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i really liked these houses from the minute i set foot in the village of ogimachi (荻町) in shirakawa-go (白川郷).  set in the shogawa (庄川) river valley in gifu prefecture (岐阜県) north of nagoya (名古屋), shirakawa-go is a village where houses with a unique style of architecture can be found.  this architectural style is called gassho zukuri (合掌造り) and serves the purpose of shedding and supporting the immense weight caused by the over 4 meters (13 feet) of snowfall averaged in this area of japan.  seeking to preserve its unique architecture called gassho zukuri (合掌造り), the villages of ogimachi (荻町) in shirakawa-go, and ainokura (相倉) and suganuma (菅沼) in gokayama (五箇山) were inscribed into the UNESCO world heritage list in 1995.

in all 59 houses with this architecture can be found in ogimachi, the largest village with gassho zukuri architecture.  every few decades the thatched roofs must be replaced and the whole village pitches in to help their neighbors.  the villagers have purposely staggered the timing so that only a couple of houses need such work done each year.

when you visit shirakawa-go make sure to walk to the top of the hill (look for the signs or other people) for a great view of the village.  you can get great photos from here.  if you can go during the day and at night.  the night photos should come out great, but don’t make the mistake i did and forget to take your tripod with you.  ;)  if you don’t have one hand, you can still get some decent photos.  make sure to increase the ISO and open up the lens aperture as much as you can.

during the winter there’s a special night light-up of shirakawa-go in late january and early february.  it’s very beautiful to see.  check out the photos at the bottom of this article.

another must see is wada house, for 300 yen you can see the inside of these traditional houses.  i particularly liked seeing the inside structure of the roof and getting an idea of how it is built.  make certain to take your time and walk throughout the village to get nice photographic opportunities and browse through the village shops.  parking in the city can be very difficult, so go for the parking lots located just off the highway, you will see signs for them.  if you are going during a holiday, finding a place to stay will be difficult if you don’t have a reservation ahead of time.  you can even stay in some of the gassho zukuri houses, but expect to pay over 10,000 yen for one night during a weekend and make reservations at least a couple of weeks out.

my favorite photos:

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around town:

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inside a gassho zukuri house:

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night photos during the winter light up event:

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map view of the location:

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  1. […] and suganuma (菅沼).  both villages are UNESCO world heritage sites for the same reasons as shirakawa-go (白川郷), the houses’ unique architecture called gassho zukuri.  there are 20 such houses […]