About two weeks ago, I embarked on a planned overnight stop en route from Takayama (in the Japan Alps) to Kanazawa (on the Sea of Japan coast). My destination was the Shirakawa-go region, known for its thatched roof gassho-zukuri (praying hands) houses and a place that has long been on my “to-visit” list. While Takayama’s manhole cover had been a bit of a disappointment, it was nice to see that Ogimachi – the largest community in the Shirakawa-go region – sported one that related quite well to its main draw:
Of the several dozen thatched homes that remain in Ogimachi, a number of them are over 250 years old. Collectively, the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995, both a blessing and a curse for small villages like these. Since then, bus tours have trekked in camera-toting tourists on a daily basis to see these architectural gems in their gorgeous natural surroundings.
I’ll do another post on Shirakawa-go later, as I spent the night there in a thatched roof minshuku (guesthouse). While my feelings on that experience are a bit mixed, this is definitely a worthwhile stop on any itinerary for the visual feast of these old houses surrounded by rice paddies and mountains.