Shirakawa is one of the most beautiful and traditional villages in Japan. Tourists from all over the world visit the village every year.
Because of its amazing natural environment, with high mountains and heavy snowfall, interaction with the neighbouring regions was limited.
However, this also created the condition for the development of unique social cooperation and cultural lifestyle.
Yuki Tezuka, member of the village association said, “In December 1995, Shirakawa village and Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture were declared World Heritage sites. The first reason as you can see is the great scenery like fields and mountains. The other reason is the distinctive way of building houses in the village. Another reason is the cooperative social lifestyle that lasted for hundreds of years as the villagers maintain by themselves the repair and restoration of the village houses. For all these reasons, the village was chosen as a World Heritage site”.
One of Shirakawa’s key climate features is that its snowfall is one of Japan’s heaviest.
Snowfall from December to March may reach up to 2 to 3 meters high. As a result of the frequent heavy snow, thick thatched roofs are used in building houses.
A villager said, “When you put your hands together to pray, in Japanese we call that Gasho, the way the houses are built resembles this. So that is why we call these houses Gasho. The roof is very steep, so the snow falls off it easily. The structure of the roof also allows for huge attic space, which was used for storing silk goods and raising silkworm. The village houses are 300 years old and recognized for their building technique.”
The reason why these houses are in such good condition is the regular maintenance that takes place every year.
The villagers cooperate with each other to repair their houses, and thanks to this cooperation they have been able to keep their village in this great condition for hundreds of years.
A tourist said, “It’s nice to see this traditional, old fashioned and very open place. Even with many visitors, it feels very calming. It’s nice to get away from the big cities.”
Shirakawa Village is very unique and offers a chance to glimpse to Japanese tradition and continuous effort of residents.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed. )