Japan, Travel

Discover: The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

snowy village

The historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are a huge tourist attraction and have been declared to be one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Japan in the year 1995. These historic villages are situated in the mountainous region of Japan that had been cut off from the rest of the world for many years.

Mulberry trees & Silkworms

The villages survived on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma are astounding examples of a traditional way of life according to the local culture that is so well-adapted to the social and economic lives of the people.

Snowy village with lights on in thatched houses

The Shirakawa-go and its neighbouring Gokayama regions proudly sit on the sides of the famous Shogawa River Valley that are located in the remote mountains ranging from a span that starts from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures.

The villages are known for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses that were constructed up to 250 years ago. “Gassho-zukuri” translates to the meaning “constructed like hands in prayer.” These farmhouses have been given this unique name because the steep thatched roofs of these buildings look a lot like the hands of Buddhist monks when pressed together for prayer. The architectural style of the roofs, which are designed in such a way as to withstand heavy snowfall and extreme winter weather.

Ogimachi: The largest village

Ogimachi is the largest village of Shirakawa-go and is one of the main attractions of the area. This is the perfect place for a wonderful day trip from Takayama that is traditionally and culturally enriched. It is very easily accessible and can be simply visited by stopping off in between a bus journey from Takayama to Kanazawa. However, if you really want to experience this village to its fullest and take in all that it has to offer then it is highly recommended to spend a night at one of the farmhouses.

A thatched house covered in snow

Gokayama: Local tradition

On the other hand, Gokayama is less accessible compared to Shirakawa-go. The villages of Gokayama are smaller, more intimate and less crowded with minimum intrusion from modern buildings, hence better preserving the local tradition. These less developed villages are actually quite nice and provide an adventurous and joyful trip. Again, an overnight stay would allow you to truly experience the local riches of the villages.

The historic villages of both Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are a must-visit and must-experience destination and are sure to satisfy your thirst for a deeply cultural and traditional adventure. The villages are very welcoming and have their own specialities while offering beautiful views of the valley as well.

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