Stepping off the bus we are surrounded by green and lush mountains on every side, breathing in fresh air that smells of blooming flowers and rice fields. We ‘re only about 50-minutes from Takayama, but it feels like we have stepped back in time, back to the Edo period and the highlight of Japanese culture. A time of shoguns and samurais, a time that has inspired countless books and movies.

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What a sweet and welcoming sign! 🙂

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Me walking through Ogimachi village

We cross the bridge over the calm Shokawa river leading us to the reason why we came here – the Ogimachi village famous for its unique gassho-zukuri buildings. We walk along narrow roads, between beautiful colorful gardens and well-maintained houses, and all the stress and hustle and bustle from the big city of Tokyo are long gone. We feel so relaxed and calm, walking among these old Japanese houses that has such a special place in Japanese culture and history. It is almost a bit Zen´ish.

What Is A Gassho-zukuri House?

Gassho-zukuri is a unique architecture style special for the Hida district of Japan (inland in the mountains). They are steep straw-roofed homes made of wood. Due to harsh and unforgiving winters with a lot of snow, the roofs of the houses are steeply angled to prevent the snow from piling up.

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DSC02061“Gassho” comes from the Japanese word for prayer, as the steep shape of the roofs resembles praying hands.

The art of the gassho-zukuri construction is sadly dying out, and most of the remaining houses of this architecture style has been moved to folk villages like the one we visited – Ogimachi in Shirakawa-go. Only about 600 people live in this village today.

Ogimachi Village

Ogimachi village in Shirakawa-go was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995. It has the largest concentration of gassho-zukuri buildings in Japan, with over 110 fine houses, some of which are over 250 years old.

This village is also the most accessible, as it is easy to get to by bus from Takayama and Kanazawa.

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Ogimachi village has over 110 gassho-zukuri buildings

Many of the old farmhouses are now shops, museums and restaurants, and in some you can stay over night.

What To See And Do In Shirakawa-go And Ogimachi Village

The Shirakawa-go and Ogimachi village is pretty compact with short distances, and the houses are clustered closely together.

Shirakawa-go and Ogimachi map

Map over Shirakawa-go and Ogimachi village (to the right over the river)

From the bus stop of Shirakawa-go, there is just a short walk over the bridge to the Ogimachi gassho style village.

The bridge crosses the peaceful and calm river Shokawa. From the bridge, you have a lovely view of the mountains.

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The Ogimachi village is rustic and lovely at the same time, full of bright colors and well-maintained gardens. Even though many of the Gossho-zukuri houses have been converted into museums, they still present a view of the old rural farm life of Japan found few other places.

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The beautiful contrast of lush green rice fields and gassho-zukuri houses

Shirakawa-go Viewpoint

Where the castle Shiroyama Tenbodai used to be, there is now a nice viewpoint with a great overview of the valley and the Ogimachi village. We walked there, it is only a 15 minutes walk, but there is also a shuttle bus (200 Yen = 1,6 us$ one way) from the Shirakawa-go bus stop.

Wada House

The Wada House is the largest gassho-zukuri building in Ogimachi village and Shirakawa-go. It used to belong to one of the wealthiest silk-trading families and village leader and dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). It is now a museum and have been declared a National Treasure of Japan. Upstairs are a display of equipment used for silk harvesting.

  • Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
  • Entrance fee: 300 Yen = 2,5 us$
Wada House

Wade House, the biggest of the gassho-zukuri houses

Inside the Wada House, beautiful view

Beautiful view from the Wada House

The Wada House entrance

The Wada House entrance

Inside Wada House

It feels pretty good sitting at the village leaders table…. I could get used to this…. 🙂

Kanda House

The Kanda House is one of the best preserved gassho-zukuri style farmhouses in Ogimachi. It is now a museum located in the heart of the village. From the upper floor, you have a great view of the village.

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Closed: Every Wednesday from December to February
  • Entrance fee: 300 Yen = 2,5 us$

Nagase House

This house is the former house of the Nagase family which were doctors to the ruling Maeda clan.

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Nagase House

Upstairs you can get a close-up of how the roof of a gassho-zukuri house is constructed.

530 people worked on re-thatching this roof! Not an easy job to build this kind of house, that`s for sure! 🙂

  • Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Entrance fee: 300 Yen = 2,5 us$

Myozenji House and Temple

The Myozenji Temple is close to the Myozenji-ke farm house of where the priest of the temple lives. The temple is unique as it has a thatched roof rather than the more common tiled roof seen on most temples.

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  • Opening hours: 8:30 – 17:00 (9:00 – 16:00 December to March)
  • Entrance fee: 300 Yen = 2,5 us$ (both temple and house)

Natural Hot Spring Shirakawa-go No Yu

Located next to the Shokawa river is the natural hot spring Shirakawa-go No Yu. Ending our day of walking around Shirakawa-go soaking down in the hot water was just perfect! They have both an outside bath and an inside bath (separate women and men). They also have rooms for rent, but we did not stay the night.

Do you wonder how to behave in a Japanese hot spring or Onsen? We have the answer, read this easy 10 step guide to Onsen.

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View from the outside natural hot spring/ Onsen

  • Opening hours: 7:00 – 21:30 (entry until 21:00)
  • Entrance fee: 700 Yen = 5,8 us$

There are plenty of beautiful gassho-zukuri houses in Ogimachi, here are some that you will spot while walking to the peaceful streets:

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The End

We simply love Shirakawa-go and it`s peaceful and historic Ogimachi gassho style village. If you are heading to the Takayama/Kanazawa area of Japan, a day-trip here is absolutely worth it!

These rustic and lovely houses hold a special place in the Japanese hearts. Now they have a special place in our hearts too. ♥ Can`t wait to go back at winter time when they are all covered in snow.

Do you like to visit special architectural and historic cities and villages? Which special building techniques have you seen around the world? Please answer in the comment area below. Thanks a million! 🙂

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Maria

Maria

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd, who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a masters degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. See our about page for more about Maria.
Maria

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