After graduating from the Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka sightseeing trail, venture off to a tiny mountain village in Gifu, Japan. Go to Shirakawa-go and admire the traditional Japanese houses, or ‘gassho-zukuri’. They aren’t those wooden little houses, but large rectangular houses that used to be farmhouses, covered with a thick layer of dried straw on top in an inverted V shape to prevent an over accumulation of snowfall.
It was very heartwarming to see this cultural aspect of Japan. I liked Shirakawa-go because, just after thinking I was getting used to Japan sightseeing, I was surprised with these old fashioned houses dating over 200 years!
‘Gassho-zukuri’ means ‘palms held together’ as in the form of prayer for Buddhist monks. This design of 45-60 degree angles is used to protect the house against heavy snowfall. They are made without nails, too!
The view from the carpark shows a nice display of a handful of these houses, surrounded by lush trees and a small river. Today, these houses are used as ‘minshuku’s’, or Japanese guest houses. I’m sure it’s an amazing experience if you have the money to afford it! The food at ryokans or minshukus are always so delicious.
Shirakawa-go is located near the lavish Shogawa River. It was acclaimed a world heritage site in 1995. Nearby Gokayama is similar to Shirakawa-go but with fewer tourists, and less accessibility! I recommend stopping by for a wander around the shops while on the way to Kanazawa, or Takayama—two other amazing cities in Japan!
PS. In winter, Shirakawa-go gets illuminated for a few days. Tickets are pricey and sell out, but it would be a great night if you went!