Released from the spa we go for a walk through the old town center of the wonderful Shirakawa-go.
Set at the border between Gifu and Toyama prefectures, on the so called Japanese Alps, in the lush green valley of the Shogawa river, an important source of fresh water and hydroelectric power with is many blue reservoirs, Shirakawa gives is best in Autumn, when the temperature is good and the colors are astounding.
Shirakawa-go has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for its unique houses. They are called Kiritsuma-Gassho-Zukuri "prayer-hands construction", with their slanting thick straw roofs the resamble hands joint in prayer. These houses are entirely built in wood and natural materials, without the use of nails, they are suspended on pillars resting on uncut stones. The lower part of the pillars is modeled on the shape of the stones themselves so as to adhere perfectly, a simple antiseismic trick that allowed this buildings to survive the many earthquakes in the last 250 years (some of the hoses are that old). The sloping roof, entirely made of twigs and straw, easily handle the massive winter snowfall. The houses have several stories, designed to house large families. A reproduction of a Gassho house is visitable for free in the local small museum in the information center, where also interesting videos about the construction process are on display.
There are several more smaller villages built in this style in the area, less touristy and with even older houses, we rode through them by bicycle while leaving Shirakawa behind, following the stream of the Shogawa river, in a dreamy state of mind that made us feel like if bicycle touring in a fairy tale.
For hints and trip about traveling in Japan on a very tight budget (less than 10USD per day) read our guide here.
To have a panoramic of our Japanese bicycle touring project, check our itinerary on this other article.
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