Shirakawago – Japan’s ‘hidden’ mountain villages

Cut off from the world for centuries by formidable mountain ranges and harsh winters, the tiny villages of Shirakawago and Gokayama have managed to hang on to their traditional way of life into the 21st century. Today, these villages are the only places in all of Japan where the traditional ‘gassho style’ farm houses still exist. So named because their high pitched roofs resemble hands in prayer, these farm houses are three stories tall and are constructed without any nails. Their towering roofs are designed to cope with the heavy winter snowfalls that have ensured their very survival to the present day. Shirakawago is a World Heritage Listed Area and is accessible from either Takayama, in Gifu Prefecture, or Kanazawa, in Ishikawa Prefecture.