What is Gassho-style House?

In the villages of Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go, there is a group of historical farmhouses with unique architectural character, the "Gassho-style" houses. Gassho-style house is one of the most important farmhouse types, due to its rarity and uniqueness, as well as the fact that the surviving examples are clustered together in entire villages.

Gassho-style house is larger than most other regions' farmhouses, and the roof of Gassho-style is a taller. Besides, Gassho-style house has a steeply-sloped thatched gable roof with an angle of about 60 degrees. This roof shape looks like person’s hands put together with the palms facing inward. This is the origin of the name of the architectural style "Gassho". Gassho means to join one's hands in prayer.

As it snows heavily in winter in this region, this steeply-sloped roof helps the snow to slip off and prevents the house from being crushed. The structural space inside is typically divided into three or four levels which were traditionally used as a work space, for example, for raising silkworms and making washi paper. Such in-house works during winter provided an important source of income in Shirakawago, because agricultural products are quite limited in the mountainous areas.

In 1995, the three villages of Ogimachi in Gifu Prefecture, Ainokura and Suganuma in Toyama Prefecture were registered on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

gassho style house

The Types of Roof

Japanese houses have three main roof styles. Kiritsuma style, Yosemune style and Irimoya style. Most of the houses in Shirakawa-go is Kiritsuma style.

Types of Roof

1. Compare to Yosemune and Irimoya style;
-Kiritsuma style has a large attic space.
-Kiritsuma style get more sunshine and air from Tsuma side.
-Kiritsuma style can use two-three layers (large floor space).
2. Since Shirakawago is in a steep mountainous area with heavy snow, it doesn’t have enogh flat space for houses. 3. People living in Shirakawago can save their energy for cleaning snow away. 4. Large space, sunshine, and good air circulation used to be required for silkworm industry and gun powder manufacture.

Structure of Kiritsuma Style

The Direction of the House

Do you know why the houses in Shirakawa-go are built to face the same direction?

Gassho Zukuri

Mr. GO

The roofs face west and east to get sunlight as much as possible. This style helps melting snow and dry the roofs quickly in a winter to make them last longer.

Mr. GO

The wind goes right through the houses since the seasonal wind blows along Sho-river. It also protects the houses from being knocked down by the strong wind. Moreover, the silk-worming was this area's main industry. Sunshine and wind are important factors to get them to grow