VIDEO: A trip to Japan’s traditional countryside in Gokayama

Ainokura Village of Gokayama region - UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Ainokura Village of Gokayama region - UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

VIDEO: A trip to Japan’s traditional countryside in Gokayama

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

See the landscape transform as you take a trip into Japan’s agricultural past, deep in the hills of Hokuriku region.

Gokayama in Hokuriku is a World Heritage Site and home to traditional farmhouses with steep-angled thatched straw roofs nestled in the stunning countryside.

The unique farmhouses are called “gassho-zukuri” because their shape looks like hands in prayer. The inter-generational homes have existed for hundreds of years. You’ll find many of these buildings along the Sho River running through Toyama and Gifu Prefectures, and millions of domestic and international tourists flock to see the pristine rural landscape every year.

In Gokayama’s Ainokura Village, which was established in the 11th century, there are 24 farmhouses, including Yusuke, a 150-year-old farmhouse converted to a guesthouse and museum.

At the museum, I had a chance to take a closer look inside, outside and at the architectural structure of the buildings. Surprisingly, the farmhouses were built without nails. The flexible joints of many pillars and beams are very resilient and able to withstand the large amounts of snow falling during wintertime. The structure gives the building a large attic space, which was used for cultivating silkworms.

The museum also displayed farming tools and utensils used for cultivating mulberry trees for making traditional Gokayama washi paper and rearing silkworms. The tools and utensils are very sophisticated and highly evolved to help cope with heavy snows and the severe mountainous climate.

The inside of Museum that shocases farming tools and utensils used for rearing silkworms.

According to the museum, the roofs on the farmhouses are replaced every 30 to 40 years, while reinforcement work is needed once or twice a year. 

While I was in the museum, I was able to enjoy a traditional Kokiriko dance performance accompanied by bamboo percussion instrument called a "sasara." The bamboo whisk-shaped instrument was used by a dancer in a braided hat and orange-yellow kimono to play traditional folk music “Kokiriko-bushi,” which dates back 1,400 years.

Kokiriko folk dance performed with traditional instrument called Sasara

This taste of the simple life, customs and music of the region was a wonderful way to experience Japan’s regional agricultural and cultural history. The impressive farmhouses and nostalgic landscape are something I won’t soon forget.

Ainokura Village

Museum and Guest House Yusuke


Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Okinawa
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam

Related Content

Recommended Content

Around the Web