Nagoya is the big capital city of Aichi Prefecture, sitting about halfway between Tokyo and Osaka. Such privileged location makes it an attractive destination, as it provides easy access to other interesting sightseeing spots amidst the countryside of Central Japan region. Among the most popular of them is Shirakawa-go, the famous UNESCO World Heritage site near the border between Gifu and Toyama prefectures. Meitetsu Kanko Bus, under its Dragons Pack brand, operates a Single-Day tour departing from Nagoya-City, taking travelers for a convenient, comfortable and safe trip to this unmissable spot.
This direct-route bus goes dropping guests right at each of the destinations along the way, allowing them to spend their time and energy actually sightseeing the destinations, saving the hassle of changing transportation modes, waiting and, especially during winter, from the sometimes extreme weather which, while being a major element of the places' beauty, can also be the cause of hardships for the visitors.
We were invited to take the bus tour and it was a really nice experience - and even if we had to pay for it, as it comes at the reasonable price of 8,000 yen including a all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at a majestic hotel in Takayama-City.
The bus is, as all Japanese buses, comfortable and driven with impressive expertise. We went during the winter and, even with all the snow on the road, the driver made sure that the ride was smooth and free of unpleasant surprises.
We were glad to know that the car came with a easy to setup Wi-Fi, and each seat was equipped with a standard 100V Japanese-standard AC outlet, with more than enough power to recharge your smartphone or use a laptop. Just don't go trying to use hair dryers and other high-output appliances and you'll be fine.
On the day we departed, Hachimaru and Hida-kun the Sasabobo, respectively mascots for Nagoya and Takayama cities, were at the platform giving it a festive air, but we are sure that is not something that happens all the time.
Accompanying us in the vehicle were both a very knowledgeable guide, aimed mostly at the Japanese guests, and an translator who spoke in English. Although the translator's purpose was not to translate everything her more prolific colleague spoke, instead solely making sure all travelers understood key points about the sightseeing spots and basic procedures along the journey, much of what the guide lady said can be actually found on the internet in several languages, so we did not see it as a problem.
One advantage of the translator lady is that, as foreigners were thoughtfully seated in the back of the bus in order to isolate the two speaking staff from each other, we were able to have interesting chats with her during the trip while the guide continually spoke about what could be potentially boring stuff. The Japanese member of our troupe later mentioned that we could rest assured as we did not miss anything important after all.
After departing from the Meitetsu Bus Terminal adjacent to Nagoya Station, the bus headed north to Takayama City where we were allowed about an hour and a half of free time to do sightseeing. Needless to say, Takayama is a much sought-after destination and a particularly nice feature of this tour. You can visit the Takayama Jinya building, or stroll around the streets of old Takayama Town while experimenting with the various foods on sale everywhere. But alas, it's kind of hard to do both in that short period of time so you'll have to choose wisely.
After the Old Townscape sightseeing, we boarded the bus again and headed to the Takayama Green Hotel, where a lavish buffet awaited us. Western cuisine, Japanese, Chinese, all sorts of desserts and drinks, a great feast for even the most demanding tastes, everything was all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink - alcoholic beverages paid separately though.
When we departed for our final and principal destination of Shirakawa-go a heavy snow was falling, but it otherwise caused no problems at all, as the roads were nice and clean.
Upon arriving in Shirakawa-go, it was just a short walk from the parking lot to where the village actually started, and we took pictures, saw the insides of the famous "Gassho-zukuri" houses, and were overall marveled at the building techniques employed. We are refraining from writing too much about the place itself as there are tons of much more detailed information on the web, wrote by much more capable writers. But we must mention that we talked to a great number of people, both locals and tourists from all over the world, and had an unforgettable experience.
We were back at Nagoya Station by around 8:00 PM, so the whole course took just shy of a well-balanced 13 hours - not too short, not too long. The Meitetsu Kanko Bus Dragons Pack tour to Shirakawa-go is definitely a highly recommendable trip if you are in Japan and coming by Aichi Prefecture, even if just for a day. It operates almost the whole year with departures on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.