Shirakawa-Go Is Considered to Be Japan’s Most Beautiful Village

The Quiet Shirakawa-Go Is Considered to Be Japan’s Most Beautiful Village

To the mountains we go then.

Beyond Japan’s many staple tourist attractions is a peaceful mountain village with traditional houses built to withstand the heaviest snowfall. This village is called Shirakawa-Go, located in Ono District, Gifu Prefecture. With its fairy tale vestige and cottage-like homes, it’s considered to be the most beautiful village in Japan. 

Also read: Snow In Japan Is Absolutely Magical: Here Are the Destinations to Prove It!

Shirakawa-Go’s giant houses

Image credit: JordyMeow

The village’s traditional houses aren’t exactly giant but they do seem that way thanks to their thatched roofs. The houses are built in an architectural style called gassho-zukuri which translates to “made with clasped hands.” There’s no name more apt as the houses feature giant roofs that slant on opposite sides — resembling the shape of hands clasped in prayer — and let snow roll to the ground more easily.

Much like a winter wonderland, Shirakawa-Go experiences a lot of snowfall, and this house design ensures a safe and warm shelter for the locals. The thatched roof’s multiple layers of dried grass not only protect locals but also keeps heat inside the house during cold nights. Equally impressive are the houses’ slanted walls, which provide a windbreak effect. 

Image credit: Laurentiu Morariu

Would you believe that these gassho-zukuri houses date back to more than 300 years ago? That means that the Japanese’s ancestors were very smart in innovating and adapting to their cold and harsh environments. What’s more, locals rethatch their roofs every 30 years and this tradition is said to bond every generation in the village. 

There’s no wonder why Shirakawa-Go is a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the village beams with heritage and deeply rooted history. The village’s Natural Environment Preservation Association also abides by strict rules: None of the gassho-zukuri may be sold, rented out, or destroyed. 

Image credit: EllenChan

Also read: Tourists Can Still Ride These Charming Vintage Trams While Exploring Japan!

There are 60 gassho-zukuri houses but travellers can only tour a few as most of them are houses of local residents. The Kanda House took 10 years to build and features four storeys where a lovely pond and garden can be found on the second floor. Meanwhile, the Wada House is the biggest house in the village; here, travellers can examine ancient tools that the house’s ancestral family would use as generators. And of course, the best place to get a jaw-dropping view of the village is the Observation Deck. The best time to visit? Winter of course, so bundle up!

Featured image credit: Rap Dela Rea | Unsplash

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.


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