Underrated Tourist Spots – Shirakawa-Go, Japan | Japan is not famous for preserving historic buildings. But there are exceptions. The villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are a Japanese UNESCO World Heritage Site. These villages are known for their houses constructed in the architectural style “gasshō-zukuri” (合掌造り, prayer-hands construction) Outstanding feature: thatched and steeply slanting roofs resembling two hands joined in prayer. The design is exceptionally strong and allows the houses to withstand the weight of the region’s heavy snowfalls in winter. Houses are quite large for Japanese proportions, with three to four stories encompassed between the low eaves. The densely forested mountains of the region still occupy 95% of all land in the area. Narrow bands of flat lands running the length of the river valley limit the area available for agriculture and homestead development.
The upper storeys of these traditional gasshō-style houses were often set aside for sericulture. Areas below the ground floor were often used for the production of nitre, a raw material for gunpowder.