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The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

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The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

In 1995, the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-Go and Gokayama were inscribed in the World Heritage Centre as a cultural site in Japan. Located in the mountainous regions of the Gifu and Toyama prefectures, these villages are recognized for their Gassho-styled farmhouses. The best examples of these houses are in Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma. Some of the farmhouses that reside in these areas are over 250 years old.

The Gassho architectural design refers to the way a person puts their hands together with the palms facing inward, also known as “prayer hands”. The thatched roofs, made without nails, were meant to survive heavy snowfall and provide enough space to work through the winter. The abundant attic space allowed the villagers to cultivate silkworms. The Historic Villages of Shirakawa- Go and Gokayama are a representation of a traditional way of life that has adapted to their area.

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-Go and Gokayama illustrate the traditional ways of human settlement and how these complex farmhouses attested to time. For this reason, the villages were declared a World Heritage Site. Since the drastic architectural changes from 1950, the area around the Gassho-style farmhouses has made no significant change to its roads, canals, and land use. Today, visitors have the opportunity to stay overnight in one of these traditional Gassho-styled farmhouses.