Visit the Enchanting World Heritage Shirakawa Village This Winter!
The prefecture of Gifu in central Honshu offers a lot of beautiful places that one must include in his or her itinerary when planning to visit Japan.
One of the must-visit places here is the village of Shirakawa.
Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go is indeed beautiful in all seasons, although the village is deemed most enchanting during winter.
The Snow-Covered Roofs of Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go lies along the riverbanks of Shokawa River at the foot of Mount Haku in Northern Gifu.
This enchanting village is a testament to a long tradition of using “gassho-zukuri” roofs built using several layers of grass thatch.
This distinctive roof style looks like an upside down letter V, like an open book held from the spine.
One of the rationales behind the ingenious design of gassho-zukuri roofs is to cope with the snow build-up since Shirakawa-go receives a large snowfall.
The windows, on the other hand, are located close to the roof so that wind and sunlight may reach the attic where silkworms used to be cultivated.
The Conservation Movement
The Shirakawa Village captured the attention of a German architect named Bruno Taut in 1935.
Taut stayed in Japan for several years during the 1930s and praised the gassho-zukuri houses for its rational and logical approach in architecture.
However, in 1957, during the construction of the Miboro Dam, some settlements in Shirakawa-go along the Shokawa River were submerged resulting in the displacement and relocation of the settlers to urban areas and the conversion of some houses to restaurants while others were destroyed by fire.
However, thanks to the growing number of opposition to developing the area, the largest surviving settlement of Ogimachi outside the dam development area was preserved in 1971.
By 1976, the village was declared as Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings by the Japanese nation and in 1995, the village became the sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan.
With all these facts about the Shirakawa Village in Gifu, wouldn’t you want to see its beauty and magnificence in person?
Drop by during winter and witness the place in its snowy glory with your own set of eyes.