Designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites
Thatched houses designed to withstand heavy snow
Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture and Gokayama (Ainokura and Suganuma) in the southern part of Toyama Prefecture are villages designated as World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization due to the presence of thatched- and steep-roofed gassho-zukuri houses. The villages are among a limited number of heavy-snow areas in Japan and traditional gassho-zukuri houses have miraculously remained here due to delays in road improvement construction.
A feature of the houses is the steep roof (of 45 degree to 60 degree), and the structure is called gassho zukuri because the houses resemble palms placed together and fingers pointing upward in prayer. No nails or other metal materials are used.
Gassho-zukuri houses are either opened to the public as a tourist attraction or lived in by local people. Shirakawa-go is the largest of the three villages designed as UNESCO World Heritage sites here, and a large number of tourists visit. You can look around inside some houses. The village also has souvenir shops and inns. Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture has two villages-Ainokura and Suganuma. In Ainokura, 20 of the 32 houses are gassho zukuri and many of them were built 100 to 200 years ago. There also are houses that may have been constructed 400 years ago. Suganuma, surrounded by mountains, has nine gassho-zukuri houses that villagers still live in.
When visiting any of the three villages, please remember that people are living there. As gassho-zukuri houses catch fire easily, any type of fire there is strictly banned.
Address: Ainokura and Suganuma, Nanto, Toyama
Phone: 05769-6-1013 (Shirakawa-go Tourist Association), 0763-66-2468 (Gokayama Tourist Information Center)
Directions: Shirakawa-go: Take a Nohi Bus (reservation required) from Takayama Station on JR Takayama Line, ride for 50 minutes to Shirakawa-go bus stop, and then walk 5 minutes. (Car) 10 minutes from Shirakawa-go Interchange on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway. Gokayama Ainokura village: 25-minutes from Fukumitsu Interchange on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway. Gokayama Suganuma Village: 10 minutes from Gokayama Interchange on the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway. All villages can be reached by car in 2-2.5 hours from Nagoya. Pay parking lots available.