Shirakawago in Gifu, Japan is located in the Shogawa River Valley in a remote mountain region. Famous tourist destinations Takayama and Kanazawa are not far away. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, the village is best known for its traditional farmhouses in the thatched-roof style called Gasshozukuri. Some of these picturesque homes are more than 250 years old! Read this travel guide to see what you can expect in Shirakawago.
Of course, one of the main attractions is the houses themselves, 3 of which you can enter and walk around inside. The best one according to most is the Kanda House, where you get green tea and can take in the smells and views of a traditional Gassho-zukuri house in this area.
Gassho-zukuri means ‘constructed like hands in prayer’, as the farmhouses’ steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations, and these houses were built to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in this region of Japan during winter, and more amazingly, the houses are built without any nails for extra sturdiness.
The nearby Tenshukakau Observatory is one of the best places to take a picture of the whole village from above. The Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine Festival Hall is a small museum. The museum’s architectural structure alone makes it worth a visit. If you are in Japan in January or February, you can try to catch one of the light-up events.
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