A day bus trip from Takayama to Shirakawa-go brought me to the UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go. Weathered brown wood cottages topped by steeply angled, thick thatched roofs have been well preserved, probably because it was so isolated in years past. Gassho-zukuri, the architectural style, means “praying hands.” Some of the existing houses were built over 300 years ago. You may have seen the mysterious looking photos of the houses covered in deep snow, lit up and glowing at night.
The angle of the roofs were designed to protect against the deep snows of northern Honshu. A photo at the site shows about one hundred people all over one roof replacing the thatch. In the attics, silkworms were raised. They live on mulberry trees, cultivated in the area.
It was a delight to walk around the town, especially since it’s still lived-in, with laundry hanging, garden plots in yards, cloth scarecrows loitering around the rows, late season vegetables ripening.
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