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Discover the UNESCO Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

by Winnie Wong | April 28, 2017

Immerse yourself into the folk lives of UNESCO Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages

The historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. The 114 farmhouses are famous for preserving the traditional Gassho-zukuri style houses with their iconic ‘A’ shaped thatched roofs, built without nails, some of which are more than 300 years old.

The wisdom of gassho-zukuri design

Houses built in this style are usually 18m long and 10m wide, have four floors and the thatched roofs are a sharp 45 degree angle or steeper, to withstand the weight of heavy snow in the winter. The name of the design is related to the Buddhism influence in Japan, where it is called Gassho, because the thatched roofs look like the hands in prayer. The Gassho-zukuri roofs are rethatched once in every 40-50 years and even today three or four roofs are redone each year, with the cooperation of the whole village.

The main houses to visit in the Shirakawa-go village

Several Gassho-zukuri houses have been designated as important cultural properties and are open to the public.

Wada House (和田家)is the biggest house in the area, and there are still people living in it, but the 1st and 2nd floors are open to public. While Nagase House(長瀬家)and Kanda House(神田家)also welcome visitors and even serve hot teas! It is recommended to choose one of the three houses to visit.

Myozenji Temple 明善寺

The biggest Gasho building in the village, with 5 stories, was built in 1748.
The roof of the main hall, the kitchen, the bell tower arch were all thatched in Gassho-zukuri style and has an important status in the village. It is now open as folk museum, with a welcoming fireplace on the ground floor. The temple also has a silkworm farm in the loft, which is interesting to visit.

Spring/summer time is a great time to go as you can also see the cherry blossoms amongst other blooming flowers in the area.

Here is a clip perfectly showing the beauty of Shirakawa-go village in Spring time.

Transport and Accommodation:

Take a Nohi Bus from Takayama, Kanazawa/Toyama bus centre to Shirakawago.

The Gifu and Kaetsuno bus companies also go to the area and you can speak to our Japanese experts to arrange your transport. It is always good to book with us as we can provide English speaking guides for your journey who will be more than happy to help.

You can spend a night in the transformed farmhouse, Minsuku, for atraditional experience.

On a special note, winter is another excellent time to go to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages. There will be lights up in the winter so it is worth staying the night to experience the fairy tale like scenes. Make sure you book early for this as it is really popular and the accommodations in the village fill up very quickly.

Tours that goes to Shirakawago

  • Mount Fuji Nihondaira Hill Shizuoka Japan
    Japan Group Tour Rail

    Amazing Japan

    A tour that explores the very best of Japan’s cultural, natural and UNESCO locations. Journey on the famous bullet train.

    View this package
  • Geisha temple Kyoto japan
    Japan Semi-Escorted Culture

    Japan Heritage

    Explore Japan’s classic sights, starting in the exciting capital city of Tokyo, famous for its fresh sushi.

    View this package
  • Lake Ashi hakone japan
    Japan Semi-Escorted Family

    Japan Family Tour

    Explore the history and culture of this amazing country, with fun-filled excursions for all the family.

    View this package
  • frost snow monkeys pool yudanaka japan
    Japan Semi-Escorted Nature

    Great Trail of Japan

    Journey through Japan, taking in some of the most picturesque locations.

    View this package

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