‘The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama’
Shirakawago village is one of the most scenic places to be that is to be visited in Japan.It is surrounded by pine tree covered mountains and it is located along the Shokawa river.They are famous for their traditional Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, out of which few are more than 250 years old. Gassho means praying hands, suggesting the form of hands raised in prayer to the Buddha.These villages have houses that are very big, and have thick thatched roofs that come down steeply.In this way the snow can slide off the roofs.There is also enough space under the roofs to store raw materials and supplies for long winters.Most house owners make the most of their inner space and use up every square inch by dividing it into several parts,sometimes up to five, levels.The inhabitants of these villages used to earn their money in the silk-industry.
In the 8th century AD this ie., the Shirakawa-go village and Gokayama area was opened up as a place for ascetic religious mountain worship, centered on Mount Hakusan,for an order that combined ancient pre-Buddhist beliefs with esoteric Buddhism.There are approximately 180 thatched farmhouses, sheds, and barns, and most of them were built about 200-300 years ago.Shirakawa-go was a part of the territory Takayama Clan at the beginning of the Edo period,but from the late 17th century until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 it was under the direct control of the military government. Gokayama was under direct rule by the Kanazawa Clan throughout the Edo period.The remote mountain villages of Gassho-style houses in Shirakawa-go and Gokayama on the Hida Highlands were registered as cultural heritage sites during the year 1995.
Shirakawa-go is situated at the foot of Mt. Haku-san in northwestern Gifu Prefecture.It is a quiet mountain village with rice fields and a river running through it.The beautiful Shirakawa-go village is Located in a mountainous region that was cutoff from the rest of the world for a long period of time,these villages with their Gassho-style houses shows the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms.
Shirakawa-go can be reached by using highway bus from most major cities in Japan.Tickets for buses to Takayama should be reserved before few days of our approach as Takayama is popular tourist destinations for both Japanese and foreigners.Beside buses we can reach the village by catching the Shinkansen Bullet Train to Nagoya and there we have to transfer to a standard train to Takayama. Then we can move to Takayama Bus Station and can take a ticket to Shirakawa-go.From this train one can enjoy mountainous beauty that Japan offers to the tourists.Another best option is to hire a car and drive to Shirakawa-go. A new ‘super-highway’ is now open which will have you in the village in under an hour.On our way we can see few more tourist spots too.
Suganuma,one of the main attractions of Gokayama, is made up of two areas,Sunganuma village and the Gokayama Gassho no Sato.The Pleasant and easy way to explore the village is by foot, the two areas are connected to each other by a tunnel, which also connects to the parking lot on the hill overlooking the village via an elevator.Near the village,we can find Gassho-zukuri Minka-en outdoor museum which is made up of 27 thatched roof houses that have been relocated from various areas in Shirakawa-go.We have two museums in this village: Saltpeter museum and Folk museum.Making saltpeter, an ingredient in gunpowder, was an important industry for the region during the Edo period.This museum has exhibits on the procedures, tools and history of the industry in Gokayama.Where as the Folk Museum displays tools and household items used in daily life.It also displays some of the exhibited items include tools used for farming, raising silkworms and making washi paper.
To enjoy the village beauty the best time to visit is to go is during December until march, where you can still see the winter wonderland, best time to go is from morning until evening.We can enjoy the snowfall take snaps around the beautiful locations.There are several beautiful natural landmarks nearby this village.One is the Mount Haku and another is the Three Amo Waterfalls: Taka falls, Naka falls, and Ki falls which are must visit places when reached this village.The Doburoku Festival is held in the village every autumn.In this village Doburoku is a type of white,unrefined sake and it is served to visitors during the festival period.During this festival period the visitors can learn about Shishi-mai which is a type of lion dance.
Hospitality and Livelihood:
Although Shirakawa-go is well worth to visit,But for stay the people of Shirakawa-go only allow guests to a maximum of 1 night in each house.If you would like to stay 2 or more nights you will need stay each night in different houses.These Shirakawa Gassho village has a couple of places to eat.There are few restaurants available which will be opened only during day time.As the village mostly being visited during day times tourist oriented,so the restaurants over there will close down after the sun sets.