Shirakawa-gō: The Japanese Village That Time Forgot

If you want to visit beautiful and scenic village in Japan, we highly recommend "Shirakawa-gō(白川郷)". In this article, we will introduce Shirakawa-gō, the Japanese village that time forgot! 

What is Shirakawa-gō(白川郷) ?

Gasshō-Style Houses in Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-gō (白川郷) is located in the village of Shirakawa in Gifu Prefecture. The Gokayama (五箇山) area is divided between the former villages of Kamitaira and Taira in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture.

The valley is in a mountain region with considerable snowfall, and these villages are well known for their clusters of farmhouses, constructed in the architectural style known as Gasshō-style (合掌造り), which are designed to easily shed snow from their roofs. The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama were registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

History of Shirakawa-gō

Mount Hakusan(白山) is the principal mountain in this area, and has been regarded as a sacred summit since ancient times. In the 8th century the Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama area became a location for ascetic religious practices, and mountain worship centred on Mount Hakusan.

For a long time afterwards, the region was under the control of the Tendai sect of Buddhist Japan. The tradition of Ochi-udo Dentsetsu (legend of defeated warriors who flee to the remote areas) remains today, no doubt as a result of its remote, isolated and mountainous nature. Tendai sect religion was replaced in the 13th century by the Jodo Shin sect and remains the main religious influence to the present day.

Nowadays all three villages within the world heritage site belong to the modern-day administrative organisation of the Mura system.

House construction

The Gasshō-style house ("prayer-hands construction" style) is characterized by a steeply slanting thatched roof, resembling two hands joined in prayer. The design is exceptionally strong and, in combination with the unique properties of the thatching, allows the houses to withstand and shed the weight of the region's heavy snowfalls in winter.

The Gassho-style house is architecturally one of the most important and rare types of farmhouse in Japan. The clustering of so many surviving examples has given the World Heritage Site its justification for inscription. This confident style of house construction is unique within Japan, and nowhere else within the country is roof space typically utilised, except for passive storage, and not in a two, three or four storey manner, as is seen here.

Let's go to Shirakawa-go to experience traditional Japanese living!

There are 3 ways to reach to Shirakawa-go easily!

1) Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen(北陸新幹線) to reach JR Kanazawa Station(金沢駅) and change to Nohi Bus / HOKURIKU RAIL ROAD Bus. 

2) Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen(北陸新幹線) to reach JR Toyama Station(富山駅) and change to Nohi Bus / HOKURIKU RAIL ROAD Bus. 

3) Take the Tokaido Shinkansen(東海道新幹線) to reach JR Nagoya Station(名古屋駅) and change to Nohi Bus / Toyama Chiho Railway Bus. 

How to get to Shirakawa-go by Shirakawa Village Official Website

Shirakawa-go (白川郷)

・Ogimachi village(荻町集落): Ogimachi 796, Shirakawa-mura, Ono-gun, Gifu Prefecture  501-5627
・Ainokura village(相倉集落): Ainokura, Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture  939-1923
・Suganuma village(菅沼集落): Suganuma 436, Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture  939-1973
Tel: +81-5769-6-1311
Home Page: http://ml.shirakawa-go.org/en/

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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor