While visiting Kanazawa, I decided to spend a day in Shirakawa-go since it was winter and I knew the place will look just like in the pictures I have seen over and over again in the past.
After boarding a bus at the Kanazawa station, I arrived in this magical village hidden in the mountains with its famous rooftops covered in snow. It was a surprisingly warm day, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark and a sunny sky.
Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. It is known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which have steep thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snowfall in the winter. The village is particularly beautiful during the winter months when the snow-covered roofs and the surrounding snowy landscape create a picturesque scene. Visitors can explore the village on foot or by taking a bus tour, and can also participate in traditional activities such as making soba noodles or trying their hand at gold leaf crafting.
I spend the morning getting lost among the houses. I visited a couple of the inside since they have been turned into museums for tourists. You can learn inside about how they were built and get a glimpse of how people used to live in them.
Gassho-zukuri farmhouses are traditional Japanese houses found in the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. These houses are characterized by their steep thatched roofs that resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer, hence the name “gassho-zukuri” (gassho means “praying hands” and zukuri means “construction”). The steep roofs were designed to withstand heavy snowfall in the area, with the thatch extending nearly to the ground to prevent snow from accumulating on the roof.
These houses were built using traditional techniques and materials such as wooden beams and clay walls, and are often several hundred years old. They were traditionally used for both living and farming activities, with the upper levels used as living spaces and the lower levels used for storage and animal pens. Today, many of these houses have been converted into museums or guesthouses, allowing visitors to experience traditional Japanese architecture and culture.
Before leaving Shirakawa-go I had a fantastic lunch at the local on-sen / guesthouse. As you can imagine, the food was delicious.
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PS. There are a lot more photographs from Shirakawa-go in Japan, so if you are interested I put together a little silent photo slideshow below:
Here are 10 lesser-known facts about Shirakawa-go:
- Shirakawa-go is a mountain village in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan, known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses with steep thatched roofs.
- The village is a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognized for its unique architecture and traditional way of life.
- The name “Shirakawa-go” means “White River Village,” named after the nearby Shirakawa River.
- The village is located in a remote area of Japan, surrounded by mountains and accessible only by bus or car.
- The gassho-zukuri farmhouses are designed to withstand heavy snowfalls, with roofs that can reach up to 60 degrees in steepness.
- The village is particularly picturesque in the winter when the thatched roofs are covered in snow, making it a popular destination for winter tourism.
- Shirakawa-go is also known for its traditional crafts, such as the making of washi paper, which is used for traditional Japanese art and calligraphy.
- The village is home to a number of shrines and temples, including the iconic Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine, which is said to date back to the 7th century.
- The village has been used as a location for several movies and TV shows, including the Japanese film “Love and Honor” and the Korean drama “Goblin.”
- The local cuisine of Shirakawa-go includes traditional dishes such as soba noodles, Hida beef, and river fish, as well as local sake and beer.