5/4/3 grade and which has been raised within Gifu Prefecture. It's a first-class Japanese beef brand that rivals Kobe or Matsuzaka beef and the one we had at this restaurant was served Hoba Miso style - “Hoba” means magnolia leaf in Japanese and the dried leaf is soaked then used to cook the sweet miso mixture and well-marbled beef over fire.
And then you wait for the light up to happen and it's like, time just stands still.
You can then take a bus back to Kanazawa or Takayama but these buses however depart around 530pm if I recall correctly so if you want to stay till later, you can arrange for a private taxi (we got ours from the Fuji Taxi Co) to pick you. We had arranged this a week or so before our arrival via email and it's a little pricey at about 35,000JPY (S$470) one-way but we had 4 pax so I guess it isn't too bad.
Soba for dinner... nothing like hot soup on a cold winter night.
Last shot at Shirakawa-go captured by Mr Go lol.
Postscript: OMG I JUST found out that the Shirakawa-go light up for 2017 has been postponed till further notice!!! Apparently, there was an "unexpected surge in the volume of visitors"! OMG OMG OMG. I hope they don't cancel it for good and I now feel incredibly lucky that we made it for last year's cause it could effectively be the last ever omg?!