Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland

An enchanted village emerging through the snow

  • Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland
  • Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland
  • Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland
  • Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland
  • Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland
  • Shirakawa-gō: A Snowy Wonderland

Shirakawa-gō is a name for the Shōnai basin in the former Hida province, which corresponds to present-day Gifu prefecture. The village of Ogimachi in Shirakawa-gō is known of about a hundred traditional gasshō-zukuri houses. Due to its unique landscape, Shirakawa-gō was selected as one of the Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings1976 and was also inscribedinthe UNESCO World Heritage List, along with Gokayamain Toyama Prefecture, in 1995.
Gasshō-zukuri is a unique architectural style in Japan characterised by a steeply slanting thatched roofmade of rice straw, devised to shed snow easily. The name gasshō stems from the steep angle of the roof, which resembles a pair of hands joined in prayer. In order to minimise wind damage and, at the same time, maximise sun exposure, gasshō-zukuri houses face north or south.
Silk production used to be an important activity in Shirakawa in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the early Meiji period (mid 19th century). For this reason, the space of the attic was generally divided into 2-4 layersand put to effective use in the rearing of silkworm. The expected durability of the roof is 50 to 80 years, and the structure requires regular maintenance. Because of their construction style, fire is a serious risk to the numerous gasshō-zukuri houses., and all activities involving fire, such as fireworks, are strictly regulated. The large-scale fire drills are performed early in November every year are something worth seeing.
On selected Sundays between the months of January and February, the gasshō-zukuri houses are illuminated. The next and last event of the season will be on 17th February. Since the small size of a village does not allow large gatherings, it is paramount that you make a reservation in advance. In addition to the illuminations,you can enjoy a nice stroll through one of the most iconic places of Japan.
The best attractions in Shirakawa-gō
Wada House
It is the house of the Wada family, who served as officials at the guardhouse  for generations and traded in explosives and raw silk.It is the largest gasshō-zukuri house in Shirakawa-gō and it has been designated an important cultural assets of Japan.
Myozen-ji Temple Hall
It is an ancient temple of the Shingon sect. The main hall, the priest’s quarters and the bell tower are allcovered with a thatched roof. It is one of the rare examples of a gasshō-zukuri temples. The priest’s quarters were built in 1817. The space of the roof is divided into five layers. In the hall on the second floor ancient agricultural and silk farming tools are displayed.
Shiroyama Observatory Decks
There are two observatory decks overlooking the marvellous gasshō-zukuri area of Ogimachi. Both stand next to the historic site of Shirakawa-gō and offer a complete view of the traditional premises.
Recommendations for gourmets
Specialities include salt-grilled freshwater fish, goheimochi (a ricecakecoated with a walnut sauce and grilled), as well the famous wagyū meats of Hida, which include the Matsusaka and Yonezawa beefs, served in the traditional hoba miso fashion, that is on a magnolia leafwith miso. Last but not least, a jar of pickled aka-kabura dish or a pack of Doburoku yōkan sweet bean jelly make a wonderful souvenir.
Stay and accommodation
If you are in Shirakawa-gō, of course you can sleep in one of the gasshō-zukuri houses.
Gasshōno Yado Magoemon
Built approximately 280 years ago, it is an inn and one of the few properties in Shiragawa-gō with an irori, a traditional sunken hearth.
Gasshō-zukurino Yado Issa
Located at the centre of the village, it is a large thatched house, renowned for its cuisine.
Gasshō-zukuri Minshuku Shimizu
This inn is located at theless touristic east end of Shirakawa-gō, with a great atmosphere to bask in.

Author : Slowear Journal


Shirakawa-gō  | Hida  | UNESCO World Heritage  |

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