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Golden Week pt. 4 - Shirakawa-go

Written on: Sunday July 6th, 2008

A journal entry from: Japan

So...I've been really behind on these, haven't I? Last part of the Golden Week trip. Shirakawa-go is one of a few traditional mountain villages preserved as a World Heritage site. The big attraction here are the traditional, A-frame thatch houses called "gasshoo-zukuri", which means roughly "praying hands". It had been recommended to me by a friend, and I had been wanting to go for a while.

These houses are quite big, many of them four stories high, a few are even five stories. The A-frame design allows heavy winter snow to slide off instead of building up on the roof. The thatch is incredibly thick, and it takes hundreds of peope working communally to repair a roof. It's apparently a multi-million dollar task these days, too.

Multi-generation families lived together, so each house was home to many people. The first floor was a communal living area, and the focal point (especially in winter) is the open hearth called an irori. Upper floors were used for storage and workspace and such. From the 18th century on, the top floors were also used for silkworm cultivation -it provided a huge workspace and was warm and dry from the smoking effect of the communal fire downstairs in the irori.

I spent the whole afternoon wandering around the little village, and then started heading back to Takayama, where I had spent the previous night, and from there, back home to Kannami.

I've included a few photos of Japanese countryside (and towns) taken from the train, too. Hope they entertain.