Shirakawago, The Heart of Traditional Japan

Declared a UNESCO world heritage in 1995, Shirakawago is a small rustic village located in Gifu Prefecture. With its exquisitely maintained thatched houses -some of which are more than 250 years old-  and a backdrop of pine-covered mountains, the historic village is a must- see destination for those who want to experience the very essence of traditional Japan.

The remote town has a distinctive beauty due to the traditional “gassho-zukuri” (praying hands) farmhouses, shed and barns with steeply pitched, thatched roofs designed to resist the heavy snowfall the region receive each winter. Surprisingly, the roofs were constructed without the use of nails or metal supports -only straw and wooden cross-beams bound by rope.

This unique arquitecture style can only be found in this region of Japan. Aligned parallel to the Sho river and set against magnificent surroundings, these precious houses with their adjacent rice paddies make the alpine Japanese village one of the most photogenic places in the country.

 

Some of these beautifully preserved farmhouses have been converted into minshuku –a traditional Japanese guest house- while others are open to the public. Wada house, a prime example of the Gassho-style architecture, is a small family-run museum built in the mid to late Edo Period (around 1800A.D.). With a fire burning in the irori fireplace, Kanda house is also a cultural treasure.

 

Picnic By The Sho River

Meaning “White River Old District“, Shirakawago lies along the riverbanks of Sho River at the foot of Mount Haku. After visiting the hamlets of the traditional village, we relaxed under a tree in some of the loveliest places we could think of. There’s nothing better than setting up a picnic basket alongside the water for a sunny brunch while soaking up the tranquil atmosphere.

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