Until the early twentieth century, the old Shirakawa Road, or Shirakawa Kaido, was the main road through Shirakawa and the rest of the Sho River valley. It connected the administrative center of Takayama, which was the capital of Hida Province (now northern Gifu Prefecture), with Etchu Province (present-day Toyama Prefecture).
The road itself is thought to have existed since medieval times, but it was officially established by Kanamori Nagachika (1524?1608), lord of Takayama Castle. Nagachika sought to use the road to strengthen control over his domain, especially over influential Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) Buddhist temples such as Shorenji in Shirakawa-go. He was motivated by the fact that followers of Jodo Shinshu had rebelled against local governors and daimyo lords in several parts of Japan, and they had been particularly successful in the provinces along the Sea of Japan coast.
The Shirakawa Road flourished during the Edo period (1603?1867), a time of prolonged peace, when the ruling Tokugawa shogunate actively maintained major roads throughout the realm to assert its power and facilitate commerce. In the twentieth century, however, modern highways gradually made the old road redundant. Today, only isolated parts of it remain, including a short stretch in Hirase, a village in the southern part of Shirakawa. This stretch is paved, but otherwise largely retains its traditional appearance, passing through fields on its way north from Jotokuji Temple.
This English description is provided by the "Multilingual Commentary Project 2021" of Japan Tourism Agency.
||Old Shirakawa Road
||Shirakawa Village Designated Important Cultural Property (Structure
||Designated on April 12, 2016
* Please note that the above information is provided for reference. There may be cases where it differs from current information.