Return to Japan 2010 & 2016

Thatch Roof Houses

The Shirakawa-go & Gokayama remote regions are famous for their traditional farmhouses some of wich are more than 250 years old. The area has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

Steep thatch-roof  farmhouses were built for large families. The  ‘gassho-zukuri’ ( praying arms) roofs are designed to shed the heavy snows in the winter.These roofs, up to a meter thick, are made  from thick reeds and can last 25-35 years. No nails are used. The structure is held together with wooden pins or straw rope.

As many as 200 people take part in replacing a single roof.  The re-roofing of one house is done in one day.  Some people stand on the roof beams and put the thatch in place while others hand the thatch up to them.

Some of the farmhouses have been converted to museums, restaurants or ‘minshuku’ guesthouses where people eat and sleep the traditional way. We had an overnight stay in Ogimachi at a place called Juemon. The owner spoke limited English but entertained us playing the ‘shamisen, a Japanese string instrument

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