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Far off to the Japanese Alps

Anmona Handique Mahanta

Glimpse of a Gassho-zukuri house at Ogimachi village, Shirakawago (Photo: AHM)

Nestled in the Japanese Alps, we happened to walk in a beautiful little village in Japan surrounded by a serene landscape and preserved in its most traditional way of life. And today, I would like to share with you all my experience about this quaint tiny place which I happened to visit last year. I feel it is worth sharing and also a place to visit at least once in life if you ever happen to visit Japan.

This is about a place called Shirakawago located in the remote mountains of Gifu Prefectures (In Japan, prefecture means State) and renowned for beautifully preserved traditional Japanese landscape. It was in the year 1995; the place has got the recognition as a World heritage Site due to its unique traditional Gassho-Zukuri houses where houses are more than 250-300-year-old. Gassho-Zukuri houses are constructed with triangular thatched roof with the steepest slopes that resembles the shape of hands of Buddhist Monks while they clasp hands during prayers. The reason behind the steep slopes was on architecture back then to withstand the large chunk of snow on the roofs during the heavy winter snowfall. The roofs are constructed without using a single nail and the perfect atmosphere to raise silkworms for silk cultivation work. Some say it’s a Japanese countryside fairy tale no matter whatever might be the season of the year, say- the Cherry blossom spring time or the freezing snowy capped winter times. This is because the entire village houses are illuminated with its light-up event that makes it way enthralling a night.

So out of all villages in Shirakawago, we visited the Ogimachi village being the largest and principal villages of the region in the month of December where at day-time the temperature stayed beyond -5 degree Celsius and at night it went beyond -15 degree Celsius. It is known that there is a total of 100 such Gassho-Zukuri houses in the village. Now, how we commuted to that village? Generally, to Shirakawago there are both bus and train services to commute and in our case being in the Nagoya City, we did some part of our journey in train while some part through bus and being close to the place, it took somewhat around 2.5 hours in the entire journey. First, from Nagoya we went to a place called Takayama in the Gifu region and halted t