One of my favorite site in Japan is “Shirakawa-go” in Gifu prefectuer. This is a small community surrounded by mountains. This communy was added in UNESCO World Heritage in 1995. The people in the community preserve the lifestyle, and building structure and design for several handred years. Their spirit of coexistance with nature had established the unique culture, from which we can learn a lot of things.
The structure and shape of dwellings is called “Gassho-Zukuri” named after the shape of two hands putting together in prayer. The scenery of houses looked down from a hill is absolutely beautiful.
Walking in the street takes you back in time. All houses are remained as in a handred years ago. The oldest house is in existence for about 300 years. Ingenuities of life in the harsh climate with heavy snow is a legacy, and the most importantly, people never against the nature.
I visited Shirakawa-go this February. There were still some snow. I have been wanting to come to see the real “Gassho-Zukuri” and finally my dream come true. There are many shops and cafe. Some personal dwellings are open to tourists as a musium.
This is a “Saru-bobo” doll. “Saru” is a monkey in Japanese and “bobo” is a baby in local dialect used in this area. One theory says there were mores to make dolls for children or grandchildren wishing their health spread in Muromachi and Edo era (from AC1336). Saru-bobo dolls were replaced by other types in trends of the time, but still remained in this area. Originally it was in red but there are so many colors in shops. I bought one in gold wishing economic fortune.
I visited one of cafe in Shirakawa-go. The name is “Ochuudo (落人)”.
They renovated one of the dwellings to a nice cafe space.
I took a seat around a hearth with an oven in the middle, and ordered “Zen-zai (Sweet red bean soup)”.
There was a black pot with Zen-zai inside on the oven. Yes, this is help yourself style and refill free.
Hot Zen-sai warm up the body and it was very relaxing moment to spend some time in Gassho-zukuri house.