Shirakawago Village, Gifu Prefecture


A representation of the authentic landscape of Japan that is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

This mountain community has older homes built in the gassho-zukuri architectural style. You may hear the noises of insects and birds while surrounded by rice paddies. Even non-Japanese find this scene of the snow-covered village of Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture nostalgic. 114 homes constructed in the gassho-zukuri style—so named because they resemble hands clasped in prayer—that are located in the heart of Ogi-machi Village have survived. The region was recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage zone in 1995 along with communities situated in the neighboring Toyama Prefecture. As the Japanese people's "spiritual birthplace," the local villagers are still committed to preserving this priceless scenery.

The gassho-zukuri design is a direct result of the region's frequent snowfalls.

In many ways, homes constructed in the gassho-zukuri style are intended to withstand large winter snowfalls. For instance, the steep pitch of the roof shields the home from the weight of accumulating snow and is designed to make clearing snow less labor-intensive. All of these homes were constructed with gable ends that faced north or south, which aided in the daytime melting of snow. Due to daily interior firewood burning, which fumigates the roof with smoke, kills bugs, and has a preservation effect, they have been around for more than 300 years or so. These homes stand out for being made entirely of organic materials without the use of even a single nail.

When we stay in a gassho-zukuri home, we get a glimpse into the life of folks who lived in the past.

You can visit and see inside the gassho-zukuri homes in Shirakawa-go village. But, it's advisable to spend the night at such a residence if you want to gain a deeper insight of life in this country. You may see how the Japanese used to live by looking at the nightly meals made on the hearth, the loft that serves as the bedroom, the clay flooring, and the vintage bathroom and kitchen spaces. Shirakawa may be cool in the summer, but the snow-covered winter months still have their appeal. The chilly, icy weather outside draws attention to the warmth inside, allowing you to appreciate this village's simple yet luxurious way of life.

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