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“Incredible collection of "living" gassho-zukuri farmhouses”

Shirakawago Gassho Zukuri Minkaen
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2-Day Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Shirakawago and Hida-Takayama Bus Tour from...
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Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Level Contributor
91 reviews
51 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 251 helpful votes
“Incredible collection of "living" gassho-zukuri farmhouses”
Reviewed August 4, 2012

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Takayama was to see the preserved thatched-roof farmhouses of Shirakawa-go. I'd already visited the Hida Folk Museum in Takayama, which features several relocated gassho-zukuri farmhouses, but the vast majority of surviving farmhouses are found in Ogimachi.

The bus ride from Takayama takes about an hour. Shirakawa-go is a very touristy area with an open-air museum featuring 25 gassho-zukuri farmhouses that are open to the public. I was even brave / crazy enough to climb up to the third floor of a farmhouse and shuffle (shoeless, naturally!) along a thin wooden plank about 12" wide from one side of the roof to the other. Did I mention that there are no handrails? And the floor is open to the three stories below? Hint: don't look down.

The evolution of these farmhouses is ingenious. The top level of the farmhouses had slats so that the woodsmoke from the indoor fireplaces (cough, cough!) could drift upwards. Various wooden platforms held meats for smoking, and at the top level were the silkworm cocoons. The smoke also served to keep insects out of the thatched roof. Also, no nails were used in the construction; the grass roof is held in place by ropes. When a new roof is put on (they're made from local susuki grass and can last 30 to 40 years), it costs 200,000 dollars to reroof and requires a lot of manpower. The grass is sewn into place using huge wooden needles!

I then headed across the (heavily swaying) footbridge that connects to Ogimachi, a town where people actually still LIVE in many of the gassho-zukuri houses. Still touristy, but there are laundry lines and proof that people live there. I visited the damp Myozen-ji Temple Museum (and climbed up to the third floor and walked the plank...again!) and wandered around for a bit before heading back for the bus stop. Admission to the "museum buildings" is pretty cheap (around 300-500 yen admission per house in Ogimachi, and 500 yen for the Shirakawago Gassho-zukuri Folklore Park).

A very unique experience...several of the gassho-zukuri operate as hotels / inns if you are interested in spending the night.

Visited May 2012
7 Thank Bundtlust
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Tokyo, Japan
Level Contributor
132 reviews
119 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 140 helpful votes
“great views of gassho houses”
Reviewed July 4, 2012

neva miss out the Shiroyama Viewpoint that give excellent view of the whole village from atop, surrounded with mountains , some of these houses still have residents, u might see smoke coming out of their chimneys in the noon time whn they cook. Especially like the Wada-ke house where they offer yummy tea for travellers & i like the smell of these house since they have to lit the fire place daily to maintain the house in gd condition, it jus gives a nice feeling of liveliness , feels like the house is alive

Visited May 2012
3 Thank meiyih
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, null, Singapore
Level Contributor
24 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Heaven on earth”
Reviewed June 9, 2012

This place is really beautiful beyond words! Blue sky, white clouds, crystal clear stream water and snow capped mountains surrounding a village with beautiful houses, what can one ask for? Visit one of the Gassho houses to experience the simple and yet wise way of living of the village folks. There's ryokan for those who are interested to spend a night here. Do walk up the hill for a bird eye's view of the village. Would definitely come to this place again!

Visited May 2012
2 Thank HweeMei
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
23 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“Beautiful Village, specially nice in winter”
Reviewed May 23, 2012

Shirakawa-go is a mountain village 50 minutes away from Takayama, Japan, with beautifully preserved 200-plus yr-old "gassho-zukuri" thatched roof houses, with huge & sturdy wooden beams, mosty in their original state. Gassho- zukuri refers to the shape/ angle of the the house roofs, which are like two praying hands, in an "A" shape, designed to withstand heavy snow. The place has been designated as a Unesco World Heritage site. We visited Shirakawago first week of April, 2012, and wow, it was still snowing! There is a viewing/ look-out point where one can appreciate the village and the snow-capped "A"- style houses a little further up the mountains-- this site accessible via a mini-bus from the town center. To go to Shirakawago, one takes a bus, or car, from Takayama, and it's amazing to be able to reach the mountain in no time, without having to pass zigzag roads! The Japanese just built tunnels in mountains along the way_thus, our bus just passed one tunnel after another...and voila, we were way up already! We stayed in one of these old houses which had been converted to a bed and breakfast, with the descendants of the original owners attending to us and preparing our food. In the village, there is a Museum depicting the gassho-house construction as well as displaying primitive tools and implements used in farming by the original villagers. Up to now, the village is still a farming community in spring and summer, but in winter, I guess it's just a tourist village, but oh-so-charming! There are other big houses owned by old prominent families which have been converted to Museums as well, and one can visit them. Even in winter, as long as it's sunny or if snow is not heavy, one can just go around the village on foot. It's a compact place surrounded by mountains, and dotted with evergreens, divided by a gushing river, and good for a 2-day, one night, relaxing stay! You can check it out at www.shirakawa-go.org.

Visited April 2012
8 Thank Joycee456
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong
Level Contributor
18 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Very cultural environment and buildings”
Reviewed February 16, 2012

It was the second last day of our trip. We drove 1 hr from Takayama, easy motorway and good signages, lots of parking area. It is a village in a valley, with many special houses with roof built in a deep reverted V. The houses are built of natural material. Worthwhile to pay and visit one of these houses to see the architecture inside, how they constructed the pillar and roof and fire place. Very characteristic building. Haven't seen such houses in other parts of Japan. Also good to see the exhibition of daily utilities of villager in the old days. There are crop fields in between the houses. Very good place for taking photos.
A number of restaurants and motels. Worth to stay in those motels overnight.
Remember to visit the lookout upon a hill before you leave. You can see the whole village and the valley, with a stream passing by, surrounded by high mountains. And you can see the characteristic houses standing out of the background, all facing the same direction.

Visited November 2011
1 Thank fuyt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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