What is Shirakawa-go?

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go is one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The villages is well known for their houses constructed in the architectural style known as gasshō-zukuri. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer", as the farmhouses’ steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations and is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.

Ogimachi, Shirakawa-go's largest village and main attraction, makes a good day trip from Takayama, or a stop on the bus journey between Takayama and Kanazawa. The best way to experience the town, however, is to stay overnight at one of the farmhouses, many of which now serve as minshuku. Shirakawa-go town map English version is here.

Four Seasons in Shirakawa-go

Four seasons in Shirakawa-go

Yearly Events in Shirakawa-go

Yearly Events in Shirakawa-go

History of Shirakawa-go

  • 1700~
    1. Gassho-zukuri houses were built from the 1700s to roughly 1950s.The oldest houses were built over 300years ago.It is said that there were more normal style houses at first, but the number of the Gassho-zukuri houses increased as the gun powder industry and silkworm industry developed. Gassho-zukuri houses have a larger attic space compared to normal houses. This makes them ideal for storage, and they can also let in plenty of sunlight if needs be. Gassho zukuri house was very advantageous to the two industries at the time. There were about 300 Gassho-zukuri houses in 1924.
  • 1935
    1. The German architect Bruno Taut visited Shirakawa village in 1935,and he taught the villagers about the Gassho-zukuri styled houses.It has attracted the world's attention.
  • 1955~
    1. Some local villages were floodedafter the Miboro dam was constructed in the 1950s.And some houses were destroyed by fires and never rebuilt. More and more residents moved to different cities looking for work and as a result the villages became depopulated. The number of the houses decreased to 167 in 1965.
  • 1956
    1. Nohi Bus started operating between Ogimachi and Takayama.
  • 1969
    1. The Japan National Trust (Incorporated Foundation)determined to conserve the houses in Shirakawa-go.
  • 1971
    1. A group were inaugurated to preserve the houses and protectthe environment of Ogimachi (The region's central settlement). The three slogans for the preserve movement are "Do not sell", "Do not rent" and "Do not destroy".
  • 1976
    1. Ogimachi was designated as a National important cultural property.
  • 1995
    1. The villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were listed asa UNESCO World Heritage site (The 6th World Heritage in Japan).
  • Present
    1. The number of the houses is about 115. Population is about 600.