It took about an hour and a half by coach travelling from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go with a brief stopover at Kagahan, a large Japanese confectioners. I was looking forward very much to this visit as I have heard so much about Shirakawa-go.
We alighted at the carpark which is just across from Ogimachi and connected by this pedestrian bridge.
Shirakawa-go together with neighbouring Gokayama region lie nestled in the Shogawa River Valley and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
Ogimachi Village is the largest and most visited attraction in Shirakawa-go and it is possible to do a day trip from Takayama or Kanazawa. Gokayama which is a little less accessible has two lovely villages at Suganuma and Ainokura.
The Gassho-zukuri farmhouses were first built from 1700 during the middle of the Edo period to about 1950’s. One interesting feature about these farmhouses is the thatched roofs which resembles the pressed together praying hands of Buddhist monks which perhaps is the biggest draw for tourist coming to Shirakawa-go.
Another unique characteristic of Gassho-zukuri houses is the larger attic space which was extremely useful at the time when the gun powder and silkworm industry was flourishing. The extra storage and well-lit attics made Gassho-zukuri houses grow in popularity.
The Shoro-mon gate of Miyozenji Temple Museum was erected in the Tendai Sect style. The living quarters of the temple was built some 230 years ago and also feature thatched roof construction.
I would love to sink my teeth into one of these juicy Autumn Persimmons that is beckoning but they remain hanging on this towering tree way, way out of my reach.
The reason why I was gallivanting in the back alleys was because I spied an eye-catching and brillantly crimson maple tree which I just had to view up close and photograph.
The Japanese maple properly known as the Acer Palmatum bears tiny leaves as compared to the palm-sized maples found in New England but what they lack for in size, they amply make up for in vibrant hues.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do and when in Ogimachi, do as the Japanese do. A sampling of their Matcha ice-cream and a piping hot and succulent beef kushiyaki is a must-do!
Hida beef comes from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed that has been raised for at least 14 months in Gifu Prefecture. Nicely marbled and delicious, the beef skewer is 400Yen a pop and worth every single cent.
With the construction of Miboro dam in the 1950’s some local villages were destroyed by floods and some houses destroyed in fires were never rebuilt. As a result many residents moved to other cities looking for work and Shirakawa-go became depopulated.
A happy bunch of children chatting animatedly about the goings-on at school on their way home. The girl in the middle exclaimed loudly “Oh!” when she realized that they were being photographed.
By 1965, only 167 of these Gassho-zukuri houses still remain and in 1969 the Japan National Trust Foundation was incorporated to conserve the houses in Shirakawa-go.
There are about 59 Gassho-zukuri houses still used as family residences and 114 such structures both large and small in the Shogawa River Valley. Many tourist come here during the wintry months to enjoy the magical experience of Ogimachi carpeted in snow and the enchanting Light shows at night.
Winters in Shirakawa-go are harsh with heavy snowfalls right through to April. I rather like the cool Autumn season with temperatures hovering just below 20 degrees Celsius.
The Gassho-zukuri architectural style was developed over several generations and the distinguishing feature of this design is the ability to withstand heavy snowfalls in winter and the large attics used for cultivating silkworms.
With the growth of tourism in Shirakawa-go, many of the farmhouses have been converted to restaurants, museums or minshuku (Japanese Bed & Breakfast). There is always these conflicting factors that commercialization brings that needs to be balanced carefully and I hope that Shirakawa-go would always retain her rustic charm and beauty.
Go to Shirakawa-go and stay at a minshuku to experience for yourself the laidback lifestyle, countryside walks, kaiseki meals, quiet beauty and tranquility that would definitely rejuvenate both your mind and body.