Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Houses of Prayer

My trip to Takayama enabled me to kill two traditional Japanese birds with one bus ride. While our main goal was to see Takayama and enjoy the festival, the Kanazawa-Takayama bus route goes by Shirakawa-go. Shirakawa is one of many World Heritage sites in Japan, and is dedicated to the preservation of a unique style of farmhouse.

The gasshō-zukuri style of thatched roof is unique to Japan, and especially to this area, Gifu Prefecture. Located deep in the Japan Alps, the area gets enough snow in winter to crush a more average looking roof, so the locals started constructing at a steeper incline.

Gasshō-zukuri literally means Praying Hands Style, as each house does look like a pair of hands, clasped in prayer. Like most other traditional homes, most of these old farm houses succumbed to development, but here and in nearby Toyama prefecture a handful were saved for the tourists.

Sadly, the bus only stops for 15 mintues, so overall I've had a tad under half an hour to explore Shirakawa-go, not really enough time to see everything. In fact, hardly enough time to snap a few pictures and take a quick bathroom break. I may come again, but since there are only the two buses per day to and from Kanazawa there is the choice of 15 minutes to explore or about 5 hours, 4 of boredom!

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