UNESCO World Heritage Site #19: Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Shirakawago Through the Window

Looking out the window of a Gassho-style house in the village of Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go. Located north of Takayama, the villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma consist of Gassho-style houses. These houses have steep roofs to deal with the heavy snow the region gets every winter. The roofs look like hands praying. Staying overnight in the village of Ainokura in Gokayama in a traditional house was a special treat and made the journey to this area a complete one.

From the UNESCO website:

“The Gassho-style houses found in the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are rare examples of their kind in Japan. Located in a river valley surrounded by the rugged high-mountain Chubu region of central Japan, these three villages were remote and isolated, and access to the area was difficult for a long period of time. The inscribed property comprises the villages of “Ogimachi” in the Shirakawa-go region, and “Ainokura” and “Suganuma” in the Gokayama region, all situated along the Sho River in Gifu and Toyama Prefectures. In response to the geographical and social background, a specific housing type evolved: rare examples of Gassho-style houses, a unique farmhouse style that makes use of highly rational structural systems evolved to adapt to the natural environment and site-specific social and economic circumstances in particular the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The large houses have steeply-pitched thatched roofs and have been preserved in groups, many with their original outbuildings which permit the associated landscapes to remain intact.”