Shirakawago’s Gassho-zukuri houses in Gifu
I really love to stay at a very old Japanese Style house. In the Shirakawago area, you can stay at Gassho-zukuri houses constructed with woods and rope. There are over 100 Gassho-zukuri houses in the Shirakawago area.
Shirakawago is located in the north of Gifu. This area gets over 2m of snow in the winter season. Each Gassho-zukuri house has a sloped roof to withstand the heavy snow.
The beams are made from trees that grow on the mountainsides and develop the curve naturally. No nails are used. The roof frame is lashed together with rope and twisted hazel boughs.
The roof is constucted by oak beams curved at the base.
You can see the details of the Gassho-zukuri house at Gassho-zukuri Minkaen Museum exhibiting about 26 Gassho-zukuri houses.
“Gassho” means the grasping of hands in front of gods in Japan. The Gassho style started from the end of era to the Meiji era (mid 19th century). The first floor was built by carpenters specializing in temples and shrines. The second and third floors were made with ropes, timber and the cooperation of villagers.
All logs were joined together only with straw or ivy ropes. Those ropes help to preserve the house for a long time because they accumulate soot from the smoke of the hearth and become as hard as steel, thus developing insect-repellent and preservation effects.
Additionally, the warm air goes up to the attic, making it possible to cultivate silkworms on the second floor.
On the first floor, all daily life, including cooking, eating, spending time together with the family and welcoming customers, takes place in a big hall with a hearth fireplace.
Kaga calm promotes the production of saltpeter for gunpowder under the floor, Japanese paper and silk. Gassho-zukuri was the bestl place to produce those products as tributes to Kaga calm during the Edo era.
We stayed at Magoemon ryokan which had more than 280 years of history. Guests had supper together at its dining room to share memories of the journey.
We had dinner with 4 tourist groups together in a circle.
Gassho-zukuri houses need to have their the roofs retouched every 15 to 20 years. The retouching used to be done by the efforts of the local residents to preserve the house for future generations.
We had a chance to see the retouching of the roof of a Gassho-zukuri house at Shirakawago.
It takes 4 hours to see around in Shirakawago, but it is better to put aside one whole day including travel.
You can take a tour bus to visit Hohana town, Ainokura and the Suganuma area in the Gokayama region and Shirakawago from Takaoka Station in Toyama Prefecture.
The distance between Ainokura and Suganuma is 11 km. The Shirakawago area is much bigger than the Gokayama region.
There are several cozy restaurants and cafes in Shirakawago. Cafe Hina was one of my favorite places to stay for a long time.