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Shirakawa village – Japan


The world is a baffling place with some new and exciting places and things to offer even in its remotest parts. Like the Shirakawa village which sits cosy in the mountains spanning from Gifu to Toyama Prefecture in Japan. The reason for which the Shirakawa village and the neighbouring Gokayama part have been tagged as a World Heritage site is because they have the gassho-zukuri farmhouses which are one of their kinds.


Till July 2011, Shirakawa village had a population of 1,734 which was based in an area of 356.55 sq km. The significance of the gassho-zukuri houses is that while they mean “constructed like hands in prayer” their thatched slanting roofs are seem like the folded hands of the Buddhist priests as they do while offering prayers. The other importance of this kind of roof is that it helps in surviving through the heavy bouts of snowfall which happens in the region in winters. The roofs which are constructed with the help of nails generate a loft like space in the houses where the villagers can do the cultivation of silkworms. Some of these houses are as old as 250 years.


The Shirakawa village is known to be at a place which is mostly covered by forests and also receives the highest amounts of snowfall in the entire Japan and the world. The areas having the gassho-zukuri houses are known to be turned in to a cultural heritage. It is because of this and the Hakusan National Park which is at the backdrop of the village that it is frequented by a large number of tourists who come to see how the houses are made and how the people live in them. The main source of income of the region thus comes from the tourists. This however, has had a flip side as well wherein damage is being caused to the heritage houses while travellers enter them to take pictures and for other similar purposes. Therefore, it is now becoming a challenge to maintain the simplicity of the area and also the heritage tag.

Water is sprayed at Shirakawa-go World Heritage site

A part of Shirakawa village is called Ogimachi and is known to be primary attraction of the area. It is easily accessible Takayama by both private vehicle and by bus. In the bus the route that serves this area is between Takayama and Kanazawa. If you decide to spend the night in one of the farmhouse, it gives you the most authentic experience of the Shirakawa village. The other scenic nearby destinations include the Miboro dam on the Lake Miboro, the Hida Tunnel, the Amau Pass, and the famous shrine of Shirakawa Hachiman which hold the Doburoku Festival in the month of October.


The Shirakawa village has also been picturized in a couple of television series and movies, most of which dealt which uncanny or supernatural forces like, Uncanny X-Force Vol. 1 or Gosho Aoyama’s Detective Conan.

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