In Gifu Prefecture in Japan is a historic village in the mountains called Shirakawago.

The roofs of the houses in Shirakawago look like hands in prayer and are called gassho zukuri. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

shirakawago

It is a small village, with one main road running through it, and there are houses, shops, museums, and displays for tourists. There are no convenience stores or train stations. You must come by car or tour bus.

The roofs are deeply slanted thatched roofs, to let snow slide off rather than collapsing inside. They all face north and south to minimize wind resistance and prevent rotting in the roof.  Some of them are over 250 years old.

shirakawago house

shirakawago house wall

The buildings are interesting from the outside, and you can go inside some of them.

A few are set up like museums, so you can see what kinds of tools people used and how they used to live. They have huge attic spaces and the diifferent stories served different purposes, like living, sleeping, food storage, tool storage, and small construction and manufacturing.

The roofs are made without nails and are designed to withstand heavy loads of snow. The large attics used to house silworms

In one building there is a man cooking a warm milky tea over a fire in the middle of the room. I imagine an open fire would have kept the place warm in the colder months. It was cold when I was there, so it was nice to get a warm drink.

shirakawago tea

shirakawago

After walking through the village exploring the shops and farmhouses, you should hike up the small hill for a lovely view. The hike is not difficult, but you can take a shuttle if you’d like.

shirakawago village

Since the village is far into the mountains, it would be fun to stay in one of the guesthouses. Or you could stay in a nearby town, like Gero or Takayama. It is also possible to do this as a day trip from Nagoya, as I have done once.

What do you think of Shirakawago in the winter? Would you like to go here?

Read: Shirakawago in May (coming in May)

Read: 8 snowy pictures of Sinhotaka Ropeway.

Author

After Teaching English in Korea and Japan for three years, Jennifer came to the profound realization that teaching was not the career for her. So, she went back to school. After brushing up on her Japanese for one year, she completed a Master's Degree in International Development at a university in Japan. She is currently working on her PhD. This blog was born as a way for her to write about her adventures in Japan and around the world.

27 Comments

  1. It really looks so beautiful! I would love to go there…in fact I would love to explore most japan if I could..😁 …thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Thanks. It was a peaceful place to walk around and learn a bit about a different side of Japan. I hope you get a chance to visit someday.

      • The architecture , the life , their own spirit is itself so peaceful and new to experience! I just been there once last year but can’t stop thinking to visit back again and your posts are really driving me crazy! 😁🖒

  2. Going by your description of it (especially the imagery of roofs that make you think of hands folded in prayer) and the beautiful images, I would. You are putting it on the map for me.

  3. We were there during summer and it was beautiful but nowhere near as beautiful as in winter. Did you stay overnight? I heard that they light up the houses so it looks like a winter wonderland!

    • No I didn’t spend the night here, but you’re right it does look so nice at night. Especially in the winter. At least in the summer it must have been warm and a different kind of beautiful.

      • Yes, it was still very beautiful during summer. The weather was perfect when we were there – clear blue skies, sunny but not too hot. It was nice to walk around and explore.

    • Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I’m glad you can enjoy my adopted country, and hopefully you get a chance to go back some day 🙂

  4. We thought of going there during our last trip to Nagano but it was kinda out of the way and we skipped it. Looks beautiful in winter and I heard it gets pretty crowded too.

  5. I visited in the fall, it looks even better in snow! I did spend the night, which was fun. I arrived by car (driven by a friend) from Kanazawa, and left by regular, not tour, bus for Takayama.

    • Fall sounds nice too because I would like to see it when the rice fields have turned a golden colour. I would like to go to Takayama someday too.

  6. Our only visit to Japan was on business and we did not get outside the cities. Your post makes us want to go back and remedy that.

  7. I was just there in December. The snows are not as thick as shown here. You came at the right time. That’s the traveling thing here in Japan – you have to time your visits. 🙂 Great photos.

    • That’s a bit unfortunate that you went in the winter but weren’t able to see it covered in thick snow. You’re right about travelling during the seasons though. A lot of places have different attractions at different times of the year.

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