Getting to Shirakawa-go in a Wheelchair

  • Getting to Shirakawa-go in a Wheelchair

    Posted by Josh Grisdale on January 4, 2022 at 11:06 am

    OK, I have thought about going for years now, but I am determined this year to go to Shirakawa-go!

    From what I understand, even if you cannot get in the buildings, it still makes for a great trip. The biggest issue though seems to be transportation.

    Taking the Hokuriku Shinkansen is accessible (I’ve used it from Tokyo to Kanazawa before), however, the next step is taking a bus from Shin-Takaoka Station in Takaoka to Shirakawa village.

    Ages ago, I called them and they required you to put your wheelchair in the undercarriage and climb the steps into the bus – since I cannot walk, that is not an option!

    Is there are regular bus? Are there accessible taxis that can be hired?

    If anyone knows from experience, or has found information, please let me know! (If I find anything else myself I’ll update this thread as well)…

    Josh Grisdale replied 1 day, 13 hours ago 8 Members · 24 Replies
  • 24 Replies
  • schroth-sensei

    January 4, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve seen some traditional mountain cities like Shirakawa-go online, I think it could be cool to visit them even if I couldn’t get in the buildings (I like architecture, so even the outside could be interesting). Though I hope there will be accessible places to eat local foods because from what I’ve seen, the food can be amazing and different from the normal selections.

  • Ohayo Travel

    January 4, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    There is one area in Shirakawago and Gokayama and also part of the world heritage whichi is “Ainokura Village” or 相倉集落. I was there recently. There is one accessible restaurant with Kayabuki roof house in the middle of the village. I only checked the accessibility and did not tried the meal but at least the review here is not bad.

    Ainokura is about 1 hour drive (50 km) from Shin Takaoka Station that is a Kanazawa Shinkansen station just between Toyama and Kanazawa.

  • Josh Grisdale

    January 4, 2022 at 2:40 pm

    That is great to hear @ohayotravel – thank you.

    Do you know if driving is the only way to get there for a wheelchair user? If the bus is not accessible, can you recommend an accessible taxi service?

  • Ohayo Travel

    January 4, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    The only route is by car, I think.

    I checked the bus below and it is not accessible unfortunately.

    There are some car rentals that has accessible cars, so it is one of the choices, if you go with someone who drives.

    If you ask for accessible car with a driver it would be 60k to 80k JPY a day, rough guess.

    You have a lot of places to visit in that region. Takaoka is full of historical value – Takoka Kojo Park, Zuiryuji Temple, etc. To the north you have Himi Fish Market and Amaharashi Kaigan View Spot, On the way to Ainokura, you have Inami, a town of wood carving, and so on.

  • Josh Grisdale

    January 4, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    Too bad about the bus not being accessible, but good to know.

    So, either go with someone who can drive an accessible rental car, or pay $600-$800 for a driver/taxi – yikes!

    Considering this is a World Heritage Site, it is disappointing that the only way for wheelchair users is to pay MUCH more than others just to visit…

    Thank you very much! I’ll try to find someone who can drive.

    • Rob Dyer

      January 4, 2022 at 6:57 pm

      Josh, if you *can* get to Shirakawa-go or Ainokura without breaking the bank (!) I can thoroughly recommend both.

      Shirakawa-go certainly is well worth a visit even if you cannot get into some of the buildings. There’s a reasonably well-pathed circuit you can take that uses a bridge to cross the river to the other side of the valley and the village.

      Maybe worth calling the local tourism office to see if they can advise on an accessible service or even just ask if they can put you in touch with someone willing to assist you with a suitable vehicle and you can offer to pay them for their trouble?

      In physical size Ainokura is tiny in comparison with Shirakawa-go – only 22 homes – most of which are working farms. A couple are open as minshuku though. I shot this video in the village at dusk in winter a few years back when we stayed there:

    • Josh Grisdale

      January 4, 2022 at 7:50 pm

      Looks great (though, I’ll avoid the snow…)

      Good idea about contacting the local tourism office. Just used the enquiry form here:

      We’ll see what they say…

  • Joan Pahisa

    January 4, 2022 at 8:22 pm

    Plenty of answers already and nothing much to add. I was in Shirakawa-go in 2018 and it was really nice (even if traditional houses were not accessible, the stroll around town is already worth it). Pavement was good and there were some restaurants on the main street with an accessible entrance as well as street posts with food (though waiting lines were long). I went with typical rice broth noodles at a restaurant.

    Here are the posts that I did on Instagram about the trip with some comments on accessibility:

    As for transportation, unfortunately, it’s as said, the only options were a rental car or getting your wheelchair on the trunk of the bus from Kanazawa or Takayama and getting on it on your own.

    If anyone finds any other options, please let us know! I’d love to go back to Shirakawa-go without the bus hassle, though without spending crazy money…

  • schroth-sensei

    January 5, 2022 at 4:31 am

    😲 Oh a lot of good stuff in this post! Thank you everyone for sharing! 😃

  • Josh Grisdale

    January 5, 2022 at 5:33 pm

    The local tourist desk got back to me and suggested a taxi company in Takaoka: (No English on website though.)

    They have both accessible taxis and offer tours.

    I contacted them but expect it to be pricy. Will keep you informed!

  • Josh Grisdale

    January 7, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    OK, the taxi company got back to me and their charge for one hour in their taxi (mini-van) is ¥7,100 or ¥10,100 for a full sized van.

    It would take between 1-1.5hrs to get to Shirakawa-go, so 2-3hrs for riding the taxi. But you would also need to pay them while you wait!!

    So, very expensive! You can rent an accessible vehicle for 24hrs for about the same as 1hr of the taxi… but, you’ll need someone to drive of course…

    Anyway, once I find a driver, I’ll let you know how it is!

  • nismor78

    May 5, 2023 at 12:04 am

    Any update on Shirawakago?

    Love to go there too, but can’t ride bus. I hope there will be non step bus in the near future.

    @joshgrisdale hopefully you can tell the local tourism about our concern.

    • Josh Grisdale

      May 5, 2023 at 8:59 am

      I haven’t heard anything… maybe @ohayotravel has new info?

      I’m on a government board for accessibility and transportation and brought it up… hopefully it will be taken into account and changed…

      The other thing we can do is get in touch with the bus company and tourism board from time to time and ask. If they don’t have people asking about accessibility, they may not understand the need. But if people ask, they will start thinking “we need to get accessible!”

    • Ohayo Travel

      May 8, 2023 at 10:50 pm

      @joshgrisdale  I also have no new information. Some information show that both Gifu and Toyama Prefectural Government has their policies or targets to raise the rate of non-step buses to improve the mobility of aged residents, but not sure for Shirakawago route. 

      By the way, “non-step bus” rate is 15% nationwide and it is 12% in Gifu. Transportation companies have a long way to go.

    • Josh Grisdale

      May 9, 2023 at 11:27 am

      Very disappointing statistics!

    • Ohayo Travel

      May 13, 2023 at 2:46 am

      Seprately from this discussion here but connected, I heard from an old lady today that they need to give up participating bus tours because they are not non-step. She said she has difficulty stepping up and down the entrance of the bus. So I think we should develop a bus tour accessible for her too. For that we need a new universal designed two-deck bus, i.e. the lower in the front half and the upper in the back half.

    • Josh Grisdale

      May 13, 2023 at 11:20 am

      Yes! There is a real opportunity there. Bus tour users tend to be older and starting to get accessibility needs but the bus companies seem so slow to act even though buses with lifts exist.

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